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These days the idea of gambling on a computer is second nature. Millions of us use online betting sites in the UK like Bet365 without hesitation. The ubiquity of the internet brings us access to a myriad of opportunities in an instant. However, it was gambling in computer games, not on these information superhighway speedsters, which got the ball rolling. From the earliest days of the personal computer revolution before the internet was even a dream, there was strip poker on your VDU.
Having a computer in the home only became a reality once you ceased needing an entire room to house one. The 1980s saw an explosion in personal computer use. This gave rise to a generation of games where graphics didn’t quite live up to the intentions. Fortunately, this era gave us one man who would lead the charge. Alongside some early iterations of strip poker with busty page 3 girl Sam Fox, Leisure Suit Larry brought gambling in computer games to a mainstream audience.
Not that the mainstream audience was very interested. Those seeking to gamble at home on their PC against computer opponents could find numerous titles. Through the nineties, these evolved. Some of the games online sportsbook sites in the UK like Bet365 offer today stem from these early efforts. The graphic abilities of computers still lagged behind the desire, but a multimedia revolution soon cured that. Gambling in computer games then took to the big triple-A titles.
Some games had long had gambling hidden away within them, but as the century turned, gambling in computer games came out of the closet. Mass Effect had its Quasar machines, Bioshock the olde-worlde fruit machines, and GTA? GTA had it all. So with gambling just another game mechanic with which to toy, where did it all go so wrong? Fallout had always used gambling but no one batted an eyelid. The problem was reality was about to set in and bite.
Fallout New Vegas took gambling in computer games to new heights. They were heights no one else seemed all that inclined to match. However, the micro-payment world of online gaming was about to bring gambling to all. The loot box controversy blew up and over but will rumble on for ages. Well at least until US and UK gambling laws update to cover this wager-by-stealth foisted on the young and vulnerable…….as they try to simulate brutally murdering each other with big edged weapons.
Replicating the expansive and realistic environments we expect in our cyberverse means gambling in computer games is here to stay. But, beyond these representations of gambling, the twin worlds of VR and AR beckon. Where the difference between reality and the gaming world will blur even more. Augmenting our lives and rendering going to a casino mere child’s play. It is one only limited by technology and people’s attitudes toward it. Those, of course, will change.
Gambling in computer games has been a fascination of designers, both in its inclusion and presentation. It has been a mechanic and an award-goal trigger, a cheat, and a backdrop to a thousand gunfights. As games seek to provide the most atmospherically apt experience possible, it seems unlikely these will disappear any time soon. Indeed, it’s only a matter of time before you can bet on sports in the UK whilst in a virtual world far flung from it. Some might say you always could.
We take a look at the evolution of gambling in computer games from the 1980s right through to today and beyond.