Video games are a form of entertainment that touch many generations. My daughter is two and she already loves playing games with bubbles on my Kindle. As a responsible parent, I consider video games to be a safe, enjoyable form of entertainment if we adults monitor the games that our children play.
Gambling has a reputation for being an adult problem. Some people get addicted to the adrenaline rush of playing fruit machines or betting on sports games, and just don’t know when to quit. But, at least our children are free from this world. Video games can be their safe haven.
Except, they aren’t.
Gambling is intertwined with video games enjoyed by people far below the legal gambling age in most civilised countries. Pokemon, for example, had slot machines as far back as Celadon City in Pokemon Red and Blue. Wannabe Pokemon masters would frivolously bet away their coins in hope of hitting it big and being able to buy anything they desired.
I should know. I was one of those kids.
Shenmue is a cult classic and is credited for pioneering several game technologies. It also features Lucky Hit, a gambling game I spent almost as much time playing as I did with the main game. I was 15.
This isn’t an issue in video games such as Fallout: New Vegas; the age rating imposed for the violence ensured that the players were old enough to gamble away their caps on Roulette, Blackjack and Slots. Far Cry 3 benefits from the same classification saving younger players from being exposed to Texas Hold’em.
The problem solely lies at the feet of games that dress up gambling, and the subsequent addiction, behind brightly coloured mascots and classification ratings that even the most responsible parents would let slip through the net. Pokemon and Shenmue aren’t the only two video games that conceal gambling mechanics behind this facade.
Final Fantasy 7 is one of the best RPG’s ever made. It also facilitates teenage gambling on Chocobo races. A quick search on Google brings up thousands of results from players hoping to make a quick buck on the races – races that emulate the dog and horse tracks from the adult world.
There are countless other games offering similarly addictive experiences. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King features moreish slot machines, roulette and bingo games. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has the Tombstone Trail casino. The list goes on, and on. These are all great games, and they wouldn’t lose any of their charm by discarding their gambling mechanics.
Video games are a lot of fun, so much so that some people don’t want to put the controller down. Loving something so much that you don’t want to stop is a form of addiction that I can live with. Getting addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes when you’re throwing your money at a slot machine, even a virtual one, is one step too far.