Video gaming shares more than one similarity to online gambling. Immersion, escapism, and the thrill of winning are what attracts players. Skill, competitiveness, research, and maintaining a level-head are required in order to stand a chance of major success in either field.
But dare I ask: could video gaming be a more rewarding alternative to online gambling?
Parallels Between Gambling and Video Gaming
Like casino gaming over the past decade, video gaming has seen unprecedented growth. This is in part due to the ever-improving capabilities of mobile devices and faster internet connections. Nowadays there are millions of video games available in a variety of genres, all easily accessible through multiple platforms.
Last year, the gaming industry was worth more than the music and film industry combined. Innovation, fuelled by fierce competition within the sector is pushing on the quality and appeal of video games. Meanwhile the online gambling market was worth US$66.72 billion in 2020 and shot up to US$72.3 billion following year.
While video gaming was once exclusively considered the domain of children and teenagers, it is increasingly becoming a form of immersive entertainment for anyone, of any age.
Although online gambling is age-restricted, in general it serves the same purpose as video gaming for many people: enjoyment at home, or on the move via a mobile device.
Patience & Persistence
Patience is a virtue in both the gaming and online gambling worlds.
This might come as a surprise to those who perceive video gaming as a type of mindless, high octane, all-action assault on the senses. But many games on the market require practice, research, and a lot of time invested. They’re not all straightforward. And if they were, gaming wouldn’t be as appealing as it is.
Whether it’s spending hours pulling up weeds or fishing in Animal Kingdom, building your world in Civilisation 6, refining your approach to combat in Fortnite, or earning trophies to unlock more options in your favourite game, patience is vital for success.
The same can be said for creating and implementing a successful sports betting strategy, where trial and error, persistence, and a solid methodology is required to find and maintain an ‘edge’. Results do not simply come overnight.
In addition to skill-based games, there are also many luck-based “dice roll” style video games — where success hinges on chance.
Dice-rolling is a prominent mechanic utilised in the award winning indie game, Disco Elysium, among many other RPGs. These types of “chance” games are more akin to casino games offered by reputable sites such as Rainbow Riches, who provide a mixture of classic games and a wide variety of slots. Indeed not every card dealt or spin of the roulette wheel will lead to victory. But, like with dice-roll video games, short-term wins are an eventuality given enough tries.
The thrill of winning by chance is enjoyed in both types of gaming — with and without monetary implications.
Taking Calculated Risks
We take risks every day of our lives — from crossing the road to making critical business decisions. The key to successful decision making is to make sure they are calculated and well considered; this principle holds true in both gaming and gambling.
In video gaming, taking a big risk may hinder your progress with in-game deaths or setbacks. That could mean being peppered with bullets in Call of Duty: Warzone or spinning off the track in Formula One.
In a gambling context, taking on more risk usually means raising the monetary stakes. This increases the likelihood of losing large sums of money, or blowing the bank.
But of course there are no rewards without risk. Most video games cannot be completed without making a series of critical decisions. Similarly, a professional bettor or gambler cannot begin to earn a profit without running the risk of failure or setbacks. The clear difference between the two is that computer games serve a simulation for real life, while gambling has serious real-world implications — which I’ll get onto later.
Video games require players to find solutions to challenges, puzzles and obstacles.
Games such as Angry Birds, Tetris and It Takes Two, are great examples of games that challenge players to use their brains. Planning, adaptation, experimentation, creativity and improving over time is essential.
Professional gambling shares a lot of similarities with gaming. It’s a challenge to find the winning strategy to begin with. Then it’s yet another challenge to maintain that advantage. This involves overcoming many obstacles — such as disguising strategies to avoid account limitations, finding new ways to place your stakes, and utilising helpful tools to “upgrade” the process.
For many pro sports bettors it’s a constant game of cat and mouse with the bookmakers. And unfortunately it’s yet another ‘game’ in itself just to get paid out on winnings!
Keeping a Cool Head
Keeping a cool head means staying calm under pressure and being able to make emotion-free choices without being swayed by your heart or gut. It can be the difference between success and failure.
Racing games such as TT Isle of Man Ride on the Edge 2, Need For Speed or Forza Horizon, are high octane racing classics that are the ultimate test for cool heads. Make a rash decision and go for an overtake that isn’t on and you’ll end up in the barriers, losing the race. But stay calm under pressure and you’ll be able to make the right move at the right time to snatch the win.
There’s an obvious overlap in the mindsets between successful gamers and gamblers. A gambler — particularly sports traders — must not make irrational, knee-jerk decisions or try to ‘force’ a win. Being selective and calm, rigid, and acting only at opportune moments is what separates professional bettors (such as traders and Poker players) from a recreational ones.
While professional gamers are undoubtedly more revered than professional gamblers, there’s scope to forge a career in both fields.
Professional gamers are essentially sportspeople; their skills are on show for the world to see, and prizes and sponsorships are enormous. Competition is fierce, though. So most gamers opt to monetise content based around their favourite games.
Professional gamblers exist, too, and the rewards are potentially huge. Just consider the top Poker competitions which have tens of millions of dollars regularly up for for grabs.
With relatively simple techniques such as of Matched Betting and Arbitrage, the barrier for entry is lower in professional gambling than in gaming. But much like video gaming, the most successful gamblers require incredible skill and knowledge. I liken the world’s best professional gamers to the top Betfair traders; very few people make it to that level.
The fact is, both gaming and gambling are expensive hobbies.
A basic modern gaming console costs hundreds of pounds, and up to thousands of pounds for a top-spec gaming PC. Highly anticipated new release games also cost a small fortune, at typically around £50. Then there’s subscriptions on top — such as PS Plus — required to play online on the PS4/5.
The overheads are far lower for gambling, but it’s a hobby that’s likely to incur losses — depending on stake sizes, the frequency of bets, and players’ overall skill level.
In addition, video gaming and gambling can be addictive. It’s not uncommon for video gamers to invest large sums of real-world money into game add-ons in the same way gamblers bet every weekend. In fact EA Sports has come under scrutiny in recent years over their FIFA “packs”, in which players pay for the chance to unravel a top player for their virtual team. Much like a slot machine, the big pay-outs — the Ronaldo’s, Messi’s and Mbappe’s in this case — are rare.
Hence video gaming isn’t only here for our entertainment. Like gambling, it’s a big business.
Differences Between Gambling and Video Gaming
Let’s face it: gambling is centred around monetising players. With the house edge or overround (in sportsbooks) to contend with, it’s far more common for gamblers to lose substantial sums of money than video gamers.
Yes — gaming equipment, games and add-ons are expensive, and a prerequisite for any gamer. But there is at least something tangible to show for the investment — whereas gambling losses leave no end product. All that’s left is the memory, and experience (which isn’t always a fond one).
Furthermore, video gaming purchases typically provide enjoyment for weeks, months, or even years in the case of a gaming console, or an open-world game such as GTA5. This means that large expenses tend to be sporadic. In contrast, many gamblers will place spins or hands at an online casino, over and over, in one session alone. Losses can spiral out of control, and gamblers can dig themselves into a difficult financial situation.
While casino games are dressed-up with extravagant themes and bright characters, the ultimate objective is to provide the thrill of gambling.
On the contrary, the success of a video game depends on its ability to evoke an emotional response from players — without money at stake. Hence the quality, variety, depth, and level of immersion in video games is far superior. There’s games to suit every taste. Nowadays some games are so strong in terms of story-telling and characterisation that they’re comparable to Hollywood movies. Game development is an artform.
Overcooked is a fine example of a light-hearted multi-player video game that successfully evokes feelings of joy, elevation, excitedness, frustration, anger, and anxiousness! The idea is to prepare, serve and wash up in the kitchen of a very busy restaurant… while watching out for mice, fires and a moving kitchen…
Personally I prefer story-rich games such as Detroit: Become Human, or the Last of Us.
The perception of video gaming used to come with a great amount of negative and unflattering associations. The general image of the gamer was that of a nerdy loner, lacking in basic social skills. But that perception is shifting quite radically as gaming becomes more mainstream. In fact, 77 percent of people aged 15-69 are now playing video games.
One contributing factor to this shift is that gaming is far less solitary than it once was. With the rise of online gaming and the use of headsets players are constantly socialising and interacting with one another from the comfort of home. Gaming connects people that otherwise might be watching the television or reading alone.
The same change in perception cannot be said for online gambling. Unfortunately gambling conjures up images of debt, addiction, solidarity, and even criminal activity (thanks in part to movie portrays of illicit gambling). While this is a highly unfair view of an average gambler, the industry has not always helped itself in shaking off negative perceptions; betting companies have done bare minimum to educate and look after their most vulnerable players, and haven’t always acted fairly.
Hopes For The Future
As you can probably tell, I’m a little bit of a gamer myself. But I understand the appeal of both video gaming and gambling, and feel that there needs to be a bridging between to two entities in order to improve the online gambling experience.
I’ve established that video gaming is far more immersive — albeit without the potential monetary upside and “thrill” that comes with real stakes gambling. Now imagine that instead of playing a video games to complete a level or impress your friends, you’re rewarded with real money. You could, for instance, bet on yourself or friends in arcade style mini-games or run prize pools.
Skill-based games would give more control to players than traditional casino games that rely on chance. And that’s likely to create a more appealing, competitive, sociable, rewarding experience for players.
The gambling-gaming concept could create a major shift in the perception of online gambling if it’s done correctly. It could be an exciting future ahead for the online gambling world, if the industry pushes towards incorporating more of the technology we already have in online gaming.