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Videogames Got Gambling

Tamsin Oxford
Features, Gambling, Modern Warfare, RapeLay

Videogames Got Gambling

Hot on the heels of another spate of US-based “violent videogames” drama, comes the announcement that Paddy Power, a retail and online bookmaker, is going to start taking bets on videogame competitions.

This is not a joke.

Now I am torn. On one hand I am thinking, “Cool, this is finally taking videogames seriously enough to suggest that there’s money in it.” However, the vast majority of my brain is screaming, “Oh no! What!”

Let me explain. I’ve always tried to stay on top of videogame news. Not just the latest releases or some release date being dropped (again) or what nasty publisher is introducing yet another hideous DRM measure, but also the scary news where frothing maniacs declare war on an entertainment medium they know nothing about. Oh, and truly interesting debates like this one.

Videogames Got Gambling

So it was with a measure of resignation that I read the news that a new law recently passed in California is banning games for individuals under the age of 18. Yes, the Arnie state. You know, that hypocrite who appeared in all those violent movies back in the 80s which were then considered the cause of violence in children, when TV was The Evil One.

So now this law is moving on up to the U.S. Supreme Court where the decision will be made as to whether or not states can regulate the sale of videogames. Ultimately I think that if this is done cleverly it can have only positive effects. I know this makes me sound like a videogame bashing hypocrite but frankly I think that people who develop and play games like Rapeplay (the fuel that fanned the flames) should be held accountable.

Videogames may be the misunderstood art form of the twenty-first century but that doesn’t mean it should take the piss. Like snuff movies, videogames that cross the moral divide to such an extreme should be banned and discouraged. I know that there will be plenty of people who’ll argue that this is “just a game” but frankly it’s just an excuse to indulge in emotionally stunted behaviour and is just not acceptable. I would say the same if the games were all about women raping and degrading men, trust me.

Videogames Got Gambling

This brings me neatly round to one of my all time favourite rants from the Game Developers Conference. Heather Chaplin unleashed her fury at what she saw as a “bunch of ***ing adolescents”. It was poetic glory. You’ll probably hate me for this, but she speaks the utter truth and games like Rapeplay and MW2 only make the point even more poignant.

You’ll find plenty of fury and mudslinging and counterarguments to Heather’s rant online but overall you have to admit she has a tiny little bit of a point. I don’t think we need to walk away from every game feeling as if we’ve solved world peace or learned how to do complex mathematical equations, but it would be nice not to have lithe women in skintight leather prancing around with unrealistic body features. Or pointless violence.

But I digress. So it was with all these facts in mind that I read the announcement by Paddy Power and I couldn’t help wondering if this wouldn’t add more weight to the anti-gaming argument? Won’t the mad videogame bashers instantly see this as another sin to add to the litany of evils that make up our favourite form of entertainment?

Videogames Got Gambling

The thing is, TV underwent all this trauma too and they happily have bets for shows like Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity, so perhaps my concerns are pointless. I guess only time will tell. Perhaps the fact that the betting for Super Street Fighter IV is slotted under “novelty betting” will make it a little less wicked.

I know this makes me sound like a puritanical PC burner, I’m not I promise. In fact, I’ve even sidled onto the site to check out the betting and to see what’s what. Not that I understand half of the lingo, but anyway.

Personally I’m going to take the positive road on this one, I’m going to shove the thoughts of Videogame War By Zealots under the motherboard and instead feel a little proud that finally the medium has been recognised enough to feature on one of the leading gambling sites.

Have I missed a point? Fancy arguing? Drop a comment or five and I’ll roll up my sleeves and join in.

Add a comment9 comments
ODB  Apr. 27, 2010 at 15:01

"You’ll probably hate me for this, but she speaks the utter truth and games like Rapeplay and MW2 only make the point even more poignant."

From what you have said about this Rapeplay I dont see how putting that and MW2 in the same sentence is fair, they are worlds apart even if some would try and argue they are the same... I also argue whenever someone says COD or the like are 'Violent'.

I would argue they arent violent as such unlike something where you can choose to dispatch someone in an ultra violent way eg Condemned etc as they are military based, you have clear objectives and you are actually putting them down in the fastest ad clearest way, unlike a game where you have to repeatedly smash someone with a baseball bat.
Even when using the knife its a 1 hit kill....fast and smooth, not bludgeoning someone to death or torturing them. In essence you are acting out most kids fantasy of being a soldier but you are doing it in a realistic way and giving clear objectives, therefore closest you could come to reality of actually being a special forces soldier and missing out the training etc. Though you also miss out on the discipline because you have a set path to follow it doest allow you to go rogue.

Bloody yes, unsuitable for a younger audience definitely violent in the true sense of the word no

Jonathan Lester  Apr. 27, 2010 at 16:00

Could this be the start of the same slippery slope that resulted in Korea's Starcraft situation?


Matt Gardner  Apr. 27, 2010 at 16:39

The competitive nature of gaming, and its easy representation as a realm of 'virtual sports', makes this official gambling rather unsurprising. People will bet on anything these days.

I like the point about the GDC09 rant. Chaplin had a point, although I'm going to side with ODB on the matter with MW2 but for rather different reasons.

Chaplin is right when she talks of developmental immaturity, and violence is one of the easiest ways in which to bring about virtual interaction although she talks as though the eight years she has been in the industry are the only eight years there have been. I would point to the LucasArts adventures of the mid-Nineties as prime examples of fantastic game design that didn't rely on pointless violence or immature development, but on peerless creative vision. What of Will Wright's bestsellers or Shigeru Miyamoto's phenomenal family-friendly, yet never less than innovative, legacy.

Chaplin is right when she points out that the 'biggest' games these days resemble male power fantasies, but she neglects to acknowledge the demand part of a supply and demand culture of industry. That said, it's been years since a game made me laugh and love is an emotion that no game has really been able to pull off ever. But gaming's evolution is hazy at best and Chaplin herself offers no answers or even suggestions within the medium. She seems to be arguing for a blockbuster that succeeds in telling an engrossing narrative that embraces responsibility, intimacy, introspection and intelligence - for there are smaller games that will offer such an experience (many of them free) - but gives no indication as to how she sees this happening.

Tamsin Oxford  Apr. 27, 2010 at 20:25

I agree with you Matt, she makes some good points but she doesn't show a way forward. ODB I should have been clearer. My reference with MW2 was to the stupid airport scene that frankly added nothing to the game at all, wasn't very good in the end, and was really just a PR tool. That, for me, was the singular element that put it in the realm of Rapeplay - the pointlessness of that particular slice of violence. :) Excellent comments btw.

Matt Gardner  Apr. 27, 2010 at 21:12

I agree with you about No Russian...that level was spun out of all proportion by the media. It wasn't particularly shocking and it certainly wasn't profound. I disagree however about its pointlessness. I saw it more as a narrative device, an interactive cutscene. The story hinged on an atrocity with misdirected blame but it was unsurprising.

Tamsin Oxford  Apr. 28, 2010 at 08:45

Right. That's it, Matt. Fisticuffs at dawn. Bring a wingman....

ODB  Apr. 28, 2010 at 14:14

agree with Matt actually, it had a point and helped make it like a film...it gets missed that though this didnt 'technically' add anything to the game it put the player in total control...more control than anywhere else in the game...watch the atriocity and story unfold or join in

you dont have to shoot the people...you can let others do it, the game gives you the complete free will at this point to shoot or not to shoot, the media outcry was just typical and bound to happen with a game of this size. No offense Tamsin but I think you could have mentioned other much more violent games (manhunt etc) rather than MW2, but again I always argue military games aren't violent as such as its regimented unlike more barbaric video game violence

Matt Gardner  Apr. 28, 2010 at 14:24

I overslept and missed dawn. Apologies :-D

Jonathan Lester  Apr. 28, 2010 at 14:38

Her seconds called on your seconds.


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