We all may have come across the term gambling. You might have heard the concept of gambling in your school days through stories floating around you. The most popular means of knowing about gambling is through media, specifically movies. Movies and TV shows such as The Casino, Hangover, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Bridgerton have portrayed gambling as faulty behavior or depicted as possessing a hint of dark humor.
Especially the 2014 movie, called The Gambler starring George Kennedy, shows the ill effects of gambling. In this movie, Jim ends up owing huge debts and faces near death experiences causing harm not only him but also his loved ones. Even while Jim’s case resulted in the resolution of his obligations and he was able to save Frank, this is not the situation for many gamblers and their families. It becomes even scarier to know that in recent times the psychology of gambling is being used in video games. But how is gambling knowledge being used in video games? To understand this, we must first know about gambling and its psychological basis.
Gambling and its Influence
In technical terms, gambling is the act of considering the amount wagered, the risks involved and the reward for taking such risks. Gambling also includes betting and gaming. It’s crucial to understand that gaming and gambling are two distinct things. The term “gaming” refers to legalised gambling, but the legalisation of gambling and related laws vary depending on the country’s legislation.
Gambling activities can occur in various ways such as table games, electronic gambling, non-casino games, sports betting, fixed-odds betting and much more. The estimated value of legal gambling marketing in 2009 was over $335 billion, or almost $1,000 per person in the US.
Indian IT Rules from 2021 state that gambling, including real money online games like rummy, is legal as long as there is no wagering on the outcome. In India, only three states allow the legal operation of casinos and online gambling: Goa, Daman and Sikkim. The state received Rs 135 crores in revenue from casinos alone, making these activities a sizable source of income for the government.
Psychology of Gambling
Looking at the psychological basis of gambling, a number of cognitive and motivational biases seem to influence gamblers. For starters, gamblers tend to prefer wagering on outcomes that are likely to occur and are their favorites even though the more favorable bets are present on the opposing side. Factors such as current moods and desirability also seemed to affect gambling behaviors. In addition, gamblers show ratio bias. For example, gamblers may bet that a white ball will appear from the urn of 59 white balls and 31 black balls than when the ratio of black balls to white balls is 9:1 which has more probability of occurring.
In spite of the fact that gambling is a game of chance, Dr. Luke Clark popularised the idea of the illusion of control, which describes the gambler’s conviction that they can influence the desired outcome through skill. Researchers discovered that patterns of near-misses and individual preference both led individuals to play for longer and make bigger bets on gambling tasks when they used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Over time, perceptions became distorted, and the participants tried to compensate for the lost amounts.
Another phenomenon known as the gambler’s fallacy, which is the mistaken belief of the gambler that the outcome that occurs repeatedly, is less likely to occur again. For instance, after repeated number of losses in roll of dice, the gambler may expect a win this time. In reality the probability of the outcome occurring again is the same.
The bandwagon effect, which has been noticed among gamblers, especially during sporting events and well-liked lottery games, encourages others to participate in the activity to prevent feeling left out when a sizable portion of the audience is already engaged.
Effects of Gambling Psychology on Video Games
How do game designers incorporate these psychological underpinnings of gambling into video games? Video games that use concepts such as game of chance with carefully designed outcomes foster an illusion of control on the player that they did better than chance; thereby increasing the player’s satisfaction.
Examining the acclaimed game 2023 Vampire Survivors shows a well-known real-world illustration of the application of gambling psychology in video games. Luca Galante, a game designer with past experience in the gambling industry, created a simple game where attacks are automatically generated and directional control is the only requirement. Players can collect gold coins on each run and utilize them to enhance the character’s abilities.
This game provides a satisfying balance between power and challenges through strategies such as clever pacing, encouraging experimentation and replay. By applying chance-based elements such as loot boxes, random drops or slot machines; it uses the gambling premises of expecting huge win due to variable rewards inspite of the losses like in the gambler fallacy situation.
Another strategy game developers may use is the means of bandwagon effect. We implement this effect by displaying to players what their friends are playing and the accomplishments of their friends.
Connection Between Video Games and Gambling
Game developers may also add timers or offer bonuses for completing certain tasks at a set time to create a sense of urgency and obtain full engagement of the players. In gambling scenarios, the allure of betting fosters a sense of urgency and excitement that keeps individuals coming back to it.
According to Dr. David Zendle’s research on video games and gambling, playing video games can actually encourage gambling. Players can use real money to pay for products thanks to the stimulus, but they are unable to cash out their earnings, which makes it difficult to regulate gambling effectively.
Though such influences do impact gambling, not everyone gambles away to misery. Gamblers also see hedging, which is the idea of changing their bet when they notice the outcome’s likelihood of happening decreasing. For example, even though the individual may be prone to experience the desirability effect or bandwagon effect, there is still a chance that the individual will make a logical decision that doesn’t result in dire consequences. Also, not all gambling results in negative consequences. The boundary for gambling is drawn when an action surpasses a predefined threshold or occurs under unfavourable conditions. The line draws for gambling when a behaviour exceeds a certain threshold or takes place in unfavourable circumstances.