Connecting Games to Gambling
Throughout our discussions about what has made games (and especially casual games) successful, I have realized more and more how the mechanics that make us addicted to games are the same ones that make people addicted to gambling (not to say that I am addicted to gambling!) They just both use the same strategies.
I think that Bejewled, a game that runs on the tile-matching mechanic, emphasizes these strategies the most. It makes use of bright colors and lights, as well as exciting bonuses, and payoffs (in terms of points) to draw the player in. If you play Bejewled Blitz, the game only lasts one minute, and challenges you to get as high a score as you can in that amount of time. While skill is definitely a factor, the short time span of the game forces the player to rely more heavily on luck than in a tile game with no time limit. The player is restricted by how well the “board” is set up at the start of the game, and how well new jewels line up to allow for bonuses. This combination of luck and instant results is essentially similar to slot machines.
In fact, the key aspect of gambling (according to the ever-insightful Wikipedia) is wagering money on “an event with an uncertain outcome … Typically the outcome of the wager is evident within a short period.” Games too rely on uncertain outcomes to keep players invested, and casual games make excellent use of outcomes in short timeframes. In fact, legal gambling is technically referred to as “gaming.”
In Bejewled, the player receives a score, which is sometime disappointing, often average, and, rarely fantastic. Similarly, slots will often give you nothing or a small return, but it is the hope of winning big that keeps you playing. It is the hope of getting that high score that keeps the player invested in Bejewled, starting a new game every minute in hopes of doing better than their last game.
The same can be said for many casual games. As has been mentioned many times before, it is this short time frame, ability to play (or stop playing) whenever, and the social aspect of comparing scores with friends that makes casual games so popular today. The main difference is that the big payoff is in points, and not money.