Games and Gambling

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.


  1. khausoul said:

    I definitely agree with connecting gaming to gambling. It can also be seen in games like Call of Duty where you can gamble with the points that you earn in order to earn more points in what are called wager matches. People like to trust in their ability to win something, so something like a wager match where you can gamble on your skill attracts people to a game. It’s definitely an interesting point of view to take. I’ve been to my fair share of casinos and they make gambling games out of typical games. For example, they have games based on wheel of fortune, jeopardy, and bejeweled. People love to mix the two aspects and it makes for a more addicting style of play.

  2. aishamalek said:

    I thought that your observation about casual games and casino games both sharing the quality of providing instant results was interesting. I think that casual gaming and gambling on games like slot machines do give people a sense of instant gratification, which is a strong element of their addictive qualities. The human brain is wired in a way that we naturally prefer behaviors and actions that receive immediate results. So, when games like Bejeweled automatically present us with a score and tell us the degree of our success at the game, it consequently reinforces the activity. I think that this is what keeps people stimulated and hooked on casual games. On the contrary, I would argue that “hardcore” games tend to lack the brevity to give players such instant gratification, perhaps making them less commonly addictive.

  3. Terrance said:

    This is a very interesting blogpost. I had my first casino experience on New Year’s, as some friends and I brought it in at Caesar’s in Windsor, Canada. It was fun, for I won on my first try, but I can see how they can be frustrating and addictive. There were older people there with hundreds of dollars in one slot machine and refused to walk away for hours. Playing an addictive game like Bejeweled is very similar. The design of the game is the same, very non-threatening, colorful, and inviting. I believe games on phones, particularly Words with Friends, are becoming more and more addictive. When online gaming can be combined with social networking on a mobile device, the addictive qualities are off the charts! Hardcore games are addictive, but only for hardcore gamers. Games like Words with Friends can get almost anyone hooked.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: