Retro Revolution: Gaming and Gambling
Posted on Tuesday, November 15 @ 16:14:23 PST by KevinS
I'm a gamer who loves gaming. All sorts of gaming. When I was about four, an NES made its way into my house and hooked me on Super Mario Brothers. When I turned 21, the "anything goes" age in the US, I got started playing a different kind of game: poker. After all, a game's a game, right?
But with the Main Event of the WSOP (World Series of Poker) wrapping up this past week, it's had me thinking about not just poker itself, but gambling in general. It's one of the oldest—if not the oldest—ways that we as humans have entertained ourselves throughout our existence on this planet (beyond prostitution). Dice, tiles, and cards are the veterans of entertainment, and they have been involved in video gaming since the early goings. The AI might not have been advanced enough for advanced skill games like player-versus-player poker or gin, but video slots and blackjack are ever-present across nearly every gaming platform. Even the Magnavox Odyssey—the first commercially-available video game console—played a version of roulette!
The history of gaming is littered with not only the corpses of dead consoles, but of casino and gambling games. The original gaming juggernaut, the Atari VCS/2600, had Casino which featured blackjack, stud poker, and poker solitaire. The Intellivision had their own poker and blackjack titles named, appropriately enough, Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack, complete with a dealer on the screen to help narrate the action. Even the system with the Nintendo Seal of Quality, the NES, had a strong share of gambling love with Caesar's Palace, Blackjack, and Vegas Dream where your money is in jeopardy everywhere you go, along with unlicensed "favorites" like Hot Slots (complete with nekkid ladies at slot machines) and Peek-A-Boo Poker (with MORE nekkid ladies at the video poker machine). Hell, the Game Boy had a handful with Casino Fun Pack and Vegas Stakes.
And that's only in the US and Europe; in Japan, mahjong and pachinko games rule the roost. [I play Yakuza 4 mainly for mahjong. ~Ed. Nick] They show up simply everywhere, from the FamiCom to the NGPC and DS. They might be on every platform possible (and prevalently so) because "true" gambling is prohibited in Japan to certain public sports and prefecture-wide lotteries. Skill-based games like poker and mahjong are illegal to gamble on, along with machine games like video poker and slot machines, though pachinko is an odd gray area… not really "gambling" in presentation, but allowed to operate for prizes and such because of historical significance. It would only make sense that these games are played in a way that no money can change hands; namely, by plugging a cartridge into the platform of your choice.
Gambling games, while never being major console movers or "notable" titles, have quietly established themselves in our gaming realm. Games like Funtown Mahjong, Full House Poker, and the World Series of Poker franchise are still seeing releases and still selling enough to make the investment worthwhile. In the end, gambling games have the odds in their favor! HA! Get it? It's a play on… yeah. Gambling for free ain't going anywhere.
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