Where Have All the Bookies Gone?

Infendo OpEd

Gambling in video games has become much less common than it used to be. I still remember getting my copy of Pokémon Leaf Green and finding out the “gambler” characters had all been replaced with “gamers”. It was a minor change, but having my precious nostalgia tampered with was alarming none the less. What’s more, future versions in the series removed all mention of gambling. In Pokémon Red and Pokémon Gold, you could walk into a Casino, play the virtual slot machines for a few hours and claim rare Pokémon and TMs as prizes for your efforts. That was a rewarding experience as a child, and one of the highlights of my early years playing these games.

Unfortunately, Pokémon isn’t the only series to see a loss of gambling elements in gaming’s more recent years. Another memorable example is Mario Party. One of the most enjoyable elements in early Mario Party games was Chance Time, which involved the player gambling their hard-earned Stars and Coins against those of other players in a quick event. Mario Party 3 saw an even larger emphasis on these all-or-nothing events with Game Guy, who would engage the player with a number of chance-based games.

That’s not to say online game casinos have been completely lost to the sands of time. The Sonic the Hedgehog series has used the casino motif in plenty of their games, although these are admittedly more cosmetic and less practical. Yooka-Laylee also featured an entire casino-based world. It isn’t so much the casino landscape that’s been censored in modern gaming. It’s the act of gambling itself that has become a spot of contention.

Sadly, these days the industry has much tighter standards on gambling being represented in video games. You’d be hard pressed to find an in-game casino in most games, and that’s a shame. There was nothing harmful about these experiences for me as a child, and frankly, some of my fondest childhood gaming memories were spent in these virtual gambling halls. I would love to see a return of this seemingly-lost element in future games. But I wouldn’t bet on it.