The theme park, made just out of hay bales, in the parking lot of the office. Where every little element, every tiny aspect of the fun is charged for. And I think about that often when I look at a lot of modern video games. This idea that they’re like theme parks that charge and entry fee to get in, but then subsequently charge more and more money to get the most out of the experience. And Red Dead Online, GTA Online, coming from Rockstar, it just feels grimly poetic. Especially when you consider that they produce these games under the label of Take-Two Interactive, which is one of the most greedy publishers.
Headed up by one of the most greedy executives in Strauss Zelnick. A man who would probably throw a baby into a river for 20 bucks, probably. I’m not saying he definitely will, I’m saying he probably has.
I mean he probably would, not has. He hasn’t, Strauss Zelnick hasn’t thrown baby. But I’m just saying if it was in the newspaper, Strauss Zelnick throws babies in rivers for money, I wouldn’t be surprised. There could be something you could parody in GTA, Rockstar, before you go ahead and do it. Anyway there’s a casino in GTA Online.
(groans) Welp. Welp. Welp! They went ahead and finally did it, did they? They finally just gave up the pretense, did they?
They finally decided to cut straight to the effing chase and plop a casino smack dab in the middle of a video game. At a time where loot box regulation is a hot topic and stories of children being tricked into spending hundreds and thousands on micro transactions are getting wider news attention, Rockstar finally unleashed to The Diamond Casino & Resort upon Grand Theft Auto Online. And you better believe real money can be spent in it.
In a roundabout fashion, naturally. Yep, after the industry has faced credible and correct accusations of sticking gambling in their games via monetized randomization, Rockstar went ahead and put a literal casino, with a literal gambling, where literal money can be spent to literally gamble, literally. It’s so utterly brazen one almost has to admire the sheer nerve. Of course you can’t directly spend money on it. A lack of direct expenditure is how the industry has been able to get away with exploitative micro transactions for so long. Virtual currency creates degrees of separation between your wallet and a game publishers coffers, reducing said publishers accountability.
And I would never use the term money laundering to describe virtual currency. I would never do that, that’s not fair, I wouldn’t do that. I don’t even know why I’m bringing it up. Let’s not start colloquially calling it money laundering just to be snidey. In GTA online you can spend your real dollars to buy the games virtual dollars, which in turn can be spent in the casino. And these are genuine bonafide gambling games, so much so, that games in the live dealer online casino Canada is the best online casino in CA and in countries where gambling is.
In fact shortly after the update went live, news broke that over 50 countries have these games blocked. This news should, in no uncertain terms, demonstrate that the lines between in-game gambling and real gambling have become so blurred they’re singing “Song 2”. I mean think about that. An update to a game has had to be severely restricted in many, many, many countries because it’s far too much like real gambling to let stand. And people thought I was off my beautiful tits when I suggested that in game gambling was getting out of hand. And here we are a triple early video game with a virtual casino plunked into it, where you can spend real money on it but you won’t ever get a real payout.
Some users report that they actually cannot spend money that they’ve purchased, they can only use money that they’ve earned in-game. This is a led to a lot of confusion, a lot of argument, as most of the reporting on the issue says that yes you can spend real money, but there are invariably some comments saying, no you can’t. Due to the aforementioned regional blocking there’s a lot of confusion out there. But according to my research and my double and my triple checking, doing everything just shy of trying it myself. Because screw spending my bloody money on micro transactions.
It’s looking like in certain regions you can spend real money and in certain regions you can only spend the cash that you’ve earned explicitly in-game. The best thing about micro transactions in video games is how simple it all is, isn’t it? Of course the usual excuses used to justify micro transactions have been liberally applied.
It’s optional, you don’t have to spend real money, you can earn premium currency in-game. But none of the less we now have a real bloody casino in a so-called triple-A video game, where you can waste real cash on legit casino games. As I see it there are three saving graces that could be used to defend The Diamond Casino, not that they all offer complete defense. First of all Rockstar has a hard limit on how much you can actually spend at the casino, in an effort to curb problem gambling. There’s a hard cap limit and there are cool downs to stop you spending and spending and spending and spending. That’s more than some games out there are doing.
Secondly, GTA is of course an M-rated game, rated suitable for adults. This doesn’t mean kids don’t play it of course, but at least that’s better than gambling mechanics in a game like FIFA, which is rated as suitable for children yet needs strict parental supervision due to its ability to scam children into cleaning and their parents bank accounts. Seriously, I’m gonna keep banging that drum. At this point FIFA requires more parental guidance then an M-rated game, which is explicit in its contents rather than unscrupulously insidious. And as such FIFA should be rated accordingly.
Electronic Arts, coward that it is, never comments on stories about kids overspending in FIFA. Instead offering spending control walkthroughs to reporters that detail how parents can stop their kids wasting money on digital wagering. It’s almost as if children shouldn’t be around gambling, huh? It’s almost as if gambling is regulated for a reason, huh?
Where was I? Oh right, yes, I was detailing The Diamond Casino saving graces. I only did two, which was the the M-rating and the limit. The third one is that unlike loot boxes, which create an aesthetic distance between themselves and traditional gambling, a literal casino with literal gambling, is about as honest as luck based monetized Gaming gets. You really can’t get much more upfront and blatant than actual slot machines.
But nonetheless, this is something I’m gonna be very wary of because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the triple-A game industry in all our years of criticism, it’s that when a successful monetization method appears in one companies game, the other sharks smell blood and want a slice of the action. And if other game publishers decide to jump on board the casino idea, you can expect them to iteratively make the idea worse and worse, and greedier and greedier. I’m inclined to agree with what Oli Welsh said in a Eurogamer article when he said, “GTA’s casino isn’t the worst of gambling in games, “but it puts it in perspective.”
Even if we wanna say it’s not the worst out there, if we want to say it’s not quite as insidious as a loot box. In its complete lack of subtlety it really does put a sharp focus on the long-running problem of in-game gambling mechanics. Because while there is a stunning wow factor in seeing an actual casino knocking about, it’s not doing anything a lot of modern, so-called, triple-A video games haven’t been doing for years already.
It’s giving you the ability to spend real money on a luck based outcome with no real financial payout. It’s just got significantly less pretentious branding. And if you do want to say that The Diamond Casino is not the worst out there, that provides some damming context for existing loot boxes, if you’re saying a literal casino has a less predatory gambling in it than a loot box. And you’ve gotta believe the EA’s and the Activision’s of the world are looking at The Diamond Casino with keen interest because of course it’s never enough. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/technology/personaltech/casinos-look-to-video-games-as-a-draw-for-millennials.html
Not even loot boxes are enough for these friggin’ parasites, why not just go for the whole round juicy hog and start throwing virtual casinos into games as well? After all the ways GTA online has already made money to be the most profitable game in history, Rockstar and Take-Two interactive have proven that there truly is no limit to what they’ll try and make money off of. I know people consider a slippery slope argument fallacious, but with the game industry every slope we’ve seen has arrived pre-oiled. It’s a slippery slope argument fallacious when slipping down slopes is an observable pattern of behavior?
Few companies are maybe so upfront as to have a literal casinos in their games, but it’s clear now that such a thing is not off the table. And with many companies still going all-in on loot boxes, whether or not these games have casinos in them, more and more starts to become a semantic matter. Gambling has been a part of in-game monetization now for years, Rockstar’s just admitting it in ways other companies haven’t dared. Virtual slot machines and casino games are, unsurprisingly, rife on mobile platforms. The realm of amoral business plans, from where most triple-A publishers get their horrible ideas.
There are games on mobile phones that are little more than slot machines without real financial payout. They all certainly take real money in exchange for virtual cash, but then you spend that virtual cash on a virtual slot machine to win more virtual cash to spend on more virtual slot machines and that’s it. There are no ends to which you’re working, no goal, no point. You’re doing it simply for the thrill of the pretty colors and the positive reinforcement of winning.
And it’s that positive reinforcement which the industry has steadily been using more and more to con money and a people who have already spent money buying a game in the first place. Even worse, we’ve seen examples of games deliberately designed to be less rewarding, less enjoyable, less playable in order to falsify the value prospect of the micro transactions. A premium replacement for the satisfying feelings games used to give you as part of the expected base package. At this point and if things are only gonna get less fun, but get more and more casino like, you might as well just go to a real bloody casino.
I never agreed with the people who smugly said, “Just learn to play a real guitar, “instead of playing guitar hero.” But if you’re getting into in-game gambling for the rush of it all, just get your ass to the genuine casinos if you can. Because I think there are things you can do at a casino to make it more rewarding and more lucrative, than some of the triple-A rubbish on the market. Am I about to say casinos are better than video games? No, heavens no. I’m just as against saying that, as I am against saying virtual currency is money laundering.
I would never say that casinos are better than video games, they’re just better than Electronic Arts’s video games. On a serious note, obviously real-life gambling has serious risk attached to it and it’s psychological tricks and trappings are no less potentially addictive than any micro transaction. But just follow your old pal Jim Sterling’s advice, be careful and stick to my game plan and you’ll find a casino way more fulfilling than a god damn piece of crap loot box.
A casino employs the same traps, the same lures, the same psychological manipulation as a loot box fueled video game. I mean, that’s exactly what these video games are emulating. By the same token they also provide the equivalent endorphin rush, the same bright lights and pretty colors.
Plus you might win some actual money, instead of a frigging pretend hat for a pretend video game character. That has no monetary value in a game that will be worthless the moment the annual sequel comes out. You see the video game industry protects itself from existing laws with the argument that what you win in FIFA or Overwatch or Call of Duty has no official real-world monetary value. Ignoring secondary markets, there’s no official way to make back the money you spend on loot boxes.
The fact you can’t win money protects game publishers from the law, for now, but also makes the case that loot boxes are actively worse than gambling, at least from the perspective of value. In a video game loop box you can’t win anything that even the publisher will admit is worth a damn. And on top of that they fix the odds and can change the odds at any time. Couldn’t do that if you play blackjack. I seriously, and this isn’t facetious at all, I do not encourage gambling in anybody.
But if you were to ask me what’s worth spending money on, FIFA or a casino? GTA’s Diamond Casino or an actual casino? Well I for one could personally, only speaking for myself, I could stand to have a wet weekend to the Baeu Rivage. But if you join me on a wet weekend at Baeu Rivage, you’ve gotta make the casino work for you, and that’s the tricky part since again gambling addiction, desperation to handle debt. These are all real issues and if you’re affected by those do not come with me for our wet weekend at the Baeu Rivage, ever. Just a home and play a video game after you research the video game to make sure it’s not one that will try and psychologically manipulate cash out of you and play on your problems.
Because that’s where we’re at now with games, you gotta research them to make sure that they’re not gonna try and prey on you. But if you handle it give yourself enough a spending limit, I recommend 60 bucks, it’s the price of a video game. And you can spend more time having fun with that than you can with most modern garbage live service games, then you’re very welcome to join me. And then we make the casino work for us. I mentioned blackjack, don’t actually do that, don’t bother with that. The first thing you do, is you go to the buffet and you load that plate up with crab.
I say crab because the casinos out here in MS are by the beach and they got that good seafood action. Whatever else happens with your day, it’s already been a damn good trip because you got yourself on the outside of some sweet-ass buffet crab. What you don’t need to do is find the bar. The bar has a little slot machines built into it and lots of old ladies at those machines.
There’s just a big old pile of sweet lovely old grannies, as you take your own seat at the bar. Here the drinks are of course straight up effing free, provided you using the machine. So you put in the minimum cash each time, press the button win or lose. Yes, I think I’ll have another Jack Daniels, thank you very much sir. And nobody said you had to press that button fast, take your time. And you’ll have plenty of fun spending money, smashing a button to make colors happen, like you could in many triple-A video games.
Now the drinks are of course free for a reason, they want you sloshed so that your senses are impaired and you may be tempted to spend more money. So you gotta be on the ball a bit and you’ve got to keep some important math in mind. And the math here is simple. So long as you leave the casino with more booze inside you then money you put in the machine, you never won’t profit.
And I always stagger out of the casino with a belly full of profit. As well as crab, sweet buffet crab. Oh, the crab. This game plan is nothing new, nothing I’ve innovated. I mean fair play to the grannies, they got in there first and they’re getting hammered. This game plan is codified as an old gamblers trick called the Crabby Granny Drinky Winky.
Obviously I’m being somewhat facetious, though that really is the low stakes way I like to enjoy a wet weekend at the Beau. But the more the lines blur between in-game gambling and real gambling, the harder a case games have to make in order to justify why we shouldn’t all just go to a casino and eat crab. Electronic Arts ain’t never given me no seafood, and unlike with an EA, game kids aren’t actually allowed to come into a casino with their parents credit cards and spend all their money, which is a nice little bonus. Almost as if gambling is regulated, huh? Almost as if spending money on wages is something kids shouldn’t be near, huh?
Huh? Huh! In any case the point is this, an actively monetized casino has no frigging place in a video game. Sure, an in-game casino that uses in-game currency only, no premium trash, is something I can get behind.
I’m all for the casinos in Dragon Quest, those are fun and free of financial fuss and ethical gray areas. But this slow ,steady, encroaching, blurring of the lines between real gambling and virtual gambling, it needs to stop. It’s seriously, all humor, facetiousness aside, needs to stop.
Because the predatory monetization of the so-called triple-A game industry has already gotten way too out of hand. Way too manipulative. Way too close to genuinely damaging. And this is all without literal virtual casinos coming into play.
The Diamond Casino & Resort of GTA Online may have enough caveats that people find it defensible. It may have two or three saving graces that a game like FIFA doesn’t, but it still reeks of fish and not the good kind you’d get from a wet weekend at the Beau. If games take cues from Rockstar and we start seeing this nonsense pop up more, I’m out. I’d rather go where there’s booze, crab and a coastal view. Plus the Beau is right near Aunt Jenny’s, and let me tell you about Aunt Jenny’s. It’s all-you-can-eat shrimp, chicken or catfish.