Video Games and Gambling – When Does a Game Cross the Line? – Extra Credits

Video Games and Gambling – When Does a Game Cross the Line? – Extra Credits

When does a game become gambling?
If you’ve been to a gambling expo in the
past, let’s say, two years, then you
probably saw something interesting.
Guitar Hero, Space Invaders, Candy Crush –
skill-based games that allow the
player to rack up winnings when they
achieve a goal, or lose money when they fail.
Casinos are turning to these skill based games,
or hybrid skill and chance games,
due to a demographic shift. You see,
young people don’t really like slot machines,
so to attract them youths, the
gaming industry
well okay not the gaming industry you’re
thinking of, the other one that makes
like slot machines and video poker and
stuff. I mean technically gaming industry
is the proper term but just for the sake
of clarity I’m gonna call them
the casino industry.
Anyway, the casino industry is hoping
that game based machines will pull in a
fresh batch of young millennial gamblers.
They’ve even rewritten gambling laws to
accommodate new machines that rely on
performance rather than mere chance. But
it isn’t just the casinos who are
getting into videogame gambling. As you
have probably heard, Valve is currently
cracking down on third-party websites
that leverage Counter-Strike GO weapon
skin trading as a form of gambling.
With all of these factors coming into play at
once, designers have to start thinking
seriously about how they want to
approach gambling in games, even if,
like Valve, they don’t intend for people to
use them for gambling.
This raises a lot of ethical questions
that the industry hasn’t had to consider
before, so let’s go ahead and try to
address it now while it’s still on the
First of all, just to say this upfront
there’s nothing inherently wrong with
developers creating games for the casino
industry. Gambling is legal in many
places and provided developers go about
it in an ethical manner and abide by
local laws
there’s a lot worse things you could be
doing as a high-tech company. In fact,
when we started looking at this topic we
were ourselves initially worried that
the melding of video games and gambling
might make kids more likely to form a
gambling addiction later in life, but
gambling addiction experts that we
consulted shrugged off that idea.
It turns out that gambling addiction
rates remain pretty consistent either way,
and though a childhood affinity for
games of chance
can predict future gambling behaviours,
there’s no evidence that these games
somehow turn people into gamblers which
I mean I guess that makes sense;
it’s not like everybody who spun the
wheel in Candy Land became a roulette
fiend, but there are still a lot of
things to consider: the first is the
worrying possibility of what may happen
when we combine the incentivized
feedback loop of games with the already
addictive practice of gambling. We’ve
talked about this a bunch of times
already so I won’t repeat myself talking
about that danger. You can see our
episodes on humane design, exit points,
and the Skinner box if you want to dig
into that subject more yourself.
Suffice it to say that building a
humanely designed casino game will be a
very hard line to walk,
but that’s not to say that it can’t be
done. Second: if a designer decides to
make a casino game, or adapt a game
they’ve already made for gambling use,
the casino version needs to be different
in immediately obvious ways, by which I
mean police should be able to easily
tell them apart without any special
training. We’ve already seen machines
come out of China that are basically
slot machines disguises arcade games and
that’s allowed unscrupulous arcades to
double as gambling dens. Third: designers
need to make sure that these games that
they’re making are actually games, not
just glorified random number generators.
One of the good things about casinos
deploying skill-based games is that they
provide inherent entertainment value.
They aren’t just mindless slot machines or
roulette wheels where players get hooked
on dopamine, they’re more like poker: a
thing you can enjoy in and of itself
with winning money just being a fun
bonus. It’s better for the casino too.
I mean, part of why Millennials hate slot
machines is that they aren’t inherently fun
to play. But ok, enough about casinos.
What about a normal shooter with loot boxes
and item drops? How can a developer
ensure that they won’t end up in Valve’s
position where their game becomes an
unintended venue for wagering?
The simplest solution is to take the
Overwatch or Hearthstone route where you
don’t let players trade digital goods
from loot drops. Now I understand that
suggestion may not be the most popular
one because, boy, we dropped just as much
money as anyone else trying to get that
Mercy halloween skin, but that system
does at least ensure that developers
aren’t exposed to legal challenges
because no transaction between players –
no trouble. But there are legitimate
reasons to want players to be able to
trade loot.
After all, it creates a player economy. It
fosters social interaction, and it gives
loot a sense of value. Trading
opportunities make it more exciting when
a player hits the jackpot from a random
drop, and it offers them some
consolation if they get an item they
can’t use. So how can developers regulate
trade in a way that isn’t
open to bad actors?
Well, first let’s review how skin
gambling works. In Counter-Strike GO,
players can obtain skins for weapons or
characters via in-game loot drops, with
certain skins being rarer or more
sought after than others.
Players can then trade these skins to
each other, or buy and sell them for
funds in their steam wallet. But, they
can’t sell them for real world currency.
However, third-party gambling sites,
unaffiliated with Valve, have offered
venues where people can use these skins
as casino chips, betting them on
professional CSGO matches or even at
simulated table games like roulette,
blackjack and slot machines. When players
win or lose, the skins they have wagered
get automatically traded through steam
via bots controlled by the third-party
gambling site, which also offers to cash
those skins out for real currency.
Now, obviously this is illegal. And worse, a
lot of underage kids got sucked into
skin gambling. Valve is currently
cracking down by sending
cease-and-desist letters but there are
other things developers can do to make
sure that gambling doesn’t become an
accidental feature of their games.
The first is to monitor transaction
volumes, and flag accounts with
substantially higher activity than the
mean. Now sure, some of these will just be
power players, but at least it narrows
down the data set to help discover the
bad actors. Developers can also track
one-way transactions where a player sends
skins to somebody while getting nothing,
or something of negligible value, in
return. If a developer can easily
identify accounts that seem over-generous,
they’ve gone a long way toward
identifying who is giving or getting
skins from an external bet. After all,
power players are trying to make a
profit, not give away stuff for free.
Another avenue for shutting down the
trade is bot hunting. Many gambling
sites execute these trades via bots, and
if developers can detect those accounts
and lock them out, it
will go a long way toward killing the
site, because let’s be honest, if players
bid skins at one of these sites and then
never get those gambled assets back
because the bot accounts got locked,
that site is going to lose its customer
base pretty quickly. And while it is true
that gambling sites will just turn to
vpns or domain masking to create new bots,
well, there are tools to counter that too.
Just ask Netflix. But probably the best
way to keep players away from gambling
is by informing the public that many of
these sites just aren’t fair. After all,
legal casinos are heavily regulated to
ensure that gains meet payout standards
but underground gambling operations? They
can offer crooked odds. In fact, that
whole Valve case first broke when it was
revealed that the youtubers doing how-to
videos about a gambling site actually
owned the site they were promoting. Some
even got the numbers ahead of time so
that they could demonstrate how easy it
was to get a large payout. And that
revelation damaged those sites as much as
any cease-and-desist. If developers are
willing to talk about these sites in
terms of consumer protection it might
prevent people from going there in the
first place, and prevent their players
from getting burned at the table. Now,
this is a rapidly evolving topic, and
likely to shift in the next few years as
gambling sites find ways around
roadblocks, but it’s important to keep it
on our radar. The more games become an
integral part of our lives, the more
real-life problems they inherit. That’s
just the price of success.
See you next time!

100 thoughts on “Video Games and Gambling – When Does a Game Cross the Line? – Extra Credits”

  1. When does a game become gambling? And what happens then?

    PLUS! Vote for Extra Credits in the Shorty Awards up to 3 times per day:

  2. A perfect early example of gambling in games is RuneScape, around 2010-2013. RuneScape implemented "dice" into the gane, allowing players to wager money on the game amongst eachother. The winner would double their money, and the loser would lose it all. This became such an addictive sensation in the community, that players would focus all of their attention on dice and would avoid the other aspects of the game. Eventually the developers had to address this issue, so they banned dice from the game. Quickly after, a new form of gambling appeared in an unlikely place, flowers. Also known as Hot & Cold, a player or "dealer" would take a bet, the gambler would say either Hot or Cold, and the dealer would plant flowers. If the flowers came out red, it was hot, if they came out blue, it was cold. If the dealer won, he would keep the money, if the gambler won, he would get double. This was a SENSATION. I personally became addicted to this game, spending all my time & money playing it. As time went on, the developers needed to crack down on this new problem. They banned any chat relating to how the game was played. The gambling crisis was over, and I learned that I'm a gambling addict without evrr spending any real money. This experience helped me stay out of casinos later in life.

  3. i wil lsay valve isnt really trying to stop csgo gambling sites. i havnt seen any change since valve start cracking down on gambling sites

  4. There is a German "video game addiction expert" going by the name of Regine Pfeiffer. She claims that video games in which randomness is evolved are gambling. I mean, life sometimes is random (or not in our control), so it's gambling and should not be accessible to our children.

  5. what if as a way to stop players from gambling skins, guns, ECT. you made it so they would have to go through something akin to the valve store with players trading their items for a value set by the designer and other players able to buy it for that set value

  6. well now we have the community market where somebody says "ok i want to sell [insert item here] for [insert price here] and somebody will buy it!" basically

  7. the problem is that loot boxes are a form of gambling in and of themselves. they are a form of digital lottery tickets that may let you win big (get the rare item you want) or waste your money (getting a consolation prize in the form of items you don't want or already have)

  8. gachapon games… there are TOO MANY GACHAPON GAMES on the mobile game market! some do it right, Final Fantasy Record Keeper does it right by making the paid currency essentially an alternate way to get the rolls. anyone can get mythril for free just by playing the game normally, but some can buy gems if they REALLY want that ultra soul break for their favorite character. on the other hand, Dungeon Boss. not only does it pull the VIP "pay to get benefits" bullcarp, but you can hardly get anywhere in the PVP without shelling out cash to get ahead. what i'm saying is that mobile games need to fix their systems!

  9. Any game that contains loot boxes and crates that you pay real $$$ for that only gives you a percentage of a chance to get what you are paying for is fucking gambling. Period! Any devs that make these types of games can all go fuck themselves. It is no different than putting your coin in a slot machine, pulling the lever for a chance that all 3 spinning wheels land on the exact same picture to give the reward you want. If not, then you simply lose out.

  10. First of all, CS:GO does not have different characters that you can buy. All characters depend on which map you are playing. For example, a CS:GO map: Dust2 is set in Israel, so the counter-terrorists would be the IDF and the terrorists would be the Palestians. Secondly, CS:GO already has integrated gambling machines (Cases) .Thirdly, there are actually CS:GO sites where instead of gambling, you can basically trade with an AI/Bot. And lastly, these gambling/trading sites have actually enabled some CS:GO YouTubers to make YouTube videos by sponsering (E.G. iNoToRiOuS, Anomaly, BananaGaming etc. NOT including Sparklez as he is like the 'youtube channel that is odviously a sellout just for the sweet youtube money'. ) .

  11. Why not make a game you can play at home you can win real money shit with all the dififatys getting a job and getting a job that actually pays the bills like online tournaments?

  12. I think the biggest question about whether something is gambling or not depends on the influence it has outside of the system, maybe? CS:GO skins can be traded outside the game and the money, even though it's locked to the steam wallet, can be used to subsidise real money for things unrelated to the game. The only way for you to make something from the lootboxes in HS or OW is to sell your entire account. Gambling CS:GO skins means there's a chance for you to be able to get other things outside of that system, a direct monetary gain because you can now buy a game or movie. But OW, no matter what you unbox from that paid lootcrate, you're not gaining anything outside the system, you'll always be down those 5 dollars. You can't get anything that'll allow you to keep 'gambling' lootcrates, unlike a CS:GO skin in which you could get something that'll allow you to keep going.
    At least that's how I've been thinking about the system for a bit.

  13. Valve's cosmetic case system is literally a slot machine. It even has a very similar animation when you are opening a case in counter strike. Pay to open case for different rng based rewards, literally gambling.

  14. Totally valve didn't' make knives and dragon lores and unusuals. FUCK YOU VALVE I SPENT 100 bucks just to get a horrible effect in tf2

  15. No amount of bot detection through statistics or otherwise will do anything to slow down gambling. You can make as many bot accounts as you want, basically instantly. Bots are completely replaceable.

  16. Id love a charity system with bonus perks to the players who give away additional drops that they don't need. Like if someone grinds out additional cosmetics within a distinguishly human rate of achievement they can just throw the item to the wind and a random player will obtain it courtesy of the overleveled player, and the reciever can choose from an array of celebration or bonus perks to make it a livelier exchange for both. Or to trade doubles back for an equivalent loot to reroll the drop instead.

  17. I'll be honest, I'm addicted. I just can't stop.
    I paused at 5:15. Every time they sneak something in, I find myself backing up and pausing the video again…

  18. Why not just GIVE PEOPLE THE SKIN THAT THEY WANT?? I do want that mercy skin!! :((((
    Screw those random odds, I'm gonna play a non-gambling game -_-

  19. I like bit of chance, but I'm not the betting type. If something significant is on the line, well, I'm stingy with my money as is.

  20. Watched this video when it got released

    Still got scammed back at the end of 2017

    Guess you need to experience it to learn it

  21. Personally, I prefer the Overwatch method of untradeable drops. It really feels like mine when I get a drop. If I can exchange an expensive item for money it feels wrong to keep it. Like a waste of money. I'd rather just not have that option.

  22. Jeez, watching this video now makes me feel old, like a veteran of a fiscal war. Granted, I never actually gambled on sites like that and have bought few lootboxes, but still, the evolution from game devs cracking down on third-party gambling to essentially condoning first-party gambling is a stark and humbling transition to observe.

  23. If you don't want people to associate your game with gambling, simply replace all slot machines in games with Voltorb Flip. That should remove any hint of gambling from your game.

  24. It's really ironic listening to this after 2017 all considered.
    "How do developers avoid falling into Valve's situation"
    EA- "What if we dive head first into it?"

  25. The worse case I have seen of game turned gambling, was when Aeria games tryed the roulette. It basically allowed you bid your AP(cross-game currency paid with your own money) for a chance at wining more AP…It quickly escalated into a flame war against the head admins when some peoples lost hundreds of real dollars in it (it stated nowhere what the odds of wining were).

  26. That placeholder shirt – well, done, Scott, well done. I shall now unpause to continue listening to Dan 😀 <3

  27. when i was a kid and played minecraft the fastest way to get money for me was to shout to everyone that im giving away a sizable chunk of money say 200k but the entry was 1k. i would say one of my friends won and get 1k from about 10 suckers

  28. 1:01 seems to give the impression that the casino industry is responsible for writing the laws that govern it.

    (Because no one involved in gambling would ever be corrupt…)

  29. I hate gambling.. In my childhood, my best friend started with video game gambling and now (few years later) he gambles and loses money all the time, he has gambling addiction, drinks and does drugs.. His life is ruined. Gambling is an evil needing to be stopped

  30. That's I never play slots. Texas Hold 'Em also does't have a house to play against, but it's only worthwhile if there something real to risk, otherwise it's just pure probability like slots.

  31. You knuckleheads, Candy Land doesn't have a spinner it has cards… <Google search> What the… When did this happen?

  32. But flagging bots will really not help, because they are currently helping trading too. Valve has put in some shitty trading systems where you will have to wait 15-30 days before trade is finished. Using a bot makes this a lot less frustrating.

  33. No no i mean look about the overwatch thing when you buy a game you shouldn't pay a dollar more
    When you buy a game you should have the fullest experience.

  34. I would argue that we do not need to fix gambling, but rather get rid of it entirely. Unlike with a casino, you can't check who is playing a game or making those payments, so in this case, I would actually join the 'protect the children' crowd.

  35. I think it could be really addicting when your game rewards your victories with items that can be traded for real money, but in order to increase your chances, you buy in-game items…

  36. 2017 websites are underground as they gamble and make lots of money

    2019 EA 🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑
    t̲̅i̲̅m̲̅e̲̅ t̲̅o̲̅ p̲̅u̲̅t̲̅ a̲̅c̲̅t̲̅u̲̅a̲̅l̲̅y̲̅ g̲̅a̲̅m̲̅a̲̅b̲̅l̲̅i̲̅n̲̅g̲̅ i̲̅n̲̅t̲̅o̲̅ t̲̅h̲̅e̲̅ g̲̅a̲̅m̲̅e̲̅

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