There are two boom industries whose progress has fairly closely followed each other over the last few decades – video gaming and online casinos. Both have relied on advances in technology to make the playing experience better, and they also share a great deal of similar software to make them work.
So it’s only logical that there are a number of video games where they both meet – with varying levels of success. It’s certainly true that the in-game casinos’ quality has progressed by leaps and bounds over time, but the earliest examples could certainly be described as being pretty rough and ready.
At the beginning
A good example of this came back in the days when the PS2 was the hottest console around. Hard Rock Casino was a collaboration between games developer Mumbo Jumbo and the famous burger restaurant. The set-up was simple. Players started out with $5,000 and the idea was to build up their bankroll through various games including slots, blackjack, roulette, poker, craps, and baccarat. But the low-fi graphics and slow pace of action made it far from a great video game experience.
Much more successful was the PS4 game Four Kings Casino. This actually allowed up to 32 different players to compete with each other online. Alternatively, there was the choice of single play against the computer. Not only did it have a complete range of casino games to play, it was also one of the earliest video games to include in-play purchases with virtual winnings. For example, you could style your avatar in almost any way you wanted.
And, while the games were in no way as sophisticated as the kinds of slots you’ll find on today’s leading online casinos, they were certainly a quantum leap forward from anything that had been seen before.
Deal me in
One casino game that has been very well represented in video games is poker. One of the best examples of this has been a game from the PS4 era called Pure Hold’em. This also allowed players to compete with each other online or to just take on the computer. It proved to be so realistic that some players reportedly even used it as a training tool. The focus was totally on the game and great state-of-the-art graphics that placed players in a realistic casino environment ensured the game’s popularity and success
Prominence Poker, in contrast, relied less on recreating a casino ambiance and more on using games of poker as a way to drive forward the storyline. After playing a number of games in gradually more seedy and threatening environments like abandoned buildings and dingy cellars, there’s a concluding game against a Mr. Big called just “The Mayor”. It’s a game that’s heavy on the atmosphere which does make it quite an involving experience. So if you’re attracted to games that take you on a journey into the seamier side of life, then, it could be the one for you.
Hold’em and hold-ups
The use of poker as a game device has probably been used to the very best effect by one of the most keenly-anticipated games of the last few years – Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2.
Games of Texas Hold’em played out in the back of saloon bars sit so perfectly with the Wild West theme that it just had to be included as an element. Naturally, it also gives players a way to acquire the dollars they need to progress in the game – even if holding up trains is an altogether more lucrative source of (unearned) income.
The Diamond Casino is a gem
Unsurprisingly, it’s also Rockstar who have created undoubtedly the greatest manifestation yet of a casino in video games. For a long time after GTA5 was launched, the Diamond Resort and Casino was just part of the background that you drove past. But then came the surprise announcement in July 2019 that it was open.
GTA5 went further than ever before to integrate a casino into a game’s narrative and created many justifications for its inclusion. Featuring all the games that you’d expect, plus the chance to even bet on horseracing, all were rendered to a level of near perfection.
Playing in the casino can do everything from winning new supercars to tear around in, to making enough money to buy one of the luxurious apartments or penthouses in the resort.
It even gives players the chance to earn money by carrying out tasks for the casino’s owners.
But what underlines the real success of the casino is the fact that there is still a huge amount of discussion and debate about the kinds of hacks available to give players short-cuts to winning, No doubt some of these have been deliberately programmed in by Rockstar. Others are uncovered by the ingenuity of players.
Things turn full circle
So far, we’ve looked at video games that use casinos. Not surprisingly, there is also two-way traffic with some online casinos now using techniques perfected in video games. The reason for this is to attract a younger type of Millennial player who has been brought up on video games. For example, some slot games now have skill elements that have to be overcome to win a prize, similar to the stages in a video game.
This is a phenomenon that is likely to become even more popular and, in the future, there’s no doubt that the links between video games and casinos are set to become even stronger.
For fans of both, this is certainly going to make for even more interesting play.