Online games are becoming more and more ‘infantilised’ as developers tap into a warm nostalgia in gamblers. The trend isn’t restricted to online gambling. Popular social gaming titles like Candy Crush Saga feature cutesy intro sequences straight out of a Nintendo game and icons made up almost exclusively with sweets. The lines between styles are being blurred. Candy Crush Saga looks like a modern-day real-money slot, especially with its ‘exploding reels’ style which has been mimicked and trademarked by all the major slots developers in recent year. This nostalgic element is key for slots developers.
The rise of Facebook, Zynga Poker, Bingo Friendzy, etc. have leveraged the explosion in ‘social gaming’ to push into the real-money gambling sector. But where does the social element stop and the gambling begin? And with the lines being blurred ever more, is the notion of gambling in the traditional sense changing too? Players on social apps like Candy Crush Saga (Facebook’s most popular social game of last year) can play for free. But to get past the initial levels they must purchase more levels or scrounge extra lives from FB friends. But the aims are the same: to spend as much time playing as possible and to ‘achieve’ as much as you can. And those achievements and missions can be shared with friends on social media.Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University, observes “that there was very little difference between the behaviour and the psychology of people playing video games and those playing slot machines. Slot machine people were playing for money and video games players were playing for points. In effect, slot machine gamblers were using money as a way of ‘keeping score’, even though the games involved money. Every hardcore fruit machine player that I knew in my research in the late 1980s was saying, ‘we know that we’re going to lose every penny in the long run. What we’re trying to do is maximise play on this machine”. In effect, slots players’ philosophy was to stay on machines as long as possible for the least amount of outlay possible; an identical approach to video games players. In that sense, social games already deliver paybacks that are similar to slots - more points and longer play-times. Every firm with a popular social game, whether it’s Chumba World, Zynga Poker or Candy Crush Saga, has attempted to monetise their games. Chumba Casino is now available to over-18s play casino games for real money via Facebook. The social casino bases its games on sweepstakes in order to pay out real cash winnings. The distinction between online gambling for money and social gambling that requires time and money to progress will continue to blur even more as web-literate youngsters come of age and gambling online becomes ever more acceptable.