Nick Xenophon, independent senator in South Australia, has opened up a new front in his war on pokie machines to include arcade games that offer prizes. Such games supposedly teach kids that gambling is a normal activity and condition them to pokies venues and gameplay.
Specifically, Xenophon is talking about what he calls "redemption" games, which includes anything that involves redeeming tickets for prizes. Games like the classic Claw Crane, despite having an element of skill over pokie machines. The Senator is calling for these to be reclassified as gambling machines.
Talking to the Age, he said, ''Legislation needs to change because these machines are a training ground for pokies. It puts kids at risk.''
Xenophon is especially against the positioning of these games near pokies venues; the farther away, the better.
He mentions a study of 2500 teenagers by the University of Adelaide, which found a correlation between arcade/video gamers and anti-social behaviours that could lead to problem gambling.
Adelaide Now spoke to anti-pokies activist Paul Bendat, who says certain games give a "false sense of skill, when it's really just luck." Bendat offers the arcade game Stacker as evidence, and after a quick Youtube search, it's easy to find examples of the game not functioning as it should. Note the second try here, when the box moves too fast the moment the button is pressed:
It seems that if it weren't for their proximity to genuine pokie machines, the proper comparison would be to carnival games. But as Independent Gambling Authority Director Robert Chappell tells Adelaide Now, "...if the games are not pure games of skill, they will be illegal lotteries."
Senator Xenophon has been a long-time opposer of pokie machines. On his website, he calls for a "complete ban of banknote acceptors" on the machines, as well as the introduction of smartcard technology, and the reduction of maximum bets and the speed of betting. He says 50 per cent of pokie revenues are made from problem gamblers, and with $4b in industry tax revenues coming in each year, our states are addicted to the machines as well.
One of Xenophon's quotes stuck out: "If the game has the features of a gambling game it should be taken off the market, so it needs to be assessed independently."
Obviously, more than a few of our favourite video games have the "features of a gambling game". Whether you're talking aesthetics or mechanics, video games borrow heavily from the gambling industry. There's the small chances of great rewards in RPGs - whether they be a critical hit, or discovering a gem while mining. There's the carrot-on-a-stick manipulation of rewards, always being so close to gaining a level, ability, or item.
Casual games have possibly the thinnest veil between them and gambling. Be they the happy cascades of Puzzle Quest, or the rising pitch of chimes in Faerie Solitaire. And it's hard to deny that many genres are now blending with RPG mechanics to provide a sense of persistent reward, such as levelling up your prestige in Modern Warfare.
Except, aside from subscription fees, you've only been spending time in these games, not money. Assuming one can get addicted to a video game, does this mean games are a less destructive addiction? Do they take advantage of the same addictive personality traits, just to a lesser extent?
If a Senator can crusade against Claw Crane, how long before the crusade against Farmville? If Stacker trains kids to gamble, and should be reclassified, what should be done with your average MMO?
This post originally appeared on Kotaku AU.