Does Gambling in Video Games Feel Like the Real Thing?

Ever since the rise of microtransactions in video games, a lot of gamers have opposed certain developers and publishers alike for the way in which they present their microtransactions. Some of these microtransactions are subtle and really only have you going to a storefront such as Xbox Live’s Microsoft Store or the PlayStation Network, however, there are some games out there that take the not-so-subtle approach and have you spending your hard-earned real-life dollars and using them to unlock content by way of spinning wheel, playing a game that looks a lot like Plinko and even sometimes having you go straight to an actual virtual casino built into the game.

This article is going to show my feelings on just how close the gambling in video games comes to that of gambling in real-life and also the very definition of the word gambling itself. So let’s start right away with exactly what the word “gambling” means. Well, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary the word gambling means “to play a game in which you can win or lose money or possessions: to bet money or other valuable things. : to risk losing (an amount of money) in a game or bet. : to risk losing (something valuable or important) in order to do or achieve something.” Not a very hard definition to understand, right? A lot of people associate gambling with that of playing various casino games such as poker, slots, and roulette, but by the above definition, this could even mean experiencing an online gambling experience such as 888 offers.

The Madden Ultimate Team Pack Store, featured in Madden 20, has various                  packs to purchase and even tells you what you could get in each pack.

For instance, there is, of course, games that are notorious for using money as a means to take a risk and gain items. Let’s for instance take a look at Madden and NBA 2K20, two games where you essentially spend real-life money to take a risk and purchase packs which could very well give you great cards. Yes, there is a risk, no there isn’t always a reward you want, but are you betting your money on getting something out of it? Absolutely, now how does this compare to real-life? Well, we could say that essentially purchasing Magic the Gathering cards is very well a form of gambling since there is some unknown result and you are using your money to essentially bet on getting good cards. So, yes, I would absolutely say that this is just like real-life.

The Diamond Resort & Casino in GTA Online features roulette and poker as seen in the background.

Another instance of gambling comes right in the very form of an actual casino in a game with that game being none other than Grand Theft Auto V. Grand Theft Auto Online presents itself with some very obvious microtransactions in the form of Shark Cards which when you spend your actual money on them, they give you a certain amount of currency that you can then, in turn, spend in your game. GTA Online allows you to purchase a house, cars, clothing and so much more, but a few months back, Rockstar Games added the Diamond Resort & Casino which allows you to go and spend all of the virtual cash that you have purchased at an actual online casino. Featuring slots, roulette, poker, and many other casino games, the GTA Online Diamond Resort and Casino absolutely feels like the real thing and is definitely as close as it gets to visiting an actual casino, granted an actual casino doesn’t just let anyone in, but if you are looking for those type of games, this is for you. I am really surprised that as much as we have seen companies such as Electronic Arts be at the forefront for gambling, that not one word has really been spoken about Grand Theft Auto Online.

This is an Overwatch Loot Box. Although not exactly the same, a lot of mystery    boxes feature that same sense of not really knowing what you’re going to get upon opening while risking your actual money doing so.

There are also loot boxes that appear in various games such as Overwatch, Apex Legends and so on. How exactly do these compare to real life? I would have to say that the absolute closest they would come to comparing to anything would be mystery boxes. Real-life mystery boxes are essentially loot boxes themselves and they even tell you what you might get and the odds or chances of getting something rare. Mystery boxes can be found at Best Buy, GameStop and even Walmart and are sold at various prices. Do I consider this a form of gambling? In a way, yes, because once again you are risking your money on buying something that you don’t even know for sure what is inside. Sure, the only time you lose your money or it not being worth it is when you get the same item you already have, but you are still basically betting your real money in exchange for the unknown.

Video game gambling has become more and more prominent over the years and so long as people will throw their money towards it, I don’t ever see it going away. I miss the old days of using skill to unlock things and not just money, but maybe that’s just me.

Brian Daniels
I've been writing articles and reviews about the video game industry for over 7 years. I also review any and all conventions that I attend as well as reviewing other products from companies such as Otterbox, HP, Amazon and Turtle Beach. I love to write and travel to many different conventions.