Much as we might take it for granted, the way games are such a perfect fit for our digital technologies is nothing new. Smartphones and gambling apps, for example, go together like leisure and pleasure. But they are simply the latest in a long line of toys that have developed hand in glove with the technologies of the times.
A marriage made with technology
All the advantages of playing online that iPhone and Android casino games allow in the 21st Century are simply the latest in a long line of socio-technical marriages. The best casinos online are now entirely in sync with our digital lives. They are packaged and targeted, modulated and refined, so that local currencies, tastes and legalities are all dealt with in a seamless manner. Australian bonus offers can be made distinct from those offered to Canadians or Kiwis. Likewise, the games themselves may be tweaked to suit different appetites.
Checking your rear view mirror can be instructive. It does not take long when looking back at the evolution of games to see that people default to playing a new technology whenever it crops up. Bicycles, bakelite and light bulbs were all state of the art once upon a time. Looking back can show us where games have come from and hint at where they might lead next. Back in the early 1900s slot machines were mechanical, human-powered ‘one arm bandits’. Electricity, and all those light bulbs, came later. The popularity of online slots merely reflects the translation of technology from manual, to electric, to digital platforms. There have always been platforms.
The Luxury Angle
And all that technology has another story that is easily overlooked. It is only nowadays that access to ‘modern’ technology is universal. The good old days were only actually any good for the well-to-do. Way back when, you would need to be a millionaire to even afford a roulette table. Think of the engineering that would have been involved in producing something so reliably smooth in the 1700s. Likewise, card games were only ever played by the aristocracy until the 19th Century. Cards were simply too expensive to produce before mechanization made it possible.
Nowadays issues of affordability and manufacture are matters that we barely give a thought to. Everything is doable in the digital age. But what is striking is the degree to which our modern games carry echoes of their pre-digital past. There are ghosts in the machines
Card games and roulette are still massively popular. Indeed, the online market for those games runs into the billions of dollars. What is interesting as we look ahead is that they are beginning to overtake the real world casino market. In a hundred years will anyone actually need a set of playing cards or a roulette wheel?
Point and shoot and questing games also take on an added dimension once we start to trace their development from film and fictional contexts. Story telling involving daring-do and martial combat have always been popular. First person engagement is a neat twist in the plot. But the fundamentals of boys and shooting toys is as old as time itself.
So next time you see a game with a Space Invaders theme, remember, nothing is quite as new as it seems. There is always a ghost in the machine.