Kids, computer games and gambling – Part 1

Most of us are more than aware of how children and young people are easily susceptible to computer games. Those who play them on a constant basis will often tell you how the graphics and sounds can make an imprint on their brains as they experience them in non-gaming reality and dreams. 
Gambling is certainly no different.

As both children and adults, it could be that the feeling of being a ‘winner’ is something we should be extremely careful about and not just brush aside as 'harmless fun'. 
To refresh our memory maybe it’s best to remind ourselves that the processes inside us that often make us want to ‘win’ are our own natural brain functions and they are being high jacked.

As human beings we wouldn't have become as advanced as we are today if it wasn't for the ‘drivers’ in our brains that experience the ‘buzz’ of gaining something that we find useful in our lives. We wouldn't eat food, make babies or want to exercise because we wouldn't feel the reward gained by an exciting and powerful feeling in the brain created by the chemical release of dopamine.

Even people that don’t gamble or play computer games can sometimes be affected by it. Some people do in fact still get addicted to eating, having sex or exercising. 
But their cravings for the chemical release stem from something which is originally and essentially 'good' for us, unlike both gaming and gambling which don't hold any real value or purpose in life.

But one thing of particular concern in today’s world is the merger of computer and gambling games.
For a long time the industry has known that using bright colours, pictures of fruit and exciting sounds appeals to a lot of people, but now it seems the industry has taken it one step further.

One thing we should keep our eyes out for and maybe think to something about is ‘themed’ gambling games.
One example is J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings which has had its graphics licensed to both computer games and gambling software creators.
Lord of the Rings is now used in various digital ‘slots’ machines which will obviously have a huge appeal to children and young people. When these machines are places in eye’s sight to where children can see them even if they are unable to play them then maybe it can creates an urge inside their brain to want to be old enough to play them.

The estate of J.R.R Tolkien had actually taken Warner Brothers to court over the gambling use of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ imagery knowing that this was definitely not the purpose for which the books were written. (We’re not sure how it went but we’ll try giving an update soon)

The industry knows that anything you've grown up with and are familiar to is certain to grab your attention when placed on a gambling machine. Have you noticed how many gambling machines are made with themes associated with ‘fun’, movies and family games?

How about the family board game ‘Monopoly’? It’s a game many of us have grown up with and maybe it's engrained in us that ‘it’s OK to play monopoly’ and that ‘it’s just a game’.
What if by seeing ‘Monopoly’ on an arcade machine, we bring back to the surface feelings of joy and winning? What if all those subconscious feelings get a little entangled deep in the brain?

We see the same happening with other themes such as ‘Batman’ for example, a series of movies which obviously has a large fan-base consisting of children and young people. It seems that the industry knows quite a few sales secrets to bring out our ‘inner youth’ in order to manipulate us to keep spending money.

One of today’ most outrageous examples is the use of the currently well-known and highly addictive Facebook-based game called ‘Bejewelled Blitz’. 
Not only has the logo and imagery being used on a wide variety of digital slot machine games but here in the UK we now have ‘Bejewelled Blitz’ scratchcards at almost every newsagents store. They between £2 or £3 each depend which one you buy.

This could be considered to be a form of ‘grooming’ because the people who make these products know how to make them appeal. This is how our so-called reality seems to be constructed on many levels – ‘Get them whilst their young’ is the motto of many business people.

Or how about the even more blatant ‘Rainbow riches’ gambling game which one can only wonder how on earth this game is marketed to adults.
It’s brightly coloured and child-like graphics are often placed on big posters outside betting shops premises which can and will attract the attention of young children which again seems to be a form of grooming to prepare them for when they are of legal age to start gambling.

Rainbow Riches game

We already see a wide variety of games on social networking sites such as Facebook offering users the chance to win ‘virtual’ money which can only be spent on playing the game furthermore. In many cases people find themselves sucked in and addicted to winning things that aren't even real! But it's the thrill they're really after.

As we’re trying to keep some of our posts a little more ‘digestible’ we’ll cover more in part two about how these types of games may deeply integrate a future of gambling into a young person’s and when looking at the bigger picture it may be considered by some as a sort of ‘social engineering’.