After much speculation, Grand Theft Auto V has released the Diamond Casino and Resort, a casino in which players can gamble and win (or lose) their in game money on blackjack, roulette, three-card poker, slot machines and horse races. Gambling is a hot topic right now, because of the controversy surrounding loot boxes. But while loot boxes may not fit the traditional definition of gambling, they're often viewed as simply another form of it. Yet the method in which Grand Theft Auto V developer Rockstar Games has implemented this casino is different. It's not perfect, but it's so much better than the nonsense gamers have to deal with in loot boxes.
The primary problem with loot boxes is their propensity to be predatory. You level up, you earn a loot box. You want something specific, but you don't get it; the odds aren't in your favor. Of course, you're not told the odds. However, that loot box is the main way of getting your reward, and it may take multiple boxes to get what you want. Of course, you can just spend some money through a microtransaction to acquire a glut of them. And companies want you to spend money on loot boxes. They wouldn't put them in their games otherwise. That's why loot boxes are often tied to essential parts of the game. They aren't optional.
So in many games, loot boxes will pester you, like whenever you pause the game in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, or make it essential to the hook of the game, as in Injustice 2. Before, there was an in-game store in which you could purchase the items and features. However, more recently, loot boxes have replaced the direct reward you would receive from leveling up. Some sports and mobile games even lock away most of their content behind loot boxes. In that regard, you're paying twice for the game: once for having the content, and again for gaining access for the content. Worse, all of that is random, with no transparency, and often bloated with cheap graphics that should be available from the start. In other words, gambling.
The More Authentic The Better
So what's the difference between what Grand Theft Auto V's quite literal gambling content and loot boxes? Let's first state the obvious: The Diamond Casino and Resort is exactly what it looks like, a casino. It's a designated location whose intentions and purpose are easily identifiable. Furthermore, just like a real casino, there are means to find out what the odds are. Specifically, many games have their odds built into the game, such as the zeroes on a roulette table.
Next, Rockstar created a new currency for the casino. Just like in real life, you need to purchase chips with your in-game money, which can only be used in the casino. After you're finished gambling, you have to cash in your chips to transform them back into in-game money. Essentially, Rockstar decided to treat its gambling content like a real casino, complete with the rules and restrictions.
The Heart of the Matter
You don't have to like gambling, and you don't have to like it in your game, but there's nothing wrong with its existence. We live in a society where gambling is legal, despite the danger of addiction. But not everyone responds to gambling in the same way. But the pertinent information needs to be readily available in order to make an informed decision.
Loot boxes don't tell you the odds of your rewards. If any information is given, it's not readily available. Loot boxes aren't usually optional;. games are typically geared to push players to the loot boxes and, more often than not, the microtransactions. In games, your reward for doing well or playing a long time is a loot box, or the ability to gamble. In real life, you have to seek out a gambling situation. Video games with loot boxes have gambling as a requirement, and only the pace or amount of gambling you do is optional. Grand Theft Auto V's casino is an option; loot boxes are a sleazy salesman trying to trick you.
To be fair, Rockstar's method isn't perfect. There is a workaround that allows you to spend real money to gamble, which isn't bad on its own -- but it is worrisome. There are microtransactions for buying in-game money at a rate of $10 in real currency for $500,000 in-game money. However, Grand Theft Auto V limits players to spending $50,000, which means they can't constantly feed money into the game. Also, obviously you can't cash out your gambling winnings in the virtual casino in exchange for real-world dollars. There isn't a current solution for that, but it's an issue that the ability to gamble isn't disclosed on the box of the game, because it's a downloadable addition. Finally, there are ways to see the odds of your gambling, but there isn't statistical data on the odds.
Grand Theft Auto V's method is one of the best ways to include microtransactions and gambling in video games. While the rest of the industry is busying trying to convince government officials that loot boxes are not gambling, or else are "surprise mechanics," Rockstar essentially owned up to what it's doing. The company played by the rules and gave players an actual option. It's important to make sure we are upset at the correct issue. Loot Boxes and gambling aren't inherently bad; forced ones are. And if you still don't like gambling of any sort in your games, that's fine too. Make it known to Rockstar that one is unwanted and the other is unneeded.