For some games you need other people, whilst other games can be enjoyed without anyone else even knowing you’re playing. And a third category combines the best of both.
It is all too easy to forget that this social, interactive element is a key consideration in the modern games market. The days of simply developing a novel form of solitaire are long gone. The pattern of the games industry has been to develop really engaging products as a first port of call and then to wrap that into an interactive format that is either directly competitive or collaborative. The rise of interconnected console games and multi-player design-and-build products like Minecraft mean that games and interaction now go hand in glove.
Nowhere has this two strand logic been more successfully applied than in the online casino market. It has to be admitted that this is not ordinarily an area that is recognised for its innovative approach to gaming. After all, the staple casino games – poker, roulette, blackjack etc. are all several hundred years old at least! Even the ubiquitous slots represent a gaming format that dates back to the Victorian era.
What online casinos such as 32Red, 888.com and Spin Palace Casino now offer is a combination of direct person-to-person contests alongside person-to-machine opportunities. In effect this means that the casino providers are hedging their bets.
Solitaire type offerings cater to the tastes of those who like to simply entertain themselves in an entirely casual fashion, whilst interactive games tend to pit competitors against each other as a way to cater to a far more serious-minded clientele. It is not unusual for professional poker players to coming together over the platform of an online casino.
This trend towards interconnectivity is not confined to the casino industry by any means, but its adoption in this highly monetised sector of the leisure industry does indicate the turnaround which digital gaming technologies have gone through.
This is reaching a point where the distinction between what is an online experience and what is not is becoming blurred. For example, the online casinos mentioned already are not alone is hosting ‘as real’ casino sessions in which actual croupiers turn cards and spin the roulette wheel just as they do in bricks and mortar casinos. The only difference is that the visual experience of seeing the cards flop, and putting down a bet are mediated via a camera, a keyboard and a screen. In all other respects the experience is recognisably more akin to the real world than the digital one.
The fact that certain of those sites re seeking to enhance the appeal of those games by having PlayBoy Bunnies serve as croupiers is another interactive crossover that, once again points to the blurring of what was once called the digital divide.
There is no doubt that games are changing – in the teen market every bit as the more adult oriented sites that we have mentioned here. In both cases, how we play and who we play with are shifting in ways that could not have been foreseen as little as a generation ago. On that basis it would be foolish to make any bold predictions about the next generation of games. All we can say for sure, however, is that whilst some gamers will enjoy playing by themselves, for the vast majority engagement with another person will always provide an extra sense of enjoyment. All that remains to be seen is how that engagement will be mediated.