By Eric M. Blake
Word count: 987.
In her essay The Fantasy Beyond Control, media pioneer Lynn Hershman explained the appeal of interactivity in media thus: “a craving for control, a longing for liveness, a drive toward direct action.” Participation of the audience, then, implies a sense of freedom for the participant—a sense that they, and not merely the artist, share in the development of whatever unfolds before them on the proverbial screen.
A natural example of this sort of interactivity, of course, is the computer game. Here, the player engages in an activity, where the outcome is determined by their skill and expertise at the game in question. However, even there, the sense of interactivity is limited—in a standard computer game, the player either contends against the program itself (which, therefore, is an expert at the game and can only be “reined in” via changing the difficulty level, which frankly gives pause to the claim of “unpredictability” that is so often described as part of the appeal of interactive media) or against other players, who take turns sharing the seat at the console in a rather tedious process.
These issues are more or less resolved via the internet: here players from different locations are able to take part in the same game—playing against one another, with the program often serving as little more than a supervisor and enforcer of the rules. Though there are popular internet versions of such games as checkers and backgammon, perhaps the most well-known subgenre of internet gaming is that of online poker. (Note that the following applies to online casinos, which naturally include other games such as roulette and blackjack.)
Many online casino sites use software designed by the same provider: RealTime Gaming and VegasTech are well-known examples of this. This affects everything from casino “designs” to the variety of games the site in question has to offer.
As a rule, most online casinos require would-be players to open an account or otherwise register with the site, whether they intend to actually gamble with money or not. While this is an effective method for monitoring participation (and therefore popularity), it also is a method to ensure that even participants who seek to play “for free” will receive considerable advertising via e-mail for the site’s “real” gambling features.
Following registry, participants are often required to download from the site the appropriate software. This is the user interface, the “pipeline” from the participant’s computer to the online casino. This is not the case for all casinos: many sites allow participants to play the games in question on the site itself (called “instant play”).
As casino gambling naturally involves wagering actual money (unless otherwise specified), online casinos center their activities on “true” gambling, as well. To achieve this, participants in “for money” games are required to set up an account (as stated above) which they then “fill” with funds from their bank accounts. This can be quite problematic—most credit card companies seem to frown upon use of their cards for online gambling (many actually prohibit it). PayPal similarly does not allow for users to transfer money to gambling sites, though this has led to the rise of competing online payment services that do.
The above refers to a controversy among government officials as to whether online gambling should be considered legal. The limitations on payment methods described in the preceding paragraph are actually due in part to legal actions sought against PayPal and against various financial institutions by government officials such as, most notably, then- New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. Nonetheless, the rise of competing payment services, online or otherwise, more supportive of online gambling, has helped to ensure its survival in the United States, and elsewhere—and while the fate of its formal legality remains uncertain, there is growing support for official legalization.
The typical online casino will also offer the option of playing “just for fun”—that is, for free. This, as implied, is rather like offline games (which, of course, offer no true “play for money” options). However, there is the obvious difference, as stated before, that the site offers the added benefit of playing in real time against other live participants, as opposed to software-generated “players” who behave and react according to the dictates of the program.
In an ideally “interactive” online casino, the players would be able to talk to and otherwise interact with each other as they play—much as players do in “real-live” casinos. Many sites do offer “chat” options, where they participants are able to type conversations with each other during play. Still, unfortunately, technology has not as of now sufficiently achieved the status where it would seem to be practical or affordable for the sites to offer much more.
In the future, it is easily conceivable that services such as Skype will have progressed to the point where they are no longer novelties, or even separate and distinct programs. This would allow for vocal interactivity and face-to-face communication during games—and as such would allow for online casinos to provide the pleasure experienced players enjoy, in regards to “reading” the opposition for tells. These advances would, in all probability, prove to be quite popular for many participants, as poker in particular is a game where much of the “fun” comes from the interactivity between players—particularly “when the chips are down”.
Works Cited/For More Information:
“A Closer Look on: How Does Internet Gambling Work?” Online Casino Super Box, 2013. http://www.onlinecasinosuperbox.com/
Bluejay, Michael. “All About Online Gambling”. VegasClick.com, 2007. http://vegasclick.com/online/
“Brief History of Internet Gambling”. University of North Carolina, 2006. http://www.unc.edu/courses/2006spring/law/357c/001/projects/dsmatthe/background.html
Grabianowski, Ed. “How Online Gambling Works”. HowStuffWorks, Inc., 2013. http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/online-gambling.htm
“The History of Online Gambling”. OnlineGambling.com, 2013. http://www.onlinegambling.com/online-gambling-history.htm
“How Do Online Casinos Work?” OG Paper, 2010. http://www.ogpaper.com/news/how-online-casinos-work-061510.html
“How Online Poker Works”. TopPokerSites.com, 2013. http://www.toppokersites.com/how-online-poker-works/
“Online Gambling—How Does It Work?” PokerTellsList.com, 2013. http://www.pokertellslist.com/live-poker-tells/online-gambling-work
First Image: CBS Las Vegas, 2011. http://cbslasvegas.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/online-gambling1.jpg?w=864
Second Image: Christian Science Monitor, 2012. http://www.csmonitor.com/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/media/content/2012/0305-weekly/0305-agamble-online-poker/11850672-1-eng-US/0305-AGAMBLE-online-poker_full_600.jpg
Third Image: UK Telegraph, 2011. http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01875/Untitled-3_1875147a.jpg
Fourth Image: Gawker, 2011, http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/18k1z4hc5bp3pjpg/k-bigpic.jpg