Thursday, May 16, 2013

Poker minigames are fun, m'kay?

at 3:51 PM
Poker (or any variety of gamblin' card game) is pretty much a love-it or hate-it affair. It's unique in its blend of number-crunching, risk-management, and social manipulation, but it can be a little too tense (or expensive) for some. I'm not pretending for even half a second that I'm a serious poker player - I've never been to a casino, rarely played a game with real money, and would certainly never delve into the online competitive scene. I'm just too paranoid about money to go playing with strangers, too carefree and lazy to do mental probability calculations, and don't have any interest in playing a ruthless bluffing game to take money away from my friends. It seems like a recipe for disaster. And playing without real money (or anything of value) on the line deprives the game of its fun and tension.

Dedicated poker video games (like Telltale's Poker Night 2) address these concerns somewhat, establishing a virtual currency that can be won/lost without hurting players' ability to pay rent, and removing human, vulnerable emotions from the field. But it's still kinda pointless, because who cares about some in-game bank tally? If you have money that can only be used to play more poker, and the only way to win or lose it is to play poker, it just seems really pointless.

So why not set this virtual poker in a world where the currency does hold some weight, where there is something totally non-poker-related, yet also not-life-endangering on the line? "Yes" is the answer to that question, and video games the worldround are happy to answer the clarion call. Game-currency in an RPG, adventure, or any economically-driven virtual world makes for a great betting chip. It has a purpose outside poker (buying guns/gear/stuff), can be earned outside poker (grinding/questing/gobbles), and has non-trivial but non-life-ruining value: the time it takes to earn. You still need to be wise with your money, and you can still get worthwhile rewards. This makes poker minigames in Red Dead Redemption, Gun, The Witcher 2, and dozens of other games a great pastime for casual players like myself. Sometimes I find myself wasting more time on these games than on the real thing (Red Dead, I'm looking at you).

Just a thought.

No comments:

Post a Comment