Joysticks and Jackpots: What are video game gambling machines?

If poker is the casino's foremost game of strategy and skill, then slots is its mindless antithesis: Place your bet, press the button, repeat. Heck, these days you don't even have to pull the giant lever anymore, or catch all the coins spilling out of the machine in a big plastic cup when you hit triple cherries. 

Where's the challenge? 

The truth is, once you look past their flashy neon lights, ear-pleasing melodies, and seemingly endless array of eclectic pop-culture themes, traditional slot machines can become monotonous to play. That especially goes for millennials and others who associate the concept of “gaming” more with Xbox, PlayStation and Steam than with betting machines.

GameCo, Inc., intends to change all of that. The New York company specializes in the manufacturing of skill-based video game gambling machines (VGMs), which combine the luck elements of traditional slots with the excitement and interactivity of video games. 

GameCo and its CEO, Blaine Graboyes, invited SC Media to personally try out some of its games, which so far operate in a handful of casinos in Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Chile, and the Caribbean. 

Titles included “Cosmic Candy Heist,” a “Candy Crush”-styled game that challenges players to match objects in rows of three, four, or five; “Nothin' but Net,” a basketball shooting challenge that requires skillful timing and quick reflexes; and an “infinite running” game (think “Temple Run”) themed after musician and DJ Steve Aoki. There was even a slots version of the well-known “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” first-person shooter video game, in which players must destroy killer Skynet robots. 

The better you perform on these games, the more you can earn from the slots. But take heed, gaming aficionados: Before you plan on moving to Las Vegas and retiring in style off of your bounteous VGM winnings, know that no one – not even the Pinball Wizard himself – wins all the time. That's because with each bet, the machine predetermines the maximum amount you can possibly win in that particular game. Sometimes, that amount will be more than your original bet, but other times the max payout is less, and you're simply playing to keep your losses to a minimum. 

The hope is that by giving players an element that can actually control, they will find the experience more engaging, rewarding, and worthy of their time and money.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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