Getting to The Heart of Gaming
Geeks and gaming may go together like bits and bytes but there comes a time when playing just for the heck of it just isn’t enough. Even competitive gaming can start to feel just that little bit abstract after a while, like it’s another life, not your real life.
For some, that distinction is part of the appeal – battling with a few zombies is a lot more straightforward than sorting out your tax bill after all – but for others the lack of complexity and the absence of any real-world consequence can become a frustration. Complaints recently about the plot lines of Call of Duty (CoD) Advanced Warfare are the perfect case in point. As we mature as gamers, we tend to want something more involving than just more pointing and shooting.
It is that rationale that, in part, is currently fuelling the worldwide boom in online gambling. A whole generation have grown up comfortable with the notion of digital gaming, and against that backdrop the move to playing for money is an entirely logical progression.
If we bypass the technology for a second, we can see that the psychology of gaming – the tension-filled, risk and reward equation – is pretty much the same in something like CoD as it is in an online casino or bookmaker. All that’s different is that that focal point of our attention is dressed up differently. For the adolescent escapist, putting yourself in the boots of a fictional Private Joey Martin or Sergeant Jack Evans is enough of a buzz to hit the spot. But for the more serious gamer, tokens that are one step closer to the underlying algorithms – the numerical values of a roulette wheel or a deck of cards – are all that is required.
And there are forms of online gaming that are even closer to the mathematical core of what we’re talking about. Financial spread betting (FSB), for example, is 100 per cent about numbers: no pointing and shooting, no zombies, no cards and no casino, just numbers.
Available via the same desktop and handheld technologies as any other live game, FSB is a means of betting on the world’s trading markets – the Dow Jones, the FTSE, the Nikkei and so on. What makes this so straightforward is that there are no intermediaries, no opposition, no bars to entry and no limits to the amounts for which you can play. FSB can be highly volatile, and the risk/reward equation is permanently live. That means players must be fully switched on to what they are doing at all times. The prospect of winning or losing hundreds of pounds is considerably more gripping than simply seeing your avatar caught in the crossfire however good the graphics may be.
FSB involves betting on the spreads that providers map out. In other words, the provider will identify a narrow range of prices and the player simply decides whether he thinks the price will rise above the upper limit of the spread of fall below it. Either bet is equally valid. Winnings are calculated in the degree of price variation beyond the spread. In other words – win or lose – a ten-point move equates to the initial stake multiplied by ten; a 20-point move multiplies the stake by 20 and so on.
The open-ended nature of the bet means that the game is continuously live. There is no down time until the player decides to end the bet. As a test of your mental ability under pressure, like some of the world’s most successful individuals, there is not much that comes close to FSB. You find out how brave you really are when your hard-earned money is on the line.
Naturally, it is a forum that rewards a geeky level of intelligent research, and providers such as tradefair are happy to present ‘dummy’ demonstration accounts as part of that familiarisation process. Even playing for virtual cash is gripping; playing for real feels anything but abstract. FSB may not be for kids, but it is the perfect vehicle to get right to the heart of the gaming experience.
Top photo source: Flickr