The video-game industry is not without ethical standards; in fact, by some, it is regarded as within the domain of "medical electronics."
Jeff Boscole was an ex-Atari employee who frequently sent letters containing his (apparently sometimes 'nutty') views to the media, government, and acquaintances.
This letter sparks discussion among engineers about the ethics of computerized gambling: pervasive today, but just seeing the light of day in the 80's.
For those of you who knew Jeff Boscole, you knew what a nut that guy could be in his letter writting. For those of you on his "mailing list", you need no more proof than to read his 6 letters a week (of some 6 pages each). For those of you who did not know Jeff, most of his writtings should be taken lightly, with an open mind and a good sense of humor. In most cases his letters simply run on and on and usually say very little! However, I just received a letter (ANOTHER!!!!) from Jeff written to the Washington State Lottery Commision regarding computer gambling! If you received your own copy, you may stop reading now. If you did not... I thought a number of you might just like to see this one. Not bad and all on one piece of paper: Dear Commisioners: I worked for several years as a professional video-game designer at Atari, Inc., and I'd like to register sentiment regarding the "newly operational" computer gambling system, curiously concidental with WPPSS #2 fire up. The video-game industry is not without ethical standards; in fact, by some, it is regarded as within the domain of "medical electronics." As game designers, we were carefully instructed to conform to rather severe standards of discipline. One of these stiff regulations concerned this area of "computer gambling" as our video-games could not be sold in many states across the nation if the game in any way could be construed as a gambling device. You will notice, for example, that no game offers "bonus games" as a reward for playing proficiency; we could merely offer "bonus lives" or "bonus time". There is another reason for these stringent gambling prohibitions. Within the programming profession there is an unwritten code of ethics derived in part from our attitudes about electronics and computer science. We feel that the nature of the computer itself is antithetical to the concept of gambling, and to promote this confustion within the public mind may become contra-indicative to the interests of justice and education. Philosophically, that arrangement destroys some fundamental cybernetic relationships by mixing up the sacred with the profane. Of course computers can produce pseudo-random numbers, however, there are many of us who, very frankly, do not want to see machines used for any gambling purposes, or to receive any such approval and authorization from the state. Also, we feel that any centralized processing arrangement incorrectly pprtrays the essence of computer science, somewhat analogous to the fundamental statements of economics which also disallow and centralization of economic theory. I am acquainted with the accounts of numerous cases within the courts in various scattered locations currently disputing the issue of gambling at remote terminals within literary discussions pertinent to our contemporary industry. As we believe computer gambling is a perversion of the design architecture, we do not support it, and those court cases may very likely find computer gambling inappropriate. Many other more suitable methods are available for exposing public consciousness to the awesome power of a computer. Also, we feel that some of the fun is subtracted from gambling by having a machine automate the gambling process. Along these lines, I an aware, for example, that some brokerage houses tried computer-regression forecasting on Wall Street and utilized some artificial-intelligence automated trabsaction routines. Since then, I understand that many of these former computer-linkups have been pulled off-line, as the stock brokers found their own trading processes more adequate and perhaps more reliable. Also, there is a danger that computer gambling might instill a psychic disestablishmentarianism which could very easily lead to social disestablishmentarianism and the annihilation of our legal system. Sincerly, Jeff Boscole (this was cc to a large list, including 2 TV stations) Personally, I think Jeff did a great job here. There may indeed be hope for him in the everyday world after all!! -Owen-
I would like to know what percentage of the Coin-op designers agree with Jeff Boscole's views about computerized gambling. I have only recently come into Coin-op so I am hardly an expert. Nevertheless, it seems to me that an electronic gambling machine that is designed to be marketed only in areas that gambling is legal should be vastly more fun than current slot machines (and head & shoulders above the electronic poker and black jack games). I would think that this would translate into vast sums of money. Perhaps this opinion shows that my moral fiber is loose weave or perhaps gambling isn't really that profitable. Either way, I hope that someone more experienced in Coin-op games will reply and set me straight. Dave
I doubt that my moral fibre is more (or less) tight than the rest of those on this Junk-line, but while I have no MORAL objection to video gaming, I do have a practical one, to whit: We have enough trouble with River-City blue-noses without actually getting in bed with those who tend to control gambling in this country. One scandal, even if it did not directly include our machines, could be the foundation for outlawing video games in a lot of counties, or states. This could result in far more loss of revenue than we got in the first place from our gaming machines. Also, Bally virtually owns the gaming machine business, and are not nice people to mess (e.g. compete) with. Mike
On the subject of skill games vs. games of chance and ignoring (for the moment) who controls the gambling industry in this country, I find it more objectionable to waste money on a game (video or otherwise) that is based soley on luck (ie. slot machines, roullette, etc.) than to waste money on a game that involves skill. The payoff on a game based only on random events is completely pre-determined before you ever put money in it. The house determines its cut and pre-sets its machines to give payoffs accordingly. Anyone who plays a game such as this will ALWAYS lose in the long run. In addition, there is no payoff to the player other than money and the emotional rush of winning it (IF you win any). The payoff on a game that includes skill as well as luck can still be pre-adjusted to provide a desired house percentage, but unlike the completely random game, the payoffs go to those who have mastered the skill. Also, even if money is not returned, the player still receives a payoff in the form of personal satisfaction when he increases his skill level. However, someone who plays such a game MAY win in the long run. For the game of blackjack, these people are known as card counters and once identified by a gaming house are usually told not to return... This brings up one of many problems with games of skill that include monetary payoffs (ie. that those who have mastered the skill are no longer permitted to participate). This problem does not arise in the case of non-monetary payoffs (such as regular video games) in that by giving extra time or extra lives (or even extra games), only the amount of game play is extended and even the most rigourous player will eventually drop from exhaustion. Another problem exhibits itself if the game is a multi-player skill oriented game with monetary payoffs. As an example, consider a multi-player space war type game where you win money by eliminating other players and receiving what they have won so far. The house percentage could be falling into the sun. What do you suppose would happen out in the parking lot if you overheard the guy in the next console scream "I just got a ship worth $10,000!" and you had just been about to return that much to your home base before some turkey blew you out of the sky... I feel that the attraction of a skill based game with some sort of payoff is greater than a random event based game. Unfortunately, I dislike most of the side effects which would also be introduced with such a game. (The regulatory agencies of the gaming industry have a pretty tough time with just random based games!) I've rambled on long enough as it is... Randomly, Rusty P.S. The computer is only another tool and the fact that it is used in the process of gambling is irrelevent. Gambling has existed far longer than the computer. The use of computers to disguise gambling and present it as merely entertainment is something entirely different, however.
Mar 12, 1984