Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Gambling

I'm going to tell you a long personal and philosophical story today, instead of a crazy invention. The inventions will return tomorrow, or such. Bear with me here.
Many people love to gamble, and many others think it's wrong. Many people do it with various degrees of success in cities like Las Vegas, but others have it control their lives, and have to be kept away from the poker tables by force, over their continuous and forceful objection.
Meanwhile, I learned not to gamble from a video game from my childhood, Legend of Zelda.
For my readers who are unfamiliar with video games, a video game is a computer that provides a game for televisions, and commonly amused people of my generation and later. There is some sort of goal, generally involving moving a little pixelated person around the screen, across a virtual world, avoiding things that kill off this person, and accomplishing goals until one big goal is met. There are complications, like a virtual money system, obstacles, even minor puzzles.
In the world of Zelda, there are some little sub-areas hidden in things like trees and rocks. Many of them are beneficial, providing the player some of the virtual money, because "It's a secret to everyone." (Presumably this person didn't want you telling others where he lived.) Others were shops, provided tools, or even penalized the player. ("Pay me for the door repair charge." Apparently this person has obnoxiously disguised his front door as part of the rock wall and then gets all pissy when it's blasted open? Man, what a jerk.)
And others include a gambling operation, with the phrase "Let's play money making game." A website called Sydlexia was kind enough to provide a screenshot:

Anyway, I was playing as a boy, and my father came in and once again bemoaned the fact that I was playing this and not outside playing baseball, or reading, or whatever the hell else he wanted me to be doing. And I came across a money making game and passed it up. My father noted that. "Why didn't you take it up?" he asked.
"Feh, it's more like money losing game." the young me complained. "Bastard cheats."
My father marveled that by experience I had learned that yes, one may occasionally get free money out of gambling, but more often would wind up having lost hard-earned money for nothing. That work was a more worthwhile way of collecting wealth than an easy gamble is a surprising lesson for a ten-year old boy to learn.
Then he again started complaining about how video games didn't exist when he was a boy, and why couldn't I go play outside like he used to, and your homework better be done young man. As parents are wont to do, I suppose.
In any case, I haven't completely avoided gambling since then, but I have approached it cautiously. For gambling is basically paying to daydream. You daydream that an improbable event will happen in which you get money without working. Most likely, you will get nothing out of it. And certainly one can be allowed to daydream, but it's unhealthy to pretend that it's anything more than that.
Now a game like Zelda is unlikely to impress a child of the millennium. It was the product of an earlier time, when computers weren't as powerful, and simplistic graphics were the norm. However, I believe that a trivial sample of gambling will show children the dangers of getting to deep into it. Perhaps one of Zelda's newer sequels also covers this, I haven't kept up.
Similarly, my dad offering me a beer when I was eleven, an act inspired by his regular reading of Calvin and Hobbes, kept me away from alcohol until about my junior year of college.


peedee said...

I <3 Zelda.

themadengineer said...

So did lots of other people, miss.

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