In February, London was witness to a very strange event. Coming from all corners of the world to promote new virtual games, some companies resorted to hiring models dressed in what seemed to be “sexy Halloween” outfits for promotional activities. You could find all sorts of wacky wonders from copies of Playboy bunnies, to cat-ladies in leather suits, and white geishas and Egyptian gods. Unfortunately, this poorly thought-through occurrence is not an isolated thing. On the contrary, it reflects some deep-rooted issues in the industry.
Casino and non-casino games alike have a rocky past with over-sexualization of female characters. In even worse cases, it used to do that with very young girls. So, the peculiar sexy costume galore at ICE 2020 does not seem too divorced from some aspects of this world. And, at a deeper level, it is not different from some problematic issues in old-fashioned media, like Hollywood blockbusters, glitzy music videos, or TV commercials. Bubbles of digital and traditional media always interact and influence each other. Still, there must be a conscious effort to disembark from these odd, belittling trends. New things should take their place and thrive.
The other outlandish issue was hiring Caucasian actors to model as characters, often found in slot or bingo games. Since a broad theme in this industry relates to either history or mythology, the hall was full of East Asian or African costumes, wore “just for show”. The phenomenon of whitewashing is an old quandary. To be fair, it is more prevalent in movies with huge budgets and an audience of millions. But that does not give game developers the liberty to perpetuate an attitude detrimental to the original cultures. We sincerely hope that the 2021 follow-up will improve.
Solving these issues goes beyond a progressive ideology. It is also a smart business move. As per the latest United Kingdom Gambling Commission awareness and status reports, 41% of the interviewed women gamble once or more than once per week. Keeping almost half of your audience and patrons should be an essential, perennial goal. It is not a wild assumption that these ladies do not stake their money because of an animation wearing a cat-like suit, or a combination of a bikini, jewellery and nothing else.
The role of women in the industry does not limit itself to consumers and patrons. They also take part in game development, content writing, and control authorities, like the UKGC, The Malta Gaming Authority, The Curacao Gaming Control Board, etc. In fact, one of the strongest voices asking for reduction of objectification was former chief executive Sarah Harrison, who warned male-dominated companies that they cannot employ reductive methods to advertise. Gambling may seem like a monopoly of men; however, card games gave women a chance to shine too. Even more so, it brought some wonderful characters to legendary status, like the outstanding Texas poker player Lottie Deno.
Gambling, being a very popular way of spending time and bonding with other people, can bring some unfortunate aspects along with it. That is the reason why it should be done following a strict set of guidelines. Pro-players, who have been doing this for dozens of years, will tell you to stick to a few simple rules. Never gamble while intoxicated, as your head has to be in the game, not in the clouds. Choose a budget beforehand, so you have a point of reference to control your spending. And, of course, never invest in a suspicious place. Rather, look out for safe deals for UK players.
ICE 2020 was a weird instance, but it is obviously not 100% reflective of what is going on in the gambling. There are beneficial things happening because of the industry, like tax collecting and investing in other community needs or hefty charity donations from big online and offline platforms. These things should be coupled with erasure of antiquated marketing plots and investing in young talents. A lot of new jobs are created to fit the young creatives and imbue their skills. They just need to leave out the poor aspects from movies and video games and create a unique road for themselves.
Occurrences like this should not take a toll on people’s perceptions of the field. If anything, the UK and EU gambling has never been more strictly regulated. Never have punters has so many tools to protect themselves against excess or an unfair deal. So, if among the readers, we have curious minds, they can definitely have a shot at it. Keep yourself informed and always push for a better mentality in all things gaming related.