I recently had a conversation with my friends during a house party. “What do you do now?” – a friend asked me. During my answer that I design skill-based games in which players have the opportunity to play for real money, he interrupted me and whined: “so you do something like online gambling?”. This got me thinking – if you’ve read the first article on the skill-based genre, you know that these differ significantly from gambling games in their mechanics.
As a reminder: skill-based games are not based on luck. When you play gambling games, you place a bet. You follow a hunch or predict. Perhaps even use some knowledge. You inform yourself that something will happen this way or that, and depending on the outcome – how close you were to your goal, or whether you predicted the outcome well at all – you collect your winnings… or you try again. This is, of course, a simplified description, but it shows the mechanics of how gambling. It is luck, not your skills, that determines your success.
It is entirely different with skill-based games. Only your skills can guarantee you success in the activity you want to undertake. For example – chess. When you’re playing against an opponent in a chess tournament, is it luck that determines your win? Of course not! Even if you pay the entry fee and win a sum of money at the end, no reasonable person would say that you have just participated in a gambling tournament!
So why do people still get confused when we talk about skill-based games? Well, perhaps the game mechanics of skill-based games are not enough, perhaps we need something more.
This is the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to misunderstanding skill-based gaming. Meanwhile, we need to ensure that our game is classified as a non-gambling event when money is involved. To do this, all we need to do is answer three essential questions that have helped courts in the U.S. deal with this topic, known in legal circles as the “Humphrey Test” (derived from a court ruling in a 2007 case involving esports games):
The money the player deposits are determined initially and do not influence the final prize pool.
The final prize in skill-based games must be determined from the beginning – this is important because we ensure complete transparency of our actions. We move entirely away from ‘pool betting’ in which the amount of winnings depends on the number of participants. When creating skill-based games, we are fair – we have clearly defined rules.
3 – Can the game operator not play for prizes?
Does it mean that in gambling games, the organizer also plays? After all, that sounds unfair in itself! And… well, in traditional gambling, the player plays against the “house” – against the casino. You, the player, the dealer (i.e., casino employee), lays out the cards. Skill-based gaming is fundamentally different from this model – the promoter is not involved in the game. The only parties fighting to win with their skills must be the players.
In addition to designing skill-based games, I am also involved in another activity – I am a writer. Why do I mention this? Because I am well aware of the importance of words. And it’s our job to use them to create reality.
Games, where you can win money, will be associated with gambling – we can’t change that. But we can drastically reduce this perception. How? Simple: by not using gambling terminology. So we don’t use these words in our games: “gambling,” “bets,” wagers,” “stakes,” and similar.
It is better to say” “contests”, “challenges”, “entry fees”, “cash turnaments”.
Are the above actions enough to stop associating skill-based games with gambling? The power of stereotype is great, but acting on many fronts, we can put a thick line between us and gambling. The line supported by arguments, respect for the player, and transparent rules are what distinguishes us most: transparency and respect for our recipient. By creating our games, we say loud and clear: it is YOU who decides how you want to play, you who decides how much you win, and you as a player who is informed about all the conditions.
And it is this advantage that best distinguishes skill-based games from gambling.
About the Author:
Michał Stonawski (born 1991 in Kraków, Poland) – writer, publicist, game designer.
Originator and co-author of the anthology “Map of Shadows”, author of the ebook collection of short stories “Strange Days” (published by Ebookowo 2018). In July 2020, he debuted his first full-fledged paperback book; “Paranormal: True Stories of Hauntings” (published by Znak), which gained bestseller status.
Proudly working with RealityUnit as a game designer.