Part of Grand Theft Auto’s eternal charm is that it just bothers some people. The game lit a spark of moral panic when it was first released, with concerned citizens across the world convinced it would lead their children down the path of a criminal lifestyle. Many a seasoned gamer undoubtedly still treasures their rosy childhood memories of wreaking havoc on city streets.
But now the game has pushed the boundaries of tolerance so far it’s been banned in over 50 countries. What new frontiers of offensive behavior could the franchise possibly have discovered?
For players who’ve grown weary of the wanton and remorseless violence, there’s a new place in Los Sants to let your hair down and unwind. GTA online’s Diamond Casino and Resort has opened its doors for players to gamble to their heart’s content.
The casino comes with its own set of missions to complete, but players are also free to enjoy some slots and poker. If unlucky players run out of cash, they can use real money to purchase in-game currency and exchange it for chips. $1.50 in real currency nets you $50,000 virtual dollars to throw around.
The transaction is a one-way street; your virtual money can’t be converted into real cash, unlike real gambling, which has potential rewards as a matter of course. Supporters of the game argue that the ability to use real cash to purchase in-game benefits is a widespread practice in online gaming, meaning GTA online’s casino update is closer to World of Warcraft than it is to PokerStars.
The developers at Rockstar Games have wandered into a legal gray area that those in the online casino business are already very familiar with. In the world of online gambling, plenty of governments have decided to err on the side of caution and ban the practice - usually meaning that their markets are targeted solely by offshore operators who funnel players’ losses out of the country.
Soon after the update was issued, Twitter was flooded with players raving about how much they relished the opportunity to develop a virtual gambling addiction. Reviewers have also praised the update, saying it adds a fresh dimension to a game whose exuberant violence can sometimes feel tedious.
Hats off to Rockstar for proving that even after nearly twenty years, they still know how to shock.