I am the Online learning specialist for the Institute of Social Relations. Not an expert on gambling in Australia. I was asked to present on pervasiveness - bordering on ubiquity - of technology and the use of games involving either the investment of real money or gambling themes – with a focus on young people.So let’s start with some background on general internet use and habits.
In the May 2013 Yellow Social media report, one of the big messages was that pretty much everyone under the age of 50 in Australian who has access to the internet – accesses the internet. Across genders, metro and regional areas.- 932 Australians across metro and regional areas. - 76 young people between 14-19And HOW we access the internet is changing.Quotas applied on location to ensure coverage across metro and regional areas – data was weighted by age and gender within location so that the results reflected the actual Australian population.
Research from the Australian Communications and Media Authority showing that a growing number of Australians access the internet in MULTIPLE ways – using smartphones PLUS laptops PLUS desktops PLUS tablets. SOURCE: http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_311301acma Communications report 2011-2012 seriesAnd the 2103 Yellow social research report shows that Smart phones are now the preferred way to access social media sites for younger people with laptops second and desktop computers a distant third. Tablets are creeping up there and as prices go down their use will probably rise in this age bracket.
Despite – or because – of the fact that so many people use them, mobile devices smart phones aren’t that special. Mobile devices serve as alarm clocks, cameras, reading devices, calendars, notebooks, shopping reminders, maps, game devices, music players, portable video players, internet browsers – and I hear you can even make phone calls on them. According to Google, Australians are the most prolific smart phone users in the world.
Here is a bit of an infographic on Google search activity in Australia on a typical weekend that I think will give you an insight into the extent smart phones are embedded into the lives of their users.First thing on weekend mornings – between 7am and 9am - Aussie smart phone users check out weather and news on their smartphones before they’re out of bed.They must have kids – up before 9am on a weekend?http://google-au.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/insights-into-mobile-aussie-weekend.html
Once we’re up and at’em – over breakfast and coffee we typically check out our bank accounts on Saturdays and on Sundays we’ll research travel -
And then it’s time for sports stats and game times.
Shopping – searching out stores and times – is big in the afternoon – yes people still go to stores -
And then either planning a meal in or finding a restaurant dominates early evening.
And we finish off with games and social networking late at night.So based on the research, we’ve got a picture of an Australia where - for the growing number of people who are connected – technology and connectivity via multiple devices has become part of the way they live their lives. Remember - this may or may not reflect your life -- but it *does* reflect that of a rapidly growing number of us.Understanding this connectivity is important to what we’ll look at next.
The interactive entertainment industry is vast. In 2012 Researchers estimated the industry as a whole to be worth between 66 and 67-billion dollars.
Console games – like sports games of course are amazing in terms of the graphics and gameplay. And unlike the old days consoles are connected via the internet so you can play against real people.
At upper end of the scale of ONLINE interactive gaming .Requiring a broadband connection and a grunty machine are fully immersive, graphics rich, 3D Massively Multiplayer Online games like the zombie-themed The Secret World or the medieval Dungeons and Dragons online. These games are incredibly immersive and require a considerable investment of time to build up a character. The neuroscience of challenge, pedagogy and reward behind these games is obviously deeply researched.These games have no subscription fee – but you can advance more quickly when you buy items for cash. This isn’t gambling perse – but it is a potential money sink and one to watch for young people. It is very tempting when you’re trying to level up to spend real world cash for in-game assets that will help you do so without the repetitive in game tasks that gamers call “grinding”. Especially when your game time is limited by parents or spouses. Because you ARE aware that the average gamer is in their 30s, right?
And then you get down to the social games on social networking sites like Facebook – by far still the most popular one in Australia - that have single or multiplayer modes and where you share your results and experiences with your friends and followers.
And of course the plethora of games made specifically for smart phones and tablets that can be one player or social. These screen shots are of the top GROSSING FREE games on the Google Play Store for Android phones and the Apple App store as taken on 10 May 2013. Notice a pattern?
As Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site across age groups and gaming is the reason that as many as half of people log in - let’s look at Facebook games.This is my “Recommended Game Stream”. My Facebook friends are largely people I know or knew or am related to rather than anyone I’ve ever met.The following slides are just screen grabs as I scrolled down the this recommended games list.
Notice the number of gambling and casino games appearing every 4th game or so?Let’s look at the graphics in these social casino games that seem to keep cropping up in the games stream.
How cute are these cartoon characters –the young looking one who looks like a little girl’s doll reminds me of a clean cut version of the Bratz dolls.
When I was a child, the Pink Panther was on Saturday morning cartoons. Now he’s at Caesars Casino.
And the graphics can get very young looking indeed as in Bingo Blitz here -
While Mirror Ball slots with more than 1 million players references “the world’s best loved fairy tales”.
Social casino games on their own are reasonably big business and getting bigger.Social games are defined as games that recreate popular casino games like poker, slots, table games and bingo on a social platform. They generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue by encouraging players to buy in-game currency so they can focus on gameplay rather than grinding away earning it. Players do NOT win real money.But where global revenue on social casino games is now estimated at 1.6billion – the real deal nets a whole lot more.
In a 2013 Global Online Gaming Industry report by Payvision - a Global Card Payments Service processor - regulation is credited as the big gate-opener for social casino gaming. As the report points out - While real-money gambling is one of the most regulated industries in the world, social gaming remains free from the shackles of any form of legislation.
If you have any doubts about social casino games and their value,consider that the one of the most recognisable names in gambling – Caesar’s – who has an online real-money casino in the UK, has spent 100s of millions of dollars to buy into the social casino space – and is beating out the former king– Zynga. In fact, Caesar’s now owns more than 18% of the social casino market.
When it comes to sports betting - you don’t need a TAB or a website or an app -- or a real game to bet.Virgin Gaming makes it possible for people to win cash and prizes playing their favourite G-rated video games when the console game is played in online mode. Of course, you must indicate when you register that you are aged 18 or older.
Because the gambling aspect of a particular sports game was fairly simple to set up, Crickey reporter Daniel Golding questioned the Office of Film and Literature Classification the G-rating as well as writing to EA Sports.EA Sports replied saying that ‘Virgin Gaming/EA SPORTS Arena is not a feature within our FIFA 12 / FIFA 13 Packaged Goods Games, which are the products submitted for classification with the OFLC.” The Classification Board responded and acknowledged the banner advertisement for EA Sports Arena and Virgin Gaming existed and even tested the Virgin Gaming functionality. Their conclusion was : “The Board’s view is that the content of the game, including the banner advertisement has a very mild viewing impact and can be accommodated within the G (General) classification. The online component of the gameplay is appropriately represented by the consumer advice ‘Caution: Gaming experience may change online’. The Board does not propose to take any further action in relation to the classification of Fifa 13.” Australia’s federal legislation that regulates online gambling specifically excludes videogames from its ambit. “Computer games [are] regarded as games of predominantly skill. They therefore do not fall within the definition of ‘gambling service’ in the [Interactive Gambling Act], even where there is consideration to play and prizes,” is the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s explanation.The article is available at bit.ly/CAPITAL U small q small s CAPITAL Z X small s
So this is the scope of what is happening online:Gaming of all types can happen anytime, anywhere and there are a range of games designed to get players to literally buy into the challenge and status that comes from achieving within them.If problem gamblers and gamers want to reach out to their friends on Facebook (the social network of choice) they will be exposed to game results from friends being posted as news items and advertisements for these games.And even G-rated console games can provide a doorway to gambling as soon as they’re connected to the internet.What can be done about it?
For people in education, the human services sector and/or someone who is concerned about young people and gaming and gambling - it is our business to understand technology and social media.Why? Firstly, because the companies that want to monetise players have spent millions studying the neuroscience of gaming and the social media habits. On the web and in the mobile sphere, they set up shop where young people live online. And so can we.
You can set up a YouTube Channel – the second largest search engine in the English language and disseminate good information for FREE.You can set up Facebook and other social network acounts where you can facilitate discussions on issues and news and comment on other people’s pages and questions for FREE. Just make sure it’s a conversation and not a lecture.And you can network with other professionals to share strategies and resources for free.All it takes is time to moderate discussions and keep information up to date. What’s important is to be where people are – not to build an artificial environment. Young people migrate online based on critical mass and where their peers are and where old people aren’t.
Secondly -- for those of you who work with younger people – it is your business to understand technology and how they use it. You don’t have to like or even use it to the extent others do.But if you don’t have sufficient understanding or knowledge of what technologies are being used and what is happening in social networking and gaming - You are culturally out of touch with how many people under the age of 35 live their lives. Remember – the average age of an Aussie gamer is mid 30s!
Links to the research and resources that went into my presentation today are available at the address you see here on your screen.
Hyper-connected Australia and online gambling
Hyper-connected Australia and
trends in online gaming
Online Learning Specialist
Australian Institute of Social Relations