Dear South Australia, Stop Gambling With Games And Take Control

How should we feel about the above advertisement. ‘Gambling Starts With Games’ it says. Here we go again.

I’m not angry. I’ve learned to not tangle up my own identity in what basically amount to nothing more than a hobby. An attack on video games is not an attack on me. It’s not an attack on ‘us’, whatever ‘us’ is. Whatever ‘us’ means.

I’m not even disappointed. Actually, on some level, it’s hard to not expect this sort of behaviour from out of touch policy makers, providing out of touch briefs for what will eventually become an out of touch advertisement targeted at out of touch parents, designed to create outrage. Designed to prod at their ignorance. It’s a sign of the times. More specifically, it’s a sign of the end of that time. My lack of outrage is part of that. The ignorance of those who don’t understand video games is impotent now. I don’t care that games are being misunderstood, I just feel sorry for the people who misunderstand them. It’s 2013. You don’t play video games? They still make you people?

The emotion I’m feeling — I think — is confusion, tinged with a hint of boredom.

I’m confused because this advertisement is clearly a mistake. So obviously a mistake that I openly wonder how and why it got past the faceless folks that tick the boxes on this sort of stuff. Simply put: the advertisement makes no sense. It doesn’t address the real issue. It communicates a message that throws the baby out with bathwater. GAMBLING STARTS WITH GAMES, the advertisement says, unaware of how ridiculous that statement is.



The campaign itself isn’t the issue, it’s the advertisement itself. Children accessing gambling apps on mobile devices is a problem. Particularly when their malleable little brains are far more adept at fiddling with iPads and Androids compared to clumsy parents. The connections between games with gambling elements and actual gambling may be tenable, but some research suggests those connections exist and we have to deal with that fact.

But this ad, this statement: Gambling Starts With Games. It is wrong. It is a bad thing to say, It is a silly thing to say.

I don’t know if I can state it more plainly than that. Let’s look at another approach.

On the front page of the iGEA is a story with the headline ‘Time To Take Control’. It is a phrase used to discuss the various ways parents can enable parental controls to monitor their children’s console usage. It is a suggestion: review the consoles in your home. Are you making full use of the tools made available to you? To make sure your children aren’t accessing the kind of content you don’t want them accessing. Is this something you’re even aware of?

It’s a challenge, but it’s also educational.

Gambling Starts With Games. What is that? It’s a massive generalisation. It’s fear mongering. It’s an incorrect assumption. More importantly, it’s extremely unhelpful. It confuses the issue in a cloud of rampant fear mongering and moral panic. Cast these infernal devices from your home before they infect your children. Throw them out the window. Flush them down the toilet. For the love of god do something.

‘Time to take control’. What is that? It’s a statement that suggests gaming devices are something that — gasp — can be controlled. It informs parents that it’s time to learn how to protect your child from gaming devices like a parent should — because it’s your responsibility. It invites you to learn something, which is what these advertisements should be about: education.

Gambling Starts With Games: it places the blame elsewhere. It ‘others’ the blame. It places the blame inside a cosy little box and tosses it into the ocean where we can all forget about it and take no responsibility for our actions whatsoever.

South Australian government: you can do better. Actually, you couldn’t really do a whole lot worse. You’re obscuring the issue you want to promote. Worse, you’re drawing attention away from that issue, from the problem you should be trying to help others solve.

Maybe it's time to stop gambling with games. Maybe it's time to take control.


    That ad is clearly wrong because it is showing a girl playing games. The internet has taught that women do not and should not play games in any way shape or form and that developers shouldn't cater to those people who like to pretend that women play games. Gaming is exclusively a male thing and ads should clearly represent that.

      Seriously dude? I can't tell if you're trolling or not.. I really hope you are.

        Please don't feed the trolls. They already get a nice healthy government-provided diet, and excess feeding can lead to them getting enough energy to move out of their parents' basements and rejoin normal society.

    I kind of read the ad as specifically addressing gambling games as opposed to all video games in general....maybe it's just me

    *EDIT*: Actually after going to the website, it does seem in fact that they are targetting simulated gambling games in this campaign, as opposed to going after all video games...

    Last edited 11/12/13 1:16 pm

      That's the ad's problem, too vague. The SA's site is much clearer in identifying gambling simulation games as the problem.

      Yeah, "Gaming" existed long before videogames and it was mainly in reference to to gambling.

      I posted this exact argument idea on Twitter, saying that the ad could have been worded better, but that overall people are over-reacting to this a bit. Ended up with a good twitter argument for most of the morning. People sure do get defeinsive about their games.

      Last edited 11/12/13 1:51 pm

      An article almost identical to this one was run on Gizmodo earlier. Jay Weatherill, The SA Premier, posted a reply stating that it is not his Governments belief that all games are at fault, and that the concerns raised are pertinent. As a result he has promised that future runs of the poster will be reworded to remove the ambiguity of the current posters. His comment, and the article can be found

      yeah, at first I kinda thought it might be a problem, but when you look at it closer you notice the child is playing on what appears to be a home brand ipad, the kind of things where the parent gets one and lets the kid use it sometimes to play games, but the kind of games that are generally available on those platforms can tend to be a little "gambly" and could lead to a child not understanding the concept of gambling quite as well as you'd want.

      the intent of the ad seems innocent enough, it's just presented in a very easily misunderstood way, so maybe it's a case of the people making the ad understanding the issue a little to well and not taking into account people who have less then zero understanding of games and context.

    Whilst I despise the ignorance in this government advertisement and the incessant
    persecution of games by the ignorant leader in SA, There are some elements of truth in this.

    I am finding that there is a trend to creating hooks in games that have micro transactions. Candy Crush, Clash of clans as an example. Basically pay to win games.

    These games are designed to release endorphins and feelings of reward much like a pokie machine. People keep paying to get their hit or to win.
    In some instances there is very little difference between these games and pokie machines except that winning in the game does not refund some of your money.

    I've never danced and I've never had sex, coincidence??

    I once took paracetamol and now I'm on antihistamines and antidepressants, coincidence??

      Did they take dancing out of the PE curriculum?

      Anyway, paracetamol is not a gateway drug. I started out on aspirin and moved up to paracetamol before I got into the hard stuff - vitamin D supplements. BEWARE OF ASPIRIN.

      Some games use microtransactions in a way that closely parallels gambling. Notice the parallels between artificial in-game currencies such as Smurfberries and the chips used in casinos.

        It would be significantly more accurate to say that I've never CHOSEN to dance. I was of course forced to during school up until I realised that I was never going to understand it, grew to hate it and the people who made me do it and how writing hundreds of lines of lies about how I should participate because its good for me was substantially preferable.

    That would be a bit hard since they're all backwards in SA


    EDIT: I actually have not a lot more to contribute, because like Mark, I'm just f'n bored with this shit. People taking responsibility seems to be the hardest thing for anyone to do.

    Last edited 11/12/13 1:26 pm

    And besides: as if the government cares about problem gambling enough to actually do anything about it anyway (anything more serious than putting up some posters, that is.) Any genuine threat to that status quo would be shouted down long before it had any real effect. The Federal government in particular has been singularly hopeless on the issue. A bit rich for politicians who accept donations and are in the pocket of the gambling lobby to say parents should feel bad for letting their kids play video games because it could lead to problem gambling.

      Well, there is an election in 3 months. So while not actually having done anything substantial to address problem gambling, now they can say they have this initiative and that they care and that they blah, blah, blah.

    I can't remember the guys name, but there's a quote about the phrase "one thing led to another" which I feel applies here:

    I hate when you're reading something and you come across the phrase "one thing led to another". What in the hell kind of writing is that? "Adolf Hitler was rejecting as a young man with his application into art school. One thing led to another and the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the sovereign nation of Japan".

    How did people get addicted to gambling prior to video games?


      1000's of years ago?

      Playing "Stone the Pharisee" or just generally hitting eachother with sticks and rocks. All games lead to gambling and all roads lead to Rome.

    Strangely enough, I've been gaming since I was somewhere between 3-5 with an Atari, and I've never, ever been compelled to "keep playing" at any kind of gambling, because I always became bored, and fantasized about going home to play something far superior.

    My wife, who has never gamed in her life (aside from the last 2 years and Facebook games) will gamble, and occasionally want to keep spending.

    Go figure.

    Dear Mark, stop stealing images from my twitter feed.

    (mind you, it's an image which I stole from a friend's facebook feed)

    That is likely one of the results of cutting money in the public service, recruitment freeze etc.
    In this case, there are not enough people below a certain age group to actually check these things before they go out to the public.

    The comparison statements fall into a logical fallacy. "Gambling starts with games" does not imply "all games lead to gambling", but rather "some games lead to gambling".

    So the equivalent would be "Some dancing leads to sex".

      Here are some equivalent statements.

      "Childbirth leads to death"
      "Living in the United States leads to death by being shot"
      "Driving leads to small children being killed"
      "Eating leads to obesity"
      "Believing in religion results in dying in a mass suicide from drinking Kool-Aid"
      "Making rude comments about the Chinese Government results in "

      Minor causative factors are presented as the primary cause for a major problem. Saying that a minor contributive factor leads to a major problem may not be a logical fallacy as such, but it is misleading. The sort of people who misinterpret these ads would, in many cases, not know a logical fallacy if it bit them.

        Can you finish the chinese gov line! I wanna know what they do?

    After seeing everyone lose their shit over this on Twitter, I was beginning to think that I was the only person on the internet who thought that the message behind the campaign was a reasonable one. The website explains that it's Gambling Games that are what they are focussed on, not videogames (GAMING, generally means Gambling in circles outside of the games community yknow).
    Even then, there are no calls anywhere on the site to ban gambling games, but rather it asks that parents try to be aware if their kids are hooked on such games and try to take the intitiative to talk to them about gambling issues if they are, and that seems totally reasonable to me. Sure the slogan is dumb, I won't argue with that, but only because the SA gov didn't think about other groups that might take offense at the slogan before even considering to look further into what it is that they are getting angry about.

    In short, "Gambling starts with Games" doesn't seem like fear mongering to me, and I don't think it's trying to take a stab at Gamer Culture. I'd say its a poorly thought marketing slogan that probably wanted to condense a complicated message down to as short a phrase as possible, and unfortunatley "Gambling starts with Gambling Games" just didn't quite fit.

      Nailed it.

      It’s an intentionally broad message targeted at naive people.
      It isn’t a call to ban games any more than it’s a call to ban gambling (not at all).

      How many angry twitter messages from tightly wound, overly defensive gamers is it worth if one ignorant parent decides to check what their 8 year old is doing on their smartphone?

    This is where gambling starts

    While it is a stupid thing to say that broadly games lead to gambling, I think it would be naïve of us to say that the recent trends we’ve seen in mobile gaming aren’t concerning. I’d like to think that’s what they’re talking about (hence the young girl on a tablet in their ad).

    Let’s face it, nobody ‘wins’ in electronic gambling. Just because the carrot is different (money on pokies, a feeling of achievement in a mobile game) doesn’t mean much if the game is deliberately and methodically building an addiction within the player with the intention to coerce money out of them with no chance of ultimate success.

    Is an addictive, unwinnable game targeted at children with the intent of hooking them only to take their money REALLY less harmful than doing to same to adults and using cash as the unattainable reward? They share marketing techniques, technologies and the end result (hooked, broke people).

    Basically I understand where the ad is coming from, even if people who traditionally play retail games are irked by the implication that their games are similar to gambling. The message is broad and stupid because it’s targeted at stupid parents who have no idea what their children are playing, if they refined the message it’s going to confuse it’s intended audience.


    An out of touch policy maker for a state government (who’s now getting back to work)

    Last edited 11/12/13 2:58 pm

      Problem with that logic is that it could apply to pretty much ANY hobby. Art supplies cost money, musical instruments, sheet music and repairs cost money, sports uniforms cost money, and none of those hobbies come with a guarantee of money either.

    Mark I agree the advertisement is ridiculous, but the actual policy is pretty decent. I think you have missed the mark a little.

      i'm wondering how much it cost to build and host gambling video games in youths doesn't seem really that relevant. They aren't overly interesting. Quote from the website "Alongside the rapid growth in smartphones, tablets and video games that link to the internet, there has been an explosion in downloadable games." really doubt that a young person would enjoy digital blackjack over the one with dragons or something. They would probably be very isolated incidents. Not enough youths to justify spending the money on this website that's for sure. Australians should start to value personal responsibility as well as responsible parenting. This website is obviously irresponsible in terms of tax payers money.

        With all due respect, I'd like to see your peer reviewed, credible evidence to suggest you're right. What they have on that site, is actual peer reviewed, credibly backed information to suggest that gambling oriented games with skewed odds can affect someones (not just childrens) attraction to gambling. This is not a 'DONT PLAY GAMES THEYRE EVIL!' campaign, this is an anti-gambling campaign, which anyone and everyone should support. However, they did concede the posters were misleading and will be changing them thankfully, the website itself is smart, well laid out and very informative, to merely brush the information aside with 'Well what *I* feel...' is simply not good enough when it comes to cold hard facts.

    After reading this I feel Meh! ... and also WANT TO DANCE!!!!!

    I can personally say the ALL DANCING HAS LEAD TO LAUGHTER - not sex :(

      I find SEX leads to DANCING......must be doing it wrong?

      I also find playing games keeps me from having the time to take up drugs, commit any form of criminal activity...or drop down to the pub for a nice counter meal and a game of pool only to find the dining area and pool tables have been replaced by f##king pokies......

    Us gamers sure have a lot of vocal whingers amongst us - and this is precisely why we got our R18+ rating. As a community, we get things done - the same will happen here, they will re-word it lest they face our wrath (and petitions).


    It's so true! I look back on my life and the many games I have played have had some kind of connection to gambling. It's a miracle I am not currently living in a cardboard box, spending every dollar I have at a casino. Why, not that long ago, I was playing card games with friends. Some of them were even Poker and 21, so obviously I'd already started turning.

    If we delve deeper into my sordid past, I was always one for the luck of the dice, where a single roll was always the difference between winning $200 or going directly to jail. You wouldn't believe how many mortgages I had to take out because I stumbled onto the wrong properties.

    Going further back, we see my childhood was so full of games that would later foster a competitive and "Never give up" spirit. Even in those days, there were many times we would bet the other person wouldn't do something. Schools would even encourage friendly competitions for rewards, not to mention holding raffles.

    Yes, one of the most ancient forms of entertainment, games, are really just the gateway to despair and self-destruction. It's always been the case that playing games leads to gamboling [sic].

    I've played video games all my life, I've played poker for cash 3 times, walked away up twice and down once, and lost $100 at a blackjack table because I was bored in a casino with football + rugby type guys who spent 3 weeks of their monthly pay at a casino every chance they got.

    And I don't think Sportbet has LoL trifectas yet.

    Last edited 11/12/13 8:26 pm

    Competitive sports is what encourages gambling. The whole, who's going to win the sporting patch, or the race.

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