Nothing exists in isolation, and entertainment is simply a lens through which we view reality. Even the most fantastical plot lines borrow from the real world, and we often see aspects of our everyday lives featured in the media we consume.
It’s an odd concept when you think about it – a matryoshka doll of sorts. Entertainment exists within entertainment, and this is never more pertinent than in a discussion about the representation and prevalence of casino gaming in other forms of content.
Think about how heavily it features on our television screens, for example. Almost every long-running TV show has had scenes set in a casino, with the buzz, adrenaline, and high-stakes environment frequently being used as a dramatic device. We see this in music and music videos too, where gambling often acts as a metaphor for some deeper meaning.
So why is casino gaming so very prevalent in entertainment? We take a look at a few pertinent factors.
If one thing can be said for the world of the casino, it’s that it’s exciting. As well as being glamorous and decadent, it is fuelled entirely by adrenaline – by knowing that one will win or lose and that they have almost no control over the outcome.
This creates an arguably hedonistic setting, meaning that scenes set against this backdrop have an inherent excitement to them. This provides a clear explanation for why casinos feature so heavily in films, TV shows, books, and video games.
It also explains why casino games are often used as side quests in the latter, with Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas acting as prime examples. If a content creator wants to inject some added excitement, there’s a simple solution: take consumers to the casino alongside your characters.
It’s an ideal dramatic device
In addition, casinos and gaming act as ideal dramatic devices. Not only do they make for a premium setting, due to the many connotations associated with them, but they’re heavy in symbolism – or can be if the content creator so desires.
Indeed, movies and TV shows frequently use them as such, and that’s before we get started on song lyrics. Few metaphors are as heavily used as those associated with the casino, which so often represents the vagaries of fate and the unpredictability of life and love.
Take Lady Gaga’s much-loved Poker Face as an example. The song repeatedly likens love to gambling, at one point comparing it to Russian roulette. It’s a metaphor that works for any aspect of our lives that we cannot fully control, and as such, has been used over and over across various forms of media.
And, as our recent review of The Lighthouse demonstrates, everyone appreciates a subtle dose of symbolism.
It’s popular across the globe
Moving on from that last point, the exceptional popularity of online gambling forms an important part of solving the puzzle. One of the key reasons that it’s so often used as a symbol is because it’s a universally understood one. No matter where an audience is in the world, they can appreciate these references and their deeper meaning.
If we look at countries that allow online gambling/legal gambling countries, we can see how widespread the pastime is. It spans continents, from Africa to Asia, Europe, and North America. While the exact laws surrounding it may differ between regions, almost every country has gambling in one form or another.
This is fundamental to developing accessible entertainment. While symbolism can be clever and require some thought to unpick, it should not go over the heads of a majority of one’s audience. If it does, it’s shoddy workmanship on the part of the content creator.
When it comes to building worlds, all forms of entertainment must be able to do so convincingly. This means that even the most niche high-fantasy shows will borrow from some elements of reality to make their creations more immersive and engaging.
These elements help to set the scene, and in the case of casino gaming, they go beyond fleshing out the fictional world, building the mood, acting as an optimal dramatic device, and allowing one to imbue the story being told with a rich and globally recognised symbolism.