Sustainability in design that protects players and investments

Octavian Intext

The design of a game and location can play a critical role in responsible gaming.

The development of sustainability strategies could be compared to a remodeling exercise, where the sector, already well-formed, faces the need to develop or repair the old approaches to business and the internal structures that organize it. unfortunately Sustainability was not the dominant idea at the origins of the gaming industry and it is usually more difficult to modify something that is already well-formed than to design it with the necessary components from the beginning. So sustainability is entering the various areas of industry that are already well developed and mature, including product design, which is discussed in this publication. Surprisingly, the very design of the games – but also of the spaces – while forming the heart of the product offered to the consumer, has seen minimal interference in aspects related to sustainability.

From a short search on the Internet and through conversations with industry experts, it became clear that there is little, if not zero, at the level of a specific study of the impact of location design on the behavior adopted in the game. An example to consider is Gamesense, the responsible gaming program introduced by the province of British Columbia in Canada and also adopted by the state of Massachusetts in the United States. The central concept of Gamesense is player education that, if equipped with a better understanding of probability, volatility, return to player (RTP) and many other characteristics of how gambling works, could better control the game and conduct it in a healthier and more responsible way. Gamesense training is carried out through its representatives who are present in facilities and shops such as casinos or betting shops. These representatives move around the venue and are accessible to all or often stationed at Gamesense information points. These are especially physical points and it is proof of how responsible gambling has a physical representation and is part of the design of the venues where gambling takes place. Gamesense centers are open to report hospitality and access to all and to promote responsible gaming and prevention of potential harm. But another use, always in conjunction with responsible gaming, is self-exclusion or more serious gambling problems that require more sensitive treatment and even more private spaces. And so the most current debate today becomes that of finding a balance in design that can satisfy the different needs of interaction with the consumer: that of a wider and more accessible education for consumers and that of prevention and response in the private sector, without, however, the risk of stigmatization.

Consumer care affects the offering of the game itself more than the physical design. And it is similar to what concerns the design of the game itself, both on land and online, with tools that allow you to take a break during the game, to set time or spending limits at the beginning of the game or to signal the extraordinary expense. or duration and risk to the player. These tools do not interfere with the aesthetics, mechanics or mathematics of the game and are based on research into damage indicators, often introduced by operators, sometimes required by regulations.

In 2019, the UK regulator, the Gambling Commission, set up working groups focusing on different topics: among these, one was actually dedicated to the design of the game. The result of this work, in which both operators and suppliers of the games participated, was the ban on Ldw (losses disguised as wins or “losses disguised as wins”) and automatic free spins (“auto-spins”). In response, the industry association, the Betting and Gambling Council, has introduced a code of conduct dedicated to the design of the gaming offer, which delves into the details of the adoption of these measures.

The impact of the rules on game design has been most noticeable in Germany, where the €1 limit on slots, minimum 5-second spin speed and 5.3 percent turnover charges have reduced the return to player (RTP) to below 95 percent. With the drop in the RTP index, game providers such as G Games have to intervene in order for slots to remain attractive in the eyes of the consumer. Helen Walton of G Games talks about it in an interview filmed by and demonstrates the concept of re-spins that make the game just as fun with Rtp of 88 percent.

The future will tell if regulators start taking more punitive measures which will also interfere with the design of the game offered to the consumer, although the progressive restrictions in other areas outline a trend. The change in the game structure at its heart and design still jeopardizes the sector’s profitability, but will also push it to an innovative approach where consumer care must remain central to make it sustainable and future-proof.

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