Rigging the Game

Back when I was a kid there was this game, or a series of games… You may have heard of it. It was called Crash Bandicoot. And I always had a bit of a problem with it. I’d hit the spin button and then he’d do nothing. Or I’d try to jump and the little s**t would run into a bottomless pit. Now fair’s fair here, I may not have been pressing the button fast enough. But recently I played a newer version of the same game and the same problem occurred. Hit the spin button = nothing and die! And after a while I began to be a bit more careful with the buttons, making sure it was pressed. And I was hitting it fast enough…

Could it be that there is some sort of glitch in the programming? It’s possible. Games have glitches all the time, even to this day. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that there’s a small glitch in Crash where the buttons don’t work occasionally and you die. But what about this: What if that glitch isn’t a glitch at all? What if it’s there for a reason, to hinder the game perhaps? It wouldn’t be too hard to include a bit of code in the programming to induce it. Say for instance if certain conditions were met (EG: Disable Square IF Movement + Square = 56 ) I doubt the code would be that simple if it existed and surely some computer geek somewhere will have been over Crash’s code with a fine tooth comb and would have found it by now if it did exist. So most likely it’s either a real glitch or I wasn’t hitting the button fast enough. But it makes you think.

A large majority of people have no idea what goes into their computer games. They just buy/download them and play without giving it a second though. Most of that majority don’t have a clue as to how to read computer code and so would never in a million years discover anything. Besides which, it’s incredibly difficult to access the codes for most modern games anyway. Particularly console games. For instance, take Fallout: New Vegas. (Nearest I had to hand.) There is no way that I know of of discovering the source code through the console and when stuck it into a computer the disk isn’t recognised. There probably is a way around these problems with the right software but even if I could get through I’d be damned if I could understand a single word of the code. It takes some mega-computer-whizz kids to understand that stuff. And with a game like Fallout the code is longer than most books- There is a chance that there is something hidden there but then again, as with Crash, it’s not likely.

But what about real games? Arcade games? Casino games? Games where there is a chance of winning or losing? Well that is a different story. That is a very different story. Now I am quite certain that some of them are rigged. After all, carnies don’t have a dishonest reputation for nothing. Take generic end of the pier arcade games like ‘The Claw.’ This is one of the best known cases of arcade game rigging and in this case it comes built in. There is something called the ‘command module settings’ which allow the owner to change how hard the claw grips, how long for and how often to let it win. There is no skill involved and no reliable way to win every time. It’s all based on how evil the arcade owner is. It also means that Toy Story could have had a much darker ending… With Woody and Buzz trapped inside the claw machine FOREVER…

Ok… Maybe not as there was a door. And that scene is total rubbish anyway. Most claws won’t pay out twice in a row. The owner of that one must have been one of the nicest men in the world. But back in the real world it probably works out cheaper to just buy the toy than spend endless hours trying to grab it with a machine.

And the same is true of casinos, though not to the same extent. The truth is that they want you to get addicted and they want you to believe you can win. Let’s take a random Casino somewhere in, say, Atlantic City (Because Vegas is so cliché.) Whilst the games themselves may not be rigged in the same way as the claw machines, its common knowledge that the odds are stacked against you. Say you gamble a total of one hundred dollars in your average Atlantic city casino over the course of one visit. What are the actual chances of doubling your money? Its slim. You’re more likely to half your money than double it as the odds, I’m afraid, favour the house. But unlike the claw machines where the chance of winning is nearly zero, you are still more likely to win at least something in a casino, even if you lose it five minutes later- Unless, of course, it is an illegal gambling den run by a hulking great brute of a card shark who goes by the name of Larrs and will sodomise you when he discovers you can’t pay your gambling debt because, inevitably, you’ll keep losing!

Casinos aren’t exactly a wholesome world filled with family fun. They have their dark underbelly for sure. Slot machines, for instance, can be rigged in the same way. And they’re very easy, addictive and cheap. You may think they are entirely random but modern slot machines are just as sinister as the claw. Many of them are not mechanical as in the typical slot machines of cartoon, but rather computerised and thus can be programmed to only come up with winning solutions every so often, sometimes ‘teasing’ the player by offering two out of three and tempting them to think that they almost won, much likes the claws do when they almost grab something but not quite.

Which brings me back to computers, and more specifically online casinos etc. These aren’t your regular, run of the mill  Atlantic City or Vegas or Monte Carlo casinos. These are, for the most part, Larrs the card shark. Online it is painfully easy to dupe someone into thinking they are winning, much more than in reality. It all comes back to this idea of programming and source codes. As with the claws and the slots they’re programmed to tease and tempt you into thinking you’re on the verge of winning when in actual fact you aren’t. It’s easier to do it online. People, particularly those whom the casinos are aimed at, would rather put their faith in a machine, believing that it can’t lie to them or cheat and it has to be honest. Alas, those casino games have to be programmed by someone and chances are that someone is going to rig it so that you mostly loose but think you are winning. As I said earlier, most people understand jimminy shit about computer code and so it is incredibly easy to hide a simple rig within the code. And as codes for online games are often hidden deep inside remote servers access is a difficult as it is for Fallout.

With this in mind I decided i would test things out with an online game, a free one. Risk, that classic game of world domination. With Risk, it is very simple if you obey the laws of logic and statistics. It stands to reason that the higher the number of armies vs opponents the higher the chance of victory. Say for instance five armies against one. The chances of victory are ninety nine percent. At four to one it drops to ninety seven percent. At three to one it’s ninety one percent. two to one is seventy five percent and if it’s one on one it’s advised not to go there as the chances are on forty one percent. On average it’s safest to go by the strategy of attacking with one point five times the force of your opponent. That way you stand a good chance of winning. A dice roll is effectively the same as a random number generator, which is all you need for a non-rigged online game of Risk.

And what happened when I played an online game of risk? I started with one that was already in my browser cache, thinking it would a be a reasonable game. Firstly, it didn’t let me choose my own countries and I ended up with a huge, ungainly clump on the Eurasian border with only one army in North America, South America, and Africa, with none in Australasia. Which was weird. Whilst I tried to evenly spread my troops across the board, the enemy specifically loaded themselves onto my flanks. And if i tried to outgun them? They’d only go higher or aim for my weaker bits. But then again, that’s what some human players would do so I’ve got no issues there. The first attack then went ok at four vs two with only two armies dead. Being conservative in such matters I ended my first turn here.

There were two other computer opponents on this game. One of them had three bits on Australia (another sign of something dodgy!) But rather than trying to save themselves from the enemy or gain a continent as a human player might, guess who they turned on? Me! And again with the second round. And that’s when the extremely improbable and high casualty rate started. For instance a large army of seven against three, leaving only one army remaining (of which the chances of happening are a slim one point eight percent.)

And then I noticed the way it worked. For every one army I would beat I would lose one or maybe two in retaliation. Clearly the dice rolling wasn’t random. It was pre-destined. If it was truly random then no discernible pattern such as the above would occur. It absolutely had to be pre-programmed. And then came the swift switch. I suddenly started losing all my armies, with impossible odds. Huge swathes were wiped from existence with chances as low as a few percent with incredible frequency (many were four vs two, of which the odds of victory are a comfortable seventy eight percent, yet every time I lost) And Australia? Never once bothered with by the computer. It wasn’t a ‘don’t go for the continent because they’ll attack’ thing as they were clearly hell bent on taking full hold of Africa and North America. Africa was even taken at one stage, before I snapped it back again.

In the end I grew tired of that one and tried a few more. There was one where the dice rolling was so fast you could hardly see it and the odds of winning were worse than the one above. And you couldn’t even retreat to save your skin on that one. There were several others I tried, all of which seemed to defy the odds with improbable losses. Clearly these games had programming that stacked the odds in favour of the computer rather than the human. And these were very simple, free online board games. If those are rigged then it’s almost certainly the case that online casino and bingo sites are rigged as well, probably to a far greater extent as there is money involved.

Not to put a dampener on things with the free games though, some of them can be fun. That first Risk game was until the programming turned on me. The same with real casinos. A trip to somewhere like Vegas or Monte Carlo sounds like fun. It’s just that there are certain things you have to be wary of, as in the real world. Things like claws, slot machines and online casinos… And above all there’s also the need to gamble responsibly and not get addicted to these things.

But where does this leave Crash Bandicoot? If anything, the evidence of the online risk games does make it seem possible there was a rig. But then again, maybe not.


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