Mon Mar 30th / Roy Pedersen
THE HISTORY OF IGAMING AVATARS STARTS IN INDIA
While searching for the perfect platform for All-in Global’s upcoming online networking poker tournament I fell into a rabbit hole of gaming avatars that reached as far as the long-legged legend Dhalsim.
We’re going to India to find the origins of the concept of avatars. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I wish from the bottom of the heart I was going to Goa and that everything was OK but it’s not. I was supposed to be in Boracay now, on a weekend get-away after the ASEAN Gaming Summit and our annual poker tournament in Manila, but instead, I am playing poker online and writing an article for the All-in Global blog whilst the rest of the house is asleep. You all know why. I must admit I am really enjoying some solitude after a long day in isolation here in Southeastern Norway. I guess the grass is always greener… people that are all alone must be feeling lonely and people that need to home-school and entertain their kids all day long are feeling overwhelmed.
iGAMING LIVE EVENTS ON HOLD
This week Eventus International is organising the webinar version of SPiCE India (Strategic Platform for iGaming Conference & Exhibition), while the SPiCE brick & mortar event in Goa has been moved to August 26th. I think this sums up the gaming industry at the moment: live events are being put on hold and people are trying to find online solutions in the meantime. The same goes for us here at All-in Global. We’re a company that delivers written content and translation mostly for games where gambling is involved. Hindi is one of the 70+ languages we have available. As sports betting is taking a massive hit we’ve noticed an upswing when it comes to online poker and esports betting where a physical gathering is not strictly necessary.
So after weeks of isolation, we figured it was a good idea to organise an online poker tournament where we gather the iGaming industry for some casual networking. At first, we wanted to organise a poker tournament with built-in webcams, but we have yet to find a platform that lets you create private webcam poker tournaments with sound and no buy-in. It’s not 100% decided but we’re leaning towards setting the tournament up on PokerStars with external video chat groups for each table on Zoom. All-in Global will reward the tournament winner with a buy-in to the Sunday Million (worth $109) and also give a prize to the best-dressed player. Oh… and everyone is encouraged to dress as their favourite avatar. Watch this space for more details.
THE 10 AVATARS OF VISHNU
All this searching for the perfect poker platform got me interested in the history of the iGaming avatar. As I was saying, that “takes us” to India and specifically Hinduism. The word avatar stands for the descent of a deity which can mean different things depending on the language and the religion. In a monotheistic religion such as Christianity, deity means “the creator and supreme being”. In a polytheistic religion, it means “god or goddess”. In Hinduism, it’s used to describe “any supernatural being worshipped as controlling some part of the world or some aspect of life or who is the personification of a force”. The main god, Vishnu, is believed to have 10 avatars as you can see in this image from Quora.com.
When I hear the word avatar today, I immediately visualize one of two things: the 2009 masterpiece movie by James Cameron or the avatars used on online poker tables. Sci-fi movies have received their fair share of paragraphs in other blog posts on this site, so this one will be all about games. The first use of the word avatar in a computer game was in a role-playing game from PLATO in 1979. According to Wikipedia, the game (called Avatar) created an extraordinary sense of community through interactivity with other players and can be found online today via Cyber1 or a simulation called Javatar.
BASKETBALL FIRST US-LOCALIZED VIDEO GAME
The way avatars are used in games nowadays (where a graphical on-screen figure represents the human behind it), was introduced in a game called Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar back in 1985. Japanese game publisher, Taito, was the first company to use a representation of the player in a video game. The game was called Basketball and was published in 1974. I used to consider myself fairly trendy when it came to new games, but I find it interesting to see now that people were playing something like this half a decade before I was even born.
Basketball was the first Japanese video game to be launched with a fully localized North American version, and also the first-ever basketball video game in general. Anyone that’s into video games and sports knows how popular the NFL, NHL and NBA are. I’m betting in the dark here, but I bet NFL 98, NHL 98, NBA 98 and FIFA 98 were all on the top 10 best selling lists around the world back then. FIFA 98 is my all-time favourite video game to play together with others, closely followed by Street Fighter 2. And since we are on the topic of India and avatars, we have to insert an image of the long-legged legend Dhalsim.
My favourite game to play solo is Championship, or Football Manager. On the latest version of Football Manager, you can customise your own avatar and even upload an image of your face.
AVATARS IN ONLINE CASINOS
No other game type has been more creative with avatars than massively multiplayer online games (“MMOG”) though, and it will be interesting to see how virtual reality will influence the avatars of the future. However, since we are mainly talking about avatars in iGaming we need to take a few steps back. With the term iGaming we’re referring to games on the Internet where bets are placed, including casino, poker, sports betting, bingo, horse racing and more, so “gaming” is a bit of a euphemism – it might as well be called iGambling.
After 25 years as a sucker for gambling games, I have yet to see much use of avatars on sports betting or horse racing sites. I can, however, think of a few casinos with extensive use of them, such as: Kamagames, Casino Heroes, Fantasino and Ikibu. Also, the casino platform Cryptologic offers an avatar feature for those operators who want it.
AVATARS IN ONLINE POKER
Bingo is probably the most social game within iGaming and avatars are widely used. This old picture from Jackpot Cafe UK is just one example. That leaves poker, which provides us the most interesting study of avatars in iGaming by far.
The first place I played online poker was at Betsson on the Ongame poker network. Betsson, later on, became a client of All-in Global (known as All-in Translations back then), and we did plenty of poker translation and poker localization for them. Their poker tables looked like this when I first started playing, with static avatars such as the mysterious cowboy and the well-dressed blonde. I found the picture on PokerHistory.eu which is a site that All-in Global have written quite a bit of poker content for. Ongame’s poker avatars have changed very little in 15 years.
Another client of ours with an avatar-based poker network is Playtech and their iPoker. We have translated this to more than 30 languages for over a decade and their avatars now look like this. When I started playing on the iPoker network I was assigned the old man which I have not felt the need to change yet.
3D-AVATARS WITH BODY LANGUAGE
My favourite avatars from an aesthetic point of view are those housed on Full Tilt Poker. I stopped playing there a long time ago but I remember finding some joy with the function where you could change the mood of your avatar between happy, sad, angry and confused.
PKR took the poker avatar to a whole new level when they introduced customized 3D graphics and player character animation during poker play. With body language, facial expressions, chip tricks and more, the idea was to make the game more like live poker. I remember it felt quite real when you lifted your two hole cards in Texas Hold’em. But PKR never became the success many predicted it to be. A few years ago PKR was acquired by SlotsMillion but, as far as we know, the game was never relaunched. You can read our interview with the SlotsMillion CEO Alexander Stevendahl here. The picture is from johnseb on flickr.com.
In one of the newest innovations in online poker, the avatar is replaced by a webcam stream showing the players. One of the platforms to offer this is GC Poker but we cannot download it on a mac or an iPhone. The game has a rating of 4.3/5 from 910 votes on Google Play so it seems very legit though.
CONTACT ALL-IN GLOBAL FOR WRITTEN OR TRANSLATED POKER CONTENT
All-in Global is involved on the sponsor/organising side of the official poker tournaments of both ASEAN Gaming Summit (AGS) in Manila and iGaming Forum in Stockholm. The AGS tournament has already been postponed to September due to COVID-19 and we worry that the iGaming Forum tournament might suffer the same destiny. Needless to say, we are itching to play some social-style poker with our iGaming friends and colleagues. This is why we have decided to arrange an online poker tournament for the iGaming industry this Friday (April 3).
If you want poker content written or translated/localized you can request a free quote (see the button on top) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Hindi and more than 70 other languages available!