I’ve played all kinds of sim games in my time. Through them I’ve built cities and skyscrapers, zoos and theme parks. I’ve even built idol empires and porn businesses. Right now I’m happily building universities courtesy of Two Point Hospital. But I’ve never built a casino. And I never wanted to. Who the hell thinks the gambling industry is fun like that?
Blooming Business: Casino can f*** right off, frankly. This is not an industry that should be associated with entertainment, let alone video games, where the tactics that developers and publishers use are already too close to comfort. Game developers should not be cute-washing one of the vilest and most destructive business models on the planet. I genuinely cannot believe anyone thought this was a good idea.
(Note: this game seems to have been announced about a year ago, but a recent press released dropped to say it was being demonstrated at Gamescom, and that it has picked up a publisher in Curve Games. Hense this article)
And yet, someone did indeed think this was a good idea: “Blooming Business: Casino is a unique sim-management game with a narrative twist. Players must design, build and run their own retro casino in a bustling world full of drama and danger,” the press release reads. How exciting!
“Work alongside cute animals who are anything but cuddly and attempt to maximize client satisfaction while juggling customers’ complicated demands. Fill your casino with personality and carve your place on the Strip. Grow from a gambling den to the biggest name in town where the sky’s the limit in this electrifying new take on the sim-management genre.”
Now, in fairness, the developers do also claim that Blooming Business: Casino is a “satire”, and who knows, it may well be subversive and critical of the gambling industry. However, in looking at the trailer it looks like it’ll be closer to humour in the way the Two Point Games are – i.e. sure there will be the odd joke and oddball moment, but it’s still a university, hospital and (in this case) casino that you’re building here. That’s not really “satire”, and it’s certainly not subversive.
The most amusing thing is that this comes from a French studio, Homo Ludens, which, in its company description, seems desperate to prove how progressive they are. “The studio was built with an ambitious social policy within the company, through a strong empowerment of employees and a diversification of profiles,” the bio writes. Apparently, that ambitious social policy doesn’t extend to the games they make, and they have no problem with exploiting and making money from one of the most exploitative and singularly evil business models on the planet.
Look, before anyone jumps in with some stupid “you must be fun at parties” joke, gambling can be fun in tiny and manageable doses. I play poker games often enough, both virtual and in real life, and once or twice I’ve thrown some money onto a roulette table. However, this effort to turn the businesses around gambling games into a cute good time is about as wholesome as if Nintendo were to redesign Mario to be a chain smoker or Disney to make a brothel management sim where the patrons are Mickey and Donald and the workers are Mini and Daisy.
There are some industries that you just do not try to cute-wash, is the point, and if you were absolutely determined to make a casino management sim, then you go hardcore Empire of Sin style and make something, unflinchingly ugly. It’s fine. You could do that, but just make sure you depict the broken families, ruined lives, suicides and crime that are associated with the industry. A cute mouse character making a sadface, or two animals having a two-second cartoon biff-up, as we see in this trailer, does not cut it.
We’ll keep a close eye on this and if it turns out that the humour is genuinely subversive, then we shall reassess. Until then, though, this game can get right in the bin.