|Combining gambling with first-person shooters – bet you just thought of that one! Well, somebody already has…|
Two new sites, YouPlayGames.com and Ultimate Arena (ultimatearena.com) allow people to risk money as they play multiplayer first-person shooter games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, America's Army (developed by the United States Army as a recruiting tool) and Unreal Tournament 2003.
The rules are fairly simple: kill and make money, or be killed and lose it. YouPlayGames awards money (usually less than $1) for each kill and charges a similar amount for each 'life' a player buys. Ultimate Arena charges entry fees for games or tournaments, in which first-place fighters win the largest share of money (and prizes like game consoles) from a pool that can be worth as much as $1,000.
'Playing on the site can definitely be more exciting once you get over the fear of losing a few bucks a match,' said Vadim Zingman, 25, of Trumbull, Conn., who said he had won about $1,800 at Ultimate Arena by playing about 10 matches a week since the site started up last spring.
Chris Grove, executive director of YouPlayGames, said the site had a fraud prevention team to block minors from playing. Dennis Fong, chief gaming officer of Ultimate Arena, said his site had a 12-step antifraud test to keep minors out.
To deter possible addiction and large-scale losses, Ultimate Arena sets a $50 limit on the amount that can be deposited at one time. YouPlayGames allows players to limit the amount they can lose in a day. 'You couldn't lose your house in one weekend,' Mr. Fong said. Mr. Grove and Mr. Fong argue that their sites are not gambling operations because they offer games of skill, not chance.
Whether the game play at such sites is deemed to be gambling has legal ramifications. Online casinos are illegal in the United States, and as a result most of them are operated out of countries in the Caribbean. Both YouPlayGames (which operates from Curaçao) and Ultimate Arena (based in Menlo Park, Calif.) say their sites are legal.
In any case, the sites have drawn interest. YouPlayGames and Ultimate Arena have each reported signing up about 10,000 users since beginning operations several months ago.
YouPlayGames makes money by charging more for a 'life' than it pays out in kills. At Ultimate Arena, the company takes 15 percent of the pool in each game or tournament.
'Without money, if you're down a few kills, you might get lazy and accept defeat,' claims Tyler Hatton, 22, of La Habra, Calif., a freelance digital video cameraman and editor. 'When you're in a serious game for money, you put all you have into it. You start doing things you didn't know you could do, pulling off great moves. You'll also notice your heart beating faster.'
The stakes attract many accomplished players eager to prove their mettle. One of the best-known players at YouPlayGames is James Rogers, a stay-at-home father in Buford, Ga. Known on the site as Crymsyn, he has recorded more kills than any other active player. 'At one point, I used to play 15 hours a day,' Mr. Rogers said.
Mr. Grove said that many people who had never played video games were 'taking a second look' because of the novelty of playing for money. 'We're taking gaming into adulthood,' he said.