Imagine walking into your neighborhood bingo hall and seeing rows and rows of people hunched over, not cards, but handheld bingo “machines.” No daubbers, no stained fingers- even the people don’t look too stressed since there really is no need for them to keep track of their “cards” since a computer does all of their work for them. Can this be really considered as bingo in its truest sense?
Online bingo, bitcoin bingo, electronic bingo- all of these are controlled by computers and not humans. Take for example, handheld bingo devices. Some bingo halls are now favoring these devices over old school paper cards and daubbers. Players pay for their “cards” at the cashier (often they are given a username and password with which to unlock the terminal), sit at their table, wait for the callers to announce numbers, and scan their handheld device/terminal if a number comes up. The computer will determine if there is a match and “daub” the players’ cards accordingly. The only non-computerized and non-automated task that is left for the player to do is to cry out “Bingo!” whenever he or she gets a winning card.
For people who are used to the physicality of old school bingo, this kind of technological development might be a bit jarring. It just wouldn’t feel like “bingo.” They would miss the feel of the daubbers in their hands, the tension of having to search for called out numbers, and the physical action of marking their cards.
Plus there’s also the issue of changing the whole dynamics of the game itself. In electronic bingo, you can buy and play dozens of cards (something that you couldn’t possibly do in normal bingo) to raise your chances of getting a bingo- the only limit to the number of cards that you can play is the limit that the hall imposes on its players. If the establishment allows you to play 200 cards, then you can play 200 cards. Since the computer does all the work for you, you won’t need to do anything. The skill element is gone. There is no challenge anymore, and the game basically becomes just like a boring game of lottery.
But let’s look at the other side of the coin. To some new bingo players, especially young people, electronic bingo is a game which they can easily delve into and enjoy. Bingo is now a zen-type activity that people play to relax and set their minds at rest. With electronic bingo, players can focus on the social aspect of the game. Even better is that disabled people (those who weren’t able to play the game before due to physical conditions) can now get in on the bingo action.
Electronic bingo is here to stay. Can it be considered as “real” bingo? Well, of course it can. Though the dynamics might not be the same as old-school bingo, the goal of the game is still the same- to provide countless of hours of mindless fun