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The role of casino in science fiction narratives

Our reader Marina Hillquist dissects some of her favourite science-fiction franchises (in film and television), and explains how a very familiar game crept its way and even helped to construct the story

In the realm of science fiction, worlds are created where the imagination has no boundaries. Spaceships travel faster than light, alien species engage in diplomatic (or not-so-diplomatic) encounters, and futuristic technology often blurs the lines between magic and science. Yet, amidst these extraordinary settings, familiar human activities and interests often surface, including the likes of gambling.

Casinos, with their allure of risk and reward, frequently find a home in sci-fi narratives, and they offer intriguing insights into the cultures and characters they serve.


Casinos as social microcosms

In many sci-fi tales, casinos aren’t just places to try one’s luck; they are hubs of social activity, reflecting broader societal norms and values. Take, for instance, the bustling Star Wars cantina which features in many popular Star Wars games and particularly in The Empire Strikes Back, or even the luxurious pleasure planet of Risa in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Both serve as melting pots of diverse characters, each with their stories, agendas, and, of course, games of chance.


Iconic moments at the gaming table

Several memorable scenes from sci-fi movies and TV shows have occurred with the backdrop of gambling. Remember when Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy played a few rounds of blackjack-like games with unfamiliar rules? Or the infamous sabacc games in Star Wars, where Han Solo famously won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian?

While the rules of these games might differ from the blackjack we know, the tension, strategy, and chance remain constant. The characters’ decisions at the gaming table often mirror the choices they make in their larger quests, offering viewers a microcosm of their personalities and motivations.


Intergalactic high-stakes: casino adventures on television

The shimmering allure of casinos, with their bright lights and the dizzying array of games, has not only captivated Earthlings but also our favourite sci-fi series characters. A quintessential example is in Farscape’s episode Coup By Clam (pictured at the top of this article), where the crew finds themselves entangled in a treacherous space casino escapade, racing against time to secure an antidote in a game of chance.

Similarly, Stargate Atlantis offers a unique spin in “Vegas”, blending the neon glitz of Sin City with the otherworldly threat of the Wraith. These episodes encapsulate how the thrill of the gamble can transcend galaxies, bringing both danger and excitement to the forefront of interstellar narratives.


The modern connection: online gaming

As sci-fi often looks to the future, it’s interesting to consider the genre’s portrayal of gambling and how it compares to our current reality.

Today, fans of these iconic franchises don’t need to travel to a galaxy far, far away to experience the thrill of the gaming table. Nowadays, platforms offer a vast array of iconic table games such as poker, blackjack, baccarat, and online roulette UK in a convenient format, which makes it possible for players to engage from the comfort of their own homes. Just as sci-fi imagines futuristic versions of casino games, today’s online roulette platforms incorporate cutting-edge technology. Live dealers, immersive graphics, and advanced security measures bring the classic game into the digital age, offering an experience that might not feel out of place on the USS Enterprise or aboard a Star Destroyer.

The portrayal of casinos in sci-fi narratives serves multiple purposes. They’re not just settings for chance encounters or high-stakes games; they offer a lens into the societal structures, character dynamics, and cultural norms of these imagined worlds.

And while we might not have personal starships or be able to engage in intergalactic poker tournaments just yet, platforms that offer online blackjack bring a touch of that sci-fi excitement to our screens, connecting fans with a future that feels just within reach.

By Marina Hillquist - 01-09-2023

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