[image description: A mobile phone rests on a huge pile of US one dollar bills. A wee robot with a slot machine arm and two cartoonish silver feet is emerging from it, green pupils spinning in its three eyes and a US 20 dollar bill in its mouth. Text reads, “145, iBandit ~ The small god of Electronic Gambling”]
Doesn’t feel like real money when it’s a swipe card or a button on a screen, does it? Does it? Doesn’t feel like gambling when it’s a loot box of random cosmetics and power boosts that can make your character better, does it? Does it? Doesn’t feel like gambling when it’s a cattle prod shot straight into the happy chemical dopamine factory inside your skull, when it’s making your synapsis light up with happy funtime feelings, when it’s not real, not real, not real until the bill comes due. Plenty real then, every time, and that’s the biggest gamble of them all: can you keep playing until the piper comes for payment? Can you keep the party going?
Pleasure Island is everywhere thanks to them. They have brought the lights and dazzle and glory of the midway to every pocket, to every home and every hand, and they are with you for every microtransaction, for every midnight call of “it’s only a dollar for another spin, what’s a dollar, I can afford a dollar?” that doesn’t account for the hundred dollars already poured into the gaping electronic maw.
They are a god without care and without compassion, and that don’t mind you breaking yourself against their stygian shore. They were born of human innovation, and one day they will die when there are no more humans left to innovate, to toss virtual coins into their collection plates and exalt in their potential gains. They know nothing of tomorrow, nothing of yesterday; they dream only of the now, of the glory and the glitter, the lights, the buzzing chimes.
They are always victorious. After all, the house, as they say, always, always wins.
Artist Lee Moyer (13th Age, Cursed Court) and author Seanan McGuire (Middlegame, Every Heart a Doorway) have joined forces to bring you icons and stories of the small deities who manage our modern world, from the God of Social Distancing to the God of Finding a Parking Space.
Join in each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many tiny divinities: