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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Card Games? Horse Racing? What if PEGI Re-Rated Pocket Card Jockey?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - This could age very well, badly, or not at all, depending if Pocket Card Jockey ever gets ported...

Over in Europe, they're under the Pan European Game Information ratings system, or PEGI. They're like the ESRB... but in Europe. Anyway, the two boards take a different view of simulated (not real money) gambling. In the ESRB, simulated gambling is betting with fake money. This will get your game rated T at a minimum. This is what you do with the Game Corner in Pokémon. ...That same simulated gambling Game Corner got Pokémon in trouble across Europe and Iran, though. And unfortunately the ban on the Game Corner has carried over to “faithful remake” Pokémon Shining Pearl and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond, with the Veilstone Game Corner now being replaced with the Metronome Style Shop where you can buy outfits for your trainer.

So we know Iran is psychopathic, but what kind of European trouble? They've never liked simulated gambling, and as of 2020, the PEGI policy has developed to be that any game with simulated gambling (“games of chance that are normally carried out in casinos or gambling halls”) that apparently teaches or encourages the player that gambling is fun is PEGI 18. That's the highest, most restrictive rating. This is further elaborated on AskAboutGames, which brings up the example of Overboard!, an adventure game, which is 18-rated in Europe and T-rated in North America due to a blackjack playing scene. They also said that gambling activities that are a plot point in a story are fine, but actually doing the simulated gambling activity is bad. “For example, this will include games that teach the player how to play card games that are usually played for money or how to play the odds in horse racing.”

Card games? Horse racing? I think it's time to talk about Pocket Card Jockey again!

Pocket Card Jockey is a fantastic, amazing game (with ill-defined game mechanics) for the 3DS that was also made by GAME FREAK. It's rated E10+ by the ESRB (for Fantasy Violence and Comic Mischief) and PEGI 3 and released in 2016... but that was before their rule about simulated gambling. What would happen if they re-rated it?

Pocket Card Jockey is supposed to combine horse raising and horse racing with a card game which is supposedly Solitaire but... it actually isn't, at least it's definitely not the same Solitaire that comes with Windows computers. (Which is now Microsoft Solitaire Collection, which should absolutely be rated for adults due to being adware for actual casino gaming. ...It's rated E for Everyone and PEGI 3, though.)

Microsoft Solitaire Collection commercial advertisements infinity slots spin and win
While the animal in the advertisement is cute, I don't like that
Microsoft Solitaire Collection constantly has unskippable commercials for online casino apps.

The card game in Pocket Card Jockey involves stacks of playing cards on the field with a deck you draw from. The card you draw from your deck needs to be plus or minus one card to a stack on the field. Then you can take the card from the field's stack and see if there's another card on the stacks that is plus or minus one card value from that, and keep the chain going until you can't. Then you can draw again from the deck. You win if all of the card stacks are gone... and you lose if they aren't by the time your deck is depleted.

Pocket Card Jockey protagonist angel conversation play solitaire horse run
The game's definition of Solitaire doesn't reflect the real one.

Is this kind of card game played at actual casinos and gambling halls? The way Pocket Card Jockey does it, no. Real Solitaire itself isn't actually played at any casinos (not anymore), physical or online. Not even the so-called Vegas style. By that logic, even if Pocket Card Jockey's gameplay was based on actual Solitaire, it wouldn't run afoul of PEGI.

But what about the fact the game is about horse-racing, and that horse races are pretty much a thing so people can gamble on their outcome? Well, betting on it is addressed in the storyline of Pocket Card Jockey (and by an angel, no less), but... it's not a part of the gameplay.

Pocket Card Jockey Angel place betting
Well, the game DOES go out of its way to define “place betting” as a special vocab word.
...Though it doesn't come up again in practice.

You could make the argument that while you're not being taught how to do actual betting in Pocket Card Jockey and how it's exclusively part of the game lore, having a revered angel speak positively of betting is glamourising betting, and that would be worth a PEGI-18 rating. Still, it's a throwaway line, so if Pocket Card Jockey were to get ported or something to, say, the Switch... they'd probably remove the line if it threatened to get the game a restrictive rating. Alternatively, you could argue the angel isn't actually a good dude!

If that happens, then both the card-playing and the horse-racing aspects should be acceptable to PEGI, and then Pocket Card Jockey can remain PEGI 3.

Ludwig considers Pocket Card Jockey to have been one of the top ten games of the 2010s. It's incredibly cheap on the 3DS eShop, and there is even an excellent demo. He'd love to talk about it more in the comments section with you!

Somehow, slot machines as a central game mechanic still can get you a 3-rating (three years old and up) by PEGI if you're NBA 2K20.
Pocket Card Jockey got remade in 2023... and it no longer mentions place betting in the intro.


  1. Just got the game, as a solitaire fan I’m really liking it so far. Even if it isn’t real solitaire. The humor is that unique kind that doesn’t take it’s self too seriously, while still maintaining the notation that what your doing is important. Music is great too. I’ll write a mini review later on. Man, game freak sure did produce a lot of great eshop games that weren’t Pokemon. They always make unique games (when it’s not Pokemon), too bad they never get sequels.

    As for gambling, I am extremely terse about the Pokemon Game Center. I think these things are lessons in themselves, you learn the consequences of gambling in a way that doesn’t deplete your real world l bank account. Of course no one cares about the notion of kids capturing world-ending monsters, and then using them as they see fit. Nobody cares!

    1. Congratulations on the awesome purchase!
      Well... they also made Town. ...Erm, I guess it's Little Town Hero. That wasn't so great. Though I haven't played it myself. GAME FREAK's games on the 3DS had demos to them, but Little Town Hero never got one.

      World-ending monsters? No problem. Slot machines? BIG ISSUE.


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