Snapshots of Bingo’s Evolution

Snapshots of Bingo’s Evolution

The timelessness of an old-fashioned game

When most people hear the word “bingo”, a few images will likely pop up in their imagination: a rough-hewn, brick-and-mortar bingo hall that is well-worn with decades of constant use; good-natured senior ladies and gentlemen leisurely spending their time in the comfort of rustic chairs; the animated expressions of the players, the bingo caller flush with excitement as another jackpot is won. Although bingo is usually associated with the elderly, there’s a surprisingly vibrant energy that circulates inside these old-school bingo halls – a surge of electricity that transcends gambling and humanizes the participants in a different light. Indeed, the undeniable poignancy and nostalgia present in these independently owned and operated bingo clubs has even fascinated a couple of exceptional photographers: Michael Hess and Andrew Miksys.

A civil engineer by training, Hess is a self-taught German photographer with a fondness for bingo that started from a curious trip to a neon-lit converted art deco cinema in Southampton, England back in 2005. After being mesmerized by the strong characters, quirky details, and the quiet concentration of the players, Hess decided to make bingo the subject of his long-awaited photography book. Over the next five years, Hess toured the United Kingdom and compiled his photographs in the highly acclaimed Bingo and Social Club, a respectful and rare look into the secretive world of local bingo clubs.

© Michael Hess
Image by Michael Hess

Seattle-based lensman Miksys was exposed to bingo at an early age. His father started publishing the Bingo Today newspaper while his mom wrote the horoscopes. In fact, he won $300 in the very first bingo game he played back when he was just 11 years old. With this intimate connection to his subject matter, Miksys eventually set out on a journey across America to capture the sense of community inside bingo halls.

Conversely, online bingo websites have incorporated savvy branding and clever advertising to keep up in the modern gaming landscape in the UK. In a published audience research of UK-based media agency OFCOM, of all the gaming advertisements on television in 2012, 532,000 were bingo adverts. Online gaming companies even acquired affiliate and media network to support their real-money strategy for 2014. Last year, Gaming Realms, operator of Iceland Bingo, has acquired bingo affiliate and marketing agency Quick Think Media (QTM) for £2.2m as it seeks to add to the launch of their other gaming brands. While Hess’ and Miksys’ stark and unadorned photos chronicle the old-fashioned ways of bingo, the advent of online bingo has proven to be just as entertaining and legitimate as the real thing.

Whether it’s a timeworn bingo hall or a high-tech online bingo room, this attractive simple game of numbers will be enjoyed by thousands of people for generations to come.

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