How Bingo’s Relationship With Pop Culture Has Allowed It To Thrive Online

September 9, 2020

Written by Ella Rebecca Horton

Ella Rebecca has been in love with the horror genre since an early age. The Bride of Frankenstein began her love of the classics and she's been writing and collecting since.


The classic game of bingo has been around for generations but it has never been more popular and is played particularly widely online. The perhaps surprising relationship bingo has with popular culture – particularly themes and, within that, the horror theme – has allowed it to maintain its relevance and remain a contemporary touchstone of the online gaming sphere. Here we look at the mutual inspiration taken by popular forms of media and the timeless game of bingo.


Portrayals of bingo in TV

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Bingo has played an integral role in key scenes of the critically acclaimed series ‘Better Call Saul.’ The series follows the titular character of Saul Goodman, in a prequel spin-off of the iconic ‘Breaking Bad,’ as he transforms from a by-the-book lawyer Jimmy McGill into a devious crook.

Following a heated argument with his brother, Jimmy’s previously repressed anger about their relationship comes to the boil whilst he is acting as a bingo caller at a care home (where he practices elder law). Jimmy loses his temper as he pulls successive numbers out all coming from section ‘B’, forcing him to confront his deteriorating fraternal bond. The meltdown he experiences forms a fundamental part of his transformation in the show with the bingo game at its center. Who could have guessed that bingo would be such an emotional rollercoaster?


Bingo takes inspiration from the horror theme

Although bingo is often used to facilitate dramatic scenes, it is also true that online bingo sometimes takes inspiration from popular culture too. The horror genre, for example, has been used to create a spooky environment for playing bingo scratch cards such as ‘Ghosts of Christmas’ at Paddy Power. The scratch card uses horror archetypes such as the grim reaper, ghostly apparitions, and visions of the past to create an immersive experience that complements the fun of playing bingo. The presence of a Scrooge-like figure combined with the creepy atmosphere of distant bells chiming and winds blowing, all help to contribute to a bingo experience that goes hand-in-hand with the fundamentals of the horror genre.

By the same token, people have created ‘horror bingo’ cards which involve calling bingo every time a cliche of the horror genre is used in a film. So, for instance, a horror bingo card may include ‘the lights going out’, ‘the car not starting’, or ‘jump scares’ as tropes to tick off as they appear during the film. Bingo, in this sense, can be used positively in combination with any respective passion, whether horror films or otherwise, to create a new and fun way to engage.


Radio bingo variations

The multitude of different ways bingo can be played, i.e. not simply the format of the traditional numbers, has never been more apparent than in the BBC Radio 1 gameshow ‘Innuendo Bingo.’ The show involves celebrities, including stars such as Hugh Jackman and Will Ferrell, trying to prevent themselves from laughing. Although not strictly bingo, it does follow the tradition of waiting for your number (or in this case innuendo) to be called. Regardless, its use in the title coupled with the mass popularity of the show has certainly strengthened its cultural cache.

Bingo’s malleability and simplicity have allowed it to maintain its cultural significance and in turn, encouraged its continued popularity. Online bingo certainly borrows from popular culture and especially horror themes which helps it to maintain its modernity and welcome new audiences to the game. Bingo will continue to thrive in the online space.

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