How Slots developers use innovation, design and psychology to keep us playing

Slots Psychology

Of all the casino games, slots are the most popular...but have you ever wondered why?

Besides the fact that they are easy to play, require no skill and are highly entertaining, there is more to slots popularity than meets the eye. In their truest form, slot machines are masterful manipulators of the brain's natural reward system. Sots are specifically designed to incorporate various technologies, features and psychological principles which not only attract us to them but also influence us on a psychological level which explains why they keep us coming back for more.

This means that every feature from the exciting sounds slot machines make to the flashing lights and sounds of coins being merrily paid out are all strategically placed into the design of the slot with the intention of hijacking the parts of our brain that are used in the pursuit of food and sex and turn the focus to the possible rewards offered by our favourite slot machine. This has become a fascinating science that most slots enthusiasts will really appreciate.


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In a recent visit to Las Vegas, Mark Frauenfelder (founder of Boing Boing), spent some time with Brett Jackson who is the director of game development at Bally Technologies (one of the leading slot machine suppliers to land-based casinos), to find out more about the intricate innovation, design and psychological principles that are incorporated into the development of the popular slot machines that thrill millions of casino players the world over.

In a fascinating presentation, Jackson teaches that recognising and matching patterns is pleasing to the human brain, as is the promise of reward which is why the design of a slot machine is so very important to their success.

Jackson also elaborates on how mythology and ancient cultures are often used in slots themes as they are rich in symbolism and tell familiar stories which players can relate to. These themes also often offer the promise of magic, rewards and untold wealth which the player subconsciously associates with positively. Superstitions are also widely spread, especially those from Asian cultures, where certain symbols are believed to be "lucky" and if a machine features these, then the player again associates it with luck and rewards and is more likely to play.

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You may have also noticed that many land-based and online slots also feature the faces of characters with the special emphasis on the eyes. Again, this is no coincidence but rather based on studies that have found that eyes are very arresting and can cause attraction and draw players in.

Technology also enables slot machine developers to further enhance the appeal of games in subtle ways. In the Gaming industry, there has been an explosion of innovation which has meant that a plethora of features is now possible within casino games, making them even more exciting and enticing.

We all know that slots are not skill based, but rather random, so developers add features wherein the player believes that he/she has an influence on the outcome (for example, the pick X of Y bonus features in online slots). In land based versions developers have taken these types of features a step further, for example, Bally's Betty Boop slot offers a novel feature that is not only cute but fun for the player too. When you hits the "love meter" trigger within the game, you are required to place your hands on a screen built into the slot machine and it and it tells you how hot you are (loveable, romantic, sexy, wild, smokin', naughty, burning!) and you are awarded accordingly. Obviously, this feature operates on a Random Number Generator in order to determine your degree of "hotness" and outcomes will vary every time you play, but it really is unique and adds to the fun factor!

While it will be some time until these types of features can be integrated into online slots, with technology and specifically touch screen technology advancing at a rapid rate, soon you may be able to enjoy the same novelty features on your laptop or touch screen tablet device.

For slots enthusiasts, these are very exciting times and we certainly can't wait to see what more lies in store in the development of online slots machines in the future.


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