The Design Secrets Behind a Slot Machine

Ever wondered why slot machines are so addictive? You’re not alone. But it’s not all fun and games - there’s science behind it. So we’ve dug a little deeper to discover the psychology behind the design, and the draw, of slots…

System
System

Behavioral intelligence systems track habits. In return, players receive points, making it more enticing.

Fragrance / Smell
Fragrance / smell

Fragranced areas provide a 45% increase in coin-in at slots. Meaning players stick around longer.

Machine speakers
Machine speakers

Background noise from the casino is kept out by the use of ‘sound cones’ on the speakers, encouraging focus.

The pull-to-refresh
The pull-to-refresh

The pull-to-refresh and infinite scrolling mechanism hold similar traits to our social media news feeds.

Machine screen
Machine screen

High-res screens with soft pixels help to reduce eye fatigue and are at a 38-degree angle for comfort.

Inserting money
Inserting money

Real-life monetary values are hidden to disguise financial losses and avoid putting people off playing.

Characteristics similar to Social Media
Characteristics similar to Social Media

The slots lever is similar to scrolling on apps as you immediately receive a reward or nothing at all.

Characteristics similar to dating apps
Characteristics similar to dating apps

Tinder executive Jonathan Badeen said that the idea for swiping features was based on an a casino concept.

Rewards, Uncertainty & Dopamine
Rewards, Uncertainty & Dopamine

Dopamine, the neurotransmitter released by the brain during enjoyable activities is present when playing slots.

Rewards
Rewards

Just like other forms of gambling, the uncertainty over when you you’ll be rewarded keeps us coming back.

Seats
Seats

Ergonomic seats: these vibrate to game outcomes and help with circulation, allowing you sit for hours. Smart.

Themes
Themes

Designers borrow themes from popular TV shows and movies to attract specific demographics and age groups.

Positioning
Positioning

Placing slots close to each other, but far from other games, creates an intimate, social group environment.

Colors
Colors

The use of colours in casinos can illicit feelings; red for excitement, blue for trust and green for wealth.

Buttons
Buttons

Slot buttons are designed to be within easy reach and on curved consoles, so you can play effortlessly.

Sound
Sound

Sounds that indicate winning or success can create the false impression that there’s no losing going on.

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Authors

Psychological Concepts

B.F. SKINNER
B.F. Skinner

Slot designers use the Skinner box, which blended tension and release, as inspiration. The psychologist placed pigeons in a box which dispensed a pellet of food whenever they pressed a lever. Skinner then adapted it so that pellets came out on random presses instead, which made the pigeons press the lever more often.

If there aren’t enough rewards, frustration leads to less effort. But too many rewards means less incentive to perform an action - making it all about balance.

MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of ‘flow’ is when activity and desire combines to produce a mental state where time seems to fly, creating euphoric equilibrium.

Natasha Schüll of MIT describes Csikszentmihaly’s four criteria as: “each moment of the activity must have a little goal; the rules for attaining that goal must be clear; the activity must give immediate feedback; the tasks of the activity must be matched with challenge.” Sounds like a slot, right?

Slot machine Slot machine
Slot machine
Features

Other Interior Tricks

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Here are just a few more of the other tricks used to encourage casino spending and gambling:

  • No or few clocks and windows to exclude the outside world, so gamers are removed from reality and thus stay longer and spend more.
  • Natasha Schüll explains in her book, Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas, that curved hallways are popular in casinos. This because right-angle turns cause people to call upon their decision-making faculties and may mean they reflect on their gambling.
  • Accommodation for players to encourage game time into the early hours of the morning.
  • Free alcohol and coffee.
Compare

Slots Vs Social Media

Comparison Slot Machines vs Social Media Techniques.

Slot machines

777

The zone

Slot are designed to keep you in the ‘zone’, so you keep playing.

Cash

Positive reinforcement

Machines are designed to take more money than they give, but they still pay out regularly. As long as you keep playing, you’ll get something back.

Award

No dry spells

If you lost all the time you would stop playing, so you won’t go too long without a reward.

User

Solitude

Natasha Schull’s research notes that the benefit of slots is that they are for one person, limiting chances of distraction.

Rocket

Speed

Another factor Schull mentions is speed of play; you can play hundreds of games in a sitting, without noticing how much time and money you’ve spent.

Slot

Constant play

Machines don’t allow breaks or pauses, leading to longer stays.

Social media

Sparkle

The zone

Attractive designs and notifications capture attention and aim to keep it.

Bell

Positive reinforcement

Notifications eg likes, tags and messages are essentially social rewards.

Smartphone

No dry spells

Social apps try to make sure you have some notifications. If you didn’t have any, you’d stop using them.

Connect

Solitude

Social media may connect you with others, but the apps are often used when alone.

Rocket

Speed

Constant content means there is always something new to discover.

Swipe

Constant play

Most apps allow for infinite scrolling, so you can stay online indefinitely.

Compare

Slots Vs Dating Apps

Comparison Slot Machines vs Dating Apps Techniques.

Slot machines

Cash

Main Objective

Win money.

777

How the game works

Players usually try to land matching symbols on physical or digital reels.

Party

How to ‘win’

If you get a matching combination, you’ll be rewarded by the machine with cash, free spins or another type of prize.

Coins

The gambling indicator

Total number of bets.

Dating app

Smartphone

Main Objective

Find a love match.

Swipe

How the game works

Usually scrolling through a virtual reel of photos, and swiping left or right, to find a match.

Quality

How to ‘win’

If a player matches a ‘combination’ with another user, the app game will reward the player with access to a chat room, or ‘super likes’.

Swipe

The gambling indicator

Total number of swipes.

Facts

Facts section

  • The US is reportedly home to approximately 993,400 slot machines.
  • It is thought that slot machines provide 75% to 85% of casino revenue.
  • Las Vegas previously had the only casino slot machine not to have hit a jackpot for 20 years. The machine at the MGM Grand had a $2.4 million jackpot but, eventually in 2014, a couple won the money and broke the curse, er, record.
  • The biggest ever recorded slot win was in 2003. An LA software engineer wagered $100 on Megabucks at Excalibur and won $39.7 million. The reward was paid in 25 annual installments.
  • The world`s most expensive slot machine is worth $21 million. The Art Déco-style model, covered in gold and gemstones, is a rare piece of art and museum treasure.
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Slot machine