This interesting talk deals with the efforts that the designers of video slot machines take to make those and other facets of the Vegas experience optimally absorbing of gamblers’ dollars:
It’s a fascinating line of study, and it makes particular sense that gambling companies are powerfully incentivized to invest significant research into their products.
I recently took my first trip to Las Vegas. I wasn’t there to gamble, but I was planning on blowing some greenbacks to take in the feel of gambling anyway. So I sat down at few different gambling terminals and fed some sweaty bills into them. I should mention that I used to be an enthusiastic video gamer, and that the gameplay on these machines was closer to video games than the slot machines or card game simulations that I would have anticipated from my pop-culture understanding of Vegas infrastructure.
what happens in Vegas might as well stay in Vegas
So why is that the games on those video terminals seemed so powerfully un-enjoyable to me? The gameplay was dull, the graphics and sound were too professional to be ironically vulgar, too amateurish to be impressive. The design and execution felt all-around lackadaisical. There wasn’t much happening on the screen to catch my attention or hold it. Some cows mooed, I think I tried to guess which virtual holes virtual lobsters were going to come out of, there was a half-hearted Aliens theme to one of them (I love Aliens! but not that game), and one of them had something to do with dolphins. I finally tried the spinning logos, reminiscent of actual one-armed bandits, and that was a little better, but a few digital spinning wheels connected to a mushy half-lighted button just didn’t get me into “the zone”.
Presumably I’m not the target market, but if these terminals are the ultimate physical instantiation of person-years of focused psycho-engineering effort, how is it that they’re so brutally boring?