As video slots become more and more advanced, it is impossible to ignore the fact that they are becoming very similar to actual video games and they incorporate various elements to keep the players entertained.
Regular online casino players are certainly familiar with the fact that the modern video slots certainly look more like actual video games than they do the traditional machines with three reels and only a handful of symbols that once occupied entire rooms. The “gamification” of casino games may not be something new but it has certainly reached a new peak nowadays, where every major title slots release is celebrated in a similar fashion to the release of a big video game.
And there are plenty of reasons why this is the case and we should start by saying that there are no signs of things slowing down. On the contrary, players can expect to see even more gamification when it comes to new online slot machines and this is in part because it works. Players enjoy new slots games and the features they provide despite the fact that the overall results are not far from the previously mentioned 3-reel games that now seem so outdated.
For some players, it may seem that the famous game on Facebook called Candy Crush and a new online slot machine don’t have that many things in common. One can also argue that a popularity that exceeds 100,000,000 monthly users of a simple but at times infuriating game puts it in a different league than a slots title like Cosmic Fortune that many have never heard of. The truth however is that under the surface, these two games are more alike than you may think and they share quite a bit of DNA. And of course, this is not by accident, as video games and slot machines often times use the same mechanics to keep players engaged and entertained.
In short, we can go as far as to say that video games simply represent a form of gambling that doesn’t require a financial investment; assuming that we don’t count the initial purchase price of the games or the in-game purchase options which have become very popular lately. But even so, video games generally do not have the ability to potentially generate money, even if they can constantly take cash add-ons, whereas slots and other casino games are based on the promise that players can win real money.
Common Behavioral Characteristics
In order to better highlight the common parts of video games and online slots, we can take a look at some of the behavioral characteristics they share.
The best place to start would be the visual and audio rewards. The goal of a game is normally based on a series of challenges which the player must meet. As a result of this, various rewards are granted and it has been found that the visual and auditory “congratulations” stimulate pleasure receptors in our brains, thus making us feel better for achieving a certain goal. In video games, these can be simple sounds we grow accustomed to and associate with finishing a mission or leveling up. In slots, the classic sound of coins can make for the perfect example and various other rewards can be triggered when getting a winning combination on the spinning reels.
The flashing lights, the music and other animations don’t just mark something but in themselves can be rewarding enough to keep the player engaged. And the rewards normally don’t just stop here as more rewards follow to validate even further the new found success with other psychological and even financial rewards, be them in game currency or actual money from slots. The combination lights up our pleasure center.
A second behavioral characteristic we can find between the two categories of games that shouldn’t be so far apart is represented by the “near-miss” idea. We have the tendency to evaluate past failures as being less important in some cases. For example, let’s say that we bet on the number 27 on roulette and the winning one turns out to be 26. Rather than equate it as a total failure, we say it was close and it was just a near-miss; giving the illusion that the next time it will be better. The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter if the number was 26, 28 or 0; as long as it wasn’t 27, the outcome would be the same.
This can also be found in slots and it is best represented by the “cherry, cherry, bell” concept, where the idea that a winning combination was simply off by one symbol counts as a near-miss despite the fact that the loss is the same as if there were three totally different symbols on the line.
Video games that have elements of random chance incorporated in the gameplay are not that different. If we were to take the comparison at the start of the article, Candy Crush is based a lot on randomness and getting close to ending a level doesn’t have a different outcome than wasting all of the moves without achieving much.
The idea is that there are those small rewards that give the illusion of winning. Two 7 symbols on a line got so close to winning the big prize that we must try again. There was only one cherry left on the screen and it was just one spot away from the bottom so maybe the next life will have better results.
Another similarity is known as the Skinner’s box. Also known as a version of the “gambler’s fallacy”, this shows that we have the inclination to look for patterns even when they aren’t any that we can observe. It is one of the most popular mistakes made by the gamblers and it refers to the fact that if a number hasn’t been hit in a while, it will surely be in the near future. This idea goes beyond the fact that casino games are designed to be totally random, with each round not being influenced by the previous results.
This can work both ways as a lucky number in roulette can be the result of it hitting several times in a small period of time. The player then associates more importance to it despite the fact that it has the exact same odds as the other numbers on the wheel to be successful. On the other hand, a feature that hasn’t been hit in a while can encourage players to keep trying in the hopes of getting it and this is best seen in casino slots.
As a comparison, video games with random drops from killing monsters are not that different since getting a rare item has the same odds with each successful kill but players often times associate a longer labor with much better odds than in reality. Returning to Candy Crush, spending a lot of time on a level doesn’t guarantee that the next life will come with more favorable combinations of candies to finally advance in the game.
Progression system is the next common thing to talk about. Known mostly as “leveling up” in video games, this concept is being introduced in the iGaming industry with new titles that see a lot of success. A good example would be the Aliens slot machine that is based on the popular film. The casino game version is based on three levels and players advance by getting winning combinations and unlocking special features. Each new level takes the story further and there is a sense of accomplishment players get from making it to the final level and defeating the alien queen. While all of this might seem a bit much for a slots game, it is built within its center mechanics and shows just how much slots have come and how similar they are to actual video games.
Lastly, we can’t talk about slots and games without mentioning power-ups. In video games, these are represented by extra lives, special abilities, weapon improvements and other elements that make it easier to advance in the game. In slots, we have wilds, scatters, multipliers, free spins and bonus games. All of these help generate winnings but they are only used to stabilize the set payout percentage as the house edge remains the same.
In Candy Crush, there are the special candies that can be used to get more points and clear big parts of the screen. In Cosmic Fortune, we have the free spins that end with a bonus game for bigger prizes and even a jackpot round that includes a large progressive. All of these are designed to break the monotony of spinning the reels or matching candies and offer a more entertaining experience.
Taking It Further
The gamification of the iGaming industry doesn’t just stop with the actual games and is also carried out on the websites of the online casinos. The designs of some of the best casinos on the internet are made to resemble a world filled with online games, and there are even lovable characters that act as mascots to create a more trustworthy visual.
Colorful interfaces are often times based on some of the major slots games they feature so it is not uncommon to find actual protagonists from the spinning reels in the background or presenting some of the advantages of playing at the respective online casino.
Some of the characteristics mentioned before can be found across the online casino, with the best example being the leveling up system provided by a standard reward program. Normally, this is based on five levels and each of them requires a certain amount of comp points to reach and in turn offers increasingly better rewards to those who reach it. Comp points are generated from real money bets on most of the games available at the casino so players can level up and get rewarded for it just for placing wagers. Most reward programs require a monthly amount of points to maintain the level so the action is encouraged at all times.
All of this comes on top of the standard casino bonuses that encourage players to join even more and there are promotions sprinkled on top to offer more free money or other rewards to regular customers.
So, does it work?
The combination of features has shown a great response from the public and online casinos are becoming more and more popular as the stigma associated with gambling disappears in a regulated and controlled environment.
Everything from the looks of the website to the games and the variety they provide matters. The psychological rewards make players enjoy the games even if they don’t win and the bonuses make sure they don’t get infuriated enough when they lose that would cause them to stop. The gamification of slots also sees the player pay more attention to the games that were once a simple press of a button over and over again.
While it is common to associate skill with video games and gambling with games of chance, when elements of the two worlds are clearly combined, the results can be a relaxing gameplay that keeps users engaged. Furthermore, the colorful and friendly themes can encourage new and casual players to join online casinos.
Slots based on familiar media are always more appealing to novice players than the standard machines. Some titles are based on popular TV shows or movies and this makes them more attractive.
As a result, since the player pool is becoming more based on casual gamblers, the industry is moving towards a friendlier zone and this in turn creates a healthier approach to the entire concept of gambling. As a consequence, online operators rely on a large and dedicated pool of players that wager moderate amounts over long periods of time. Everybody wins!