Gamification is creeping more and more into our daily lives and is being increasingly adopted by businesses. Companies have come to realise the power of gamification to boost customer engagement and therefore sales in the long term. Gamification is essentially the process by which elements of games and game playing are built into systems or processes. By doing this, in theory it can be more fun and customers are more likely to be drawn in and to stick with the process.

One of the most obvious examples of gamification is in gambling, particularly online, where it has become easy for companies to develop more sophisticated versions of traditional games, like poker, roulette and now slot machines.

Slot machines have typically been a one-dimensional system whereby the customer inserts a coin, pulls a handle or presses a button and then in a few seconds finds out whether they have won money or not. The outcome can seem very arbitrary and customers can lose interest when it feels like they cannot control the outcome. Gambling companies now however have been introducing more gamification techniques, especially on the internet, to get customers to spend more time on the machine.

Examples Of Gamification Present In Slot Machines


One of the standard things they use in computer games is to tell a story and to take the player on a journey. Now they have introduced this on slot machines to make it more fun.

This is a similar technique to linking the game to a film however in this instance it means you might take on a particular character and by winning, you get further in their journey or quest.

For example, one of the most popular slot machine games currently online (from the Swedish developer Netent) is “Starburst”. This game creates its very first impression by suggesting says that players should, “Hold onto your chair because we are going into space” and that it is filled with “gleaming gems” associated with wealth and prosperity. It even makes references on the site to other games where the player is “searching for clues to find hidden treasure” or “going for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” to make it an even more game-like experience.


A powerful technique used by slot machine manufacturers is to brand the machine with a popular TV show or film. By doing this, customers that have strong positive associations with that show or film will project that onto the slot machine and may be drawn to play it.

A popular one used by some slot machines is the Wheel of Fortune game, beloved of people around the world. It doesn’t even have to resemble the actual game show in terms of gameplay, but it has all the elements that people connect to the brand and the game such as the colours, the sounds and graphics.

We now see many gambling sites featuring games borrowing from iconic characters such as the Pink Panther, Rocky, Terminator and Laraa Croft Tomb Raider.

Even the Jurassic Park brand is used to construct a game with animated elements of the film. They also combine this with the narrative behind the film to draw players in, saying that it will give you “Adventure like no other, in the depths of dangerous jungle.” Again this brings people in who like the film and it also lures people in with the concept of a story or an adventure they can complete.



One feature that has utilised by slot machines now is that of having short games within the flow of play of the slot machine. This borrows heavily from computer games which have used the technique of individual, short games inside the larger game to liven things up and keep players engaged.

This is exactly why they use them too in slot machines now – by having mini-games it breaks the monotony of the slot machine and reengages the customer. Also, if people are not winning anything for a long period of time, they are more likely to become uninterested in the game and might give up. By having mini-games (which you can try here), it gives them a chance to actually win something and so give them the hope they need that they might win real money.

Animations and graphics

Just like in computer games, slot machines are using more and more complex graphics and animations to keep players excited and engaged. While old style slot machines used to be simple affairs, today slot machines and online versions have often interactive graphics, which is particularly helpful when it supports the storyline of the film or TV show that the slot machine relates to.

Not only do these simply look nice, but it is thought that players feel that visual and audio stimulation provides a psychological reward which feels a bit like an actual reward. These so called mini-rewards might therefore make them feel that they are winning something when in actual fact they may not have. Regardless, it keeps them playing.

Gaming techniques and strategies

Gamification isn’t necessarily all about how the game appears visually or how it sounds, the actual gameplay itself can also incorporate features often found in games.

Progression techniques – this technique is about building in levels or stages from which the player can get the impression that they are moving up or forward in the game. In video games typically a game will have a number of levels, and the player has an idea of when the last level is, therefore pushing them onto get there. This is often employed in slot machines to keep people playing.

Powering up – in video games you often get extra lives, or special powers or gifts to help you on your journey. In slot machines there are similar features in a slightly different format. So instead of more lives you might get more spins or options to double your chances. All of this helps make it more exciting and keep people playing. It also increases the illusion that the player has control over the outcome.

Near misses – while this is theoretically something that slot machines shouldn’t necessarily employ, near misses simply mean giving the illusion that a player has nearly one. So if four symbols are needed on a slot machine, they might regularly get three out of four. Near misses greatly enhance a gambler’s feeling that they can win, suggesting the jackpot is just within reach. Again it is something videogames have long employed to keep people playing for longer.