Slot-machine user experience.

From the New York Times magazine comes an article describing in great detail the efforts and rewards of Slot- machine design.

Still, to maintain a sense of suspense in games that are over the moment they start, to increase what Baerlocher and his fellow game designers call ”time on device,” I.G.T. spends $120 million each year and employs more than 800 designers, graphic artists, script writers and video engineers to find ways to surround the unromantic chips with a colorful matrix of sounds, chrome, garishly-painted glass and video effects, which include the soothing images of famous people, from Bob Denver (the actor who played Gilligan on ”Gilligan’s Island”) to Elizabeth Taylor, many of whom receive hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to lend their identities to the machines. The traditional pull-handle, if it exists at all, is nothing more than a vestigial limb; most players now press a button to start the reels, often virtual, spinning. Many slot machines don’t even pay out coins but issue ”credits” on a paper receipt to be redeemed at the cashier’s cage. Slot makers have found that their customers don’t miss handling money — coins are heavy and dirty, after all — and stereo speakers can project the simulated yet satisfying ping and clink of cascading cash. ”We basically mixed several recordings of quarters falling on a metal tray and then fattened up the sound with the sound of falling dollars,” says Bill Hecht, I.G.T.’s top audio engineer, when describing one of the audio files he programs into a machine.

Its more than a little disturbing how far companies are willing to go in order to have people part with their money. Despite the negative application it’s a valuable look into what kind of efforts go into creating a user experience that take people through Nathan Sherdoff’s three stages of experience: attraction, engagement, and conclusion.