If you’ve never really been a fan of slot games, you probably have this picture of a flashy machine with a lever to the side that spins “7s” and “cherries” in your mind when someone mentions the word “slots”. But unless you live back in the 40s, if that’s what you think you really need to get a serious update on what you know about casinos.
With the digital gambling industry in full swing, today casinos are less like what you could see in Scorsese’s Casino, and more like, well…the Mecca of Pop Culture. From basketball pros like Tracy McGrady to the pin-up charm of Bettie Page, you can meet them all on the slot floor. Don’t believe us? Well, just to the pin-up charm of Bettie Page, you can meet them all on the slot floor. Don’t believe us? Well, just go to this page, browse the slot section, and you’ll see what we mean.
A Storm of Pops
Pop culture has always been appealing to any industry from clothing manufacturers to tourist agencies, but rarely have people associated it with casinos. However, this idea was seriously challenged during the past decade as one casino game maker after another started drawing from the pool of inspiration that is Pop culture to create new addictive games.
The exact time of shift is not fully clear, but many believe that it all began back in 1997 when IGT, or International Game Technology, released the first pop-themed slot. This gaming company was one of the first to create a casino slot game that wore the visuals and recognizable theme music of a popular TV show – Wheel of Fortune.
Since the game was a huge success, the company followed it with a series of Elvis-themed slots and the casino world was never the same. The whole pop-slots thing only skyrocketed from there and exploded in the following decades as online casinos and game development studios started massively expanding.
There are now hundreds of slot games with themes that range from Rock N’ Roll legends like Jimi Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses, to cult films like Superman or the Godfather. Heck, there’s even an officially licensed Miss America slot,
which we doubt anyone expected, or wanted for that matter.
Why so Much Pop?
One of the biggest reasons for the change in slot themes that the 2000s brought is, naturally, the change in casino demographics. The most frequent casual gamers in both the online and brick-and-mortar industry are no longer middle-aged businessmen or women, but people that were heavily influenced by Pop culture.
The Millennials, as they are officially labeled, don’t have much interest in traditional slot games because that’s what their grandparents play, according to John Clausen – a director of slot operations at Pala Casino. The Millennials are generation that makes up for a large part of casino visitors and they were all brought up by playing PlayStations and similar gaming consoles.
But the real attraction to pop culture slots isn’t only due to the gaming experience, but also the “familiarization factor”, according to Jaime Barriga – a slot manager at the Spa and Agua Caliente. Barriga informed Press Enterprise that it is the visuals and audio of a favorite TV show that connects player to a certain game and bring them closer to it.
And let’s face it, if you wanted to play a slot game which one would you choose. Would you go for one full of diamonds and dollar signs or would you want to see Nolan’s Batman and Joker coming down from the reels or the T-800 saving your day with some cash?
What Makes them Great?
The massive popularity of pop-culture slots is mostly owed to the fact that they are a great symbiosis of a lucrative and thrilling casino game and the cult bands/shows/films they are licensed for. In short, if you’ve never tried one, the key features that make them different from any other slot game are the following:
• Modern game-designs;
• Immersive gaming experience;
• Songs and voiceovers from celebrities, bands, or film characters;
• Addictive bonus levels that follow the theme;
• Animations, cut-scenes, and other goodies from the source material they are based on;
• The prospects of winning money;
• Huge jackpots to complement the excitement (e.g. the Dark Knight slot).
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.