Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Brave New World - the Eye in the Sky Inches Closer

Big Brother is watching, and as a slot player your paranoia is completely founded in fact.

As if the ubiquitous "Eye in the Sky" wasn't bad enough, and your Slot Club card didn't give the house free rein to track your every move, desire, and weakness -- along comes -- ominous "dum dum dum" music please -- the dreaded SERVER BASED GAMING.

On the second day of the Global Gaming Expo, I learned a little bit of information, that I found to be scariest of all -- brace yourself -- Server based slot machines will be indistiguishable from the traditional one armed bandits you have come to know and love/hate.

If you're not up to date on what Server Based gaming is, let me give you a couple of things to chew on.

First my simplified explanation -- Server Based gaming allows the house to change any machine at any time -- the cabinet is essentially a monitor or video screen, and the game is controlled by a centralized server (computer). The game itself, its odds, its bonus rounds, paylines, and your information via your slot card are all immediately accessible and rateable and/or changeable by the house.

Scary, I know. But, if you don't trust my paranoid knee-jerk response to this marvel of modern technology, read on . . .

The Las Vegas Review Journal covers the subject thusly - in an article entitled cheerily enough "Wave Hello to Tomorrow" in which they write --

"Conceivably, downloadable gaming would allow casino managers to change a slot machine's games, denominations, bonus payouts and promotions from a central computer server rather than requiring technicians to perform the work manually. In some forms, the server-based systems would allow customers to change out their games themselves.

Most slot machine company executives admit server-based gaming systems, being tested in several markets, are still a year or so away from the slot floor."

A WMS guy I talked to today said the machines could be 18 months away from the casino floor, and I didn't press the point, but I'm guessing local gaming regulation boards may have something to do with the delay.

If you still have questions, and certainly I do, why not get some answers straight from the horse's mouth? -- here is a link to IGT's promotion I will call "Everything you wanted to know about Server Based Gaming, but were afraid to ask." (it is an Adobe file.)

Whoever wrote this piece entitled "A Brave New World" should have been reminded that Adolf Huxley described his novel as a "negative Utopia" or to paraphrase -- a cautionary tale.

Big Brother is watching, and his yearn to control our every move and thought inches closer and closer every time we enter a casino.

As I was mulling all this over, it occurred to me that server based machines must have standardized cabinets. That's when it hit me -- no more character based 3-D sculptures hovering over your head like Elvis, the Beverly Hillbillies, Spam Cans, the Addams Family, or Arnold the Pig from Green Acres. Are not even our beloved pop culture icons sacred?

Much like the eleborate visual themes and neon that are being wiped from the Las Vegas strip and replaced by giant video screens, the slot machines themselves will be whitewashed, or more appropriately chrome washed, mere shells -- one just like the other for the powers that be to project their chosen games upon.

This is the future of gaming -- a Brave New World, where the house controls your play in ways you never thought possible, and you are not a name, but a number -- Don't believe me? Look -- it's right there, on your slot card.

No comments: