To add to the allure of the devices, manufacturers have introduced lots of features designed to appeal to every taste. A player can choose theme-based machines, selecting one that plays the hit songs of a favorite rock group, or shows video clips of recent movies, or mimics the animation and action of current video games. A gambler can interact with the features, inserting himself into a gaming character or tying his gambling wins into progress toward rewards and goals in a video game. Gamblers can even “save” this progress for use on the same machine next time they come to the casino.
There is another factor at work with many regular slots players. The speed and intensity of the machines have become so fast and strong that many gamblers actually go into a trancelike, hypnotic state, mindlessly yet rhythmically playing bet after bet. This state is known in the trade as “the zone,” and it results in the player being in a disassociated condition where he loses touch with time, space, money, his own body, and any outside distractions.
Being in the zone becomes so pleasurable to the gambler that he actually views winning — when the action must be interrupted for a payout procedure — as something undesirable. For winning disrupts his flow, and breaks into his blissful isolation.
Slots manufacturers are well aware of this phenomenon and encourage it with incredible machines that can accommodate intense speed — the placing of one bet every three seconds (the player is simply tapping buttons) or roughly 1,000 spins per hour.
But whatever type of gambler is seated at the machine, it has been designed to exploit the full range of human tendencies. Manufacturers use the phrase, “playing to extinction” — meaning the gambler loses all his money — to describe the goal behind the clever programming inside a slot machine.