As you may have noticed, we have an article in this month’s issue on “ergonomics” as it applies to slot machines and the chairs in front of them.
All the slot-makers are big on ergonomics, a word derived from the Latin “ergo,” meaning work or task, and “nomics,” which means nomics. No, it means “distribution,” so ergonomics refers to the distribution of the work your body has to do just to keep you comfortable, fat and happy.
In the case of a slot machine, ergonomics principles are applied to minimize the circus-freak contortions one must do to successfully hit the spin button, choose cards in video poker, or play one of those fun little games on the LCD monitor using a touch-screen.
It also refers to the positioning of the display screens, which is important, as any number of hideous, giraffe-necked veteran slot players will tell you. Once, I played a game with a tall top-box screen for so long that I continued to look upward as I walked away. Within seconds, I had everyone in the casino looking at the ceiling. It must have really creeped out the surveillance people.
As you saw if you read that fine piece by Dave Bontempo in this issue, chair manufacturers pay particular attention to ergonomics, and it’s no easy task. As one vendor said in the article, “If I build the perfect ergonomic stool, once I lift my arm to play the button on a machine, I’m no longer ergonomic. There is stress on my shoulder. If you have to lean back so you can reach upward to see a monitor on a machine, now you will have stress on the shoulders and your neck…. If you have people building second monitors above the first monitor, customers have to move their heads.”
And as we all well know, we can’t have customers moving their heads. The slot floor would look like a bunch of bobble-head dolls.
It all goes back to the fact that slot machines were originally designed to be played standing up, not sitting down. Just watch Oceans Eleven. The real 1960 one, not the George Clooney one. Frank Sinatra gets a bunch of silver dollars and stands there pumping them into one of the slots while he’s keeping an eye on things as Richard Conte slips into the count room.
Imagine if Sinatra had been sitting in an ergonomic surround-sound chair playing The Wizard of Oz. Conte would have gotten pinched for sure, and the whole movie would have been off. Clooney and Brad Pitt would have had to find another old movie to remake with several, ever-more-sucky sequels.
Ever since the first slot stools appeared—causing astounded players to look at each other and say, “Hey, we can sit down!”—slot-machine manufacturers have been changing the size of machines to make them comfortable. First came the E2000 reel-spinners, which required very little movement to play. Pop in a coin, pull the handle, curse. Repeat. Then came Player’s Edge video poker, and I’m sorry, I still miss the shape of the old ones, which were about the size of an Apple Mac Classic.
Yes, wise-guy, I’m that old.
The first Apple Macintosh was about the size of a breadbox. Yes, I said “breadbox.” Oh, never mind!
Eventually, screens got bigger, and buttons got farther apart. Not only that, they started requiring us, as players, to do more than just sit there pushing buttons and staring, stopping to wipe away the occasional drool. Touch the screen here. Hit this button to spin. Pick one of these three barrels. Spin the wheel. Launch the pinball. Shoot the gun. Lift this. Pull that. “LOOK UP!”
It’s no wonder that as you gaze at this, our official 10th anniversary issue, I’m hobbling around a casino somewhere looking like Quasimodo, one arm dragging behind me on the floor, with my neck so twisted from bonus rounds that I’m actually looking behind as I walk. No one notices, though, because it’s the way all veteran slot players look.
OK, it’s not really that bad. But I do miss my compact, little video poker machine. And I don’t like having to reach up to touch the screen all the time. I once saw a gizmo at a trade show that actually brings all the slot machine movements to a hand-held control. You can bet, pick your bonus, spin the wheel, and everything else without moving.
Then, the slot machine picks you up, carries you to your car, sets you gently behind the wheel and starts the engine. Now that’s ergonomics!