Casino game sound
Late last month, we took a trip to Vegas for a wedding. I hadn’t been to Vegas for almost 7 years which was kind of strange, since my family had taken yearly trips to Vegas since I was about 10 years old. I saw the city grow from a major monstrosity into the crazy colossal monstrosity it is today. Yep, we saw the Mirage being built, one of the first of the new mega-resorts. We saw the last days of the Dunes and the Sands and numerous other old school casinos. We must have seen Siegfried and Roy at least 6 times. I even shook Roy’s hand after a show one year. I loved going to Vegas. Even though my brother and I were too young to gamble, our parents would give us rolls of quarters and we’d go to the various video game arcades and happily play all the newest games. As I discovered after turning 21, turns out the gambling games are even more fun than the arcade games.
My first royal flush! Notice only one quarter in at the time, doh!
So after returning last month after a long absence, I was happy to hear the same old casino hum that I had
grown accustomed to. The dings of winning slots, the clanks of coins (though now the coin clanking is recorded, since all the payouts have converted to paper), the occasional craps hollering… it was all there. But there was something else. There were all sorts of new sounds coming from new kinds of slot machines. They didn’t have the typical old 8-bit sound chips and bells. They had decent pre-recorded noises. They were, in essence, video games that were masquerading as slot machines. Many had reels still, but the reels told stories. I couldn’t figure out half of their pay-outs without studying the machine for a few minutes. There were also games based on TV game shows like Price is Right, Deal or No Deal, and Wheel of Fortune. It seems the people who are now making the games played games of their own growing up and wanted to incorporate that experience into the casino.
I couldn’t help but notice one sound in particular. I played lots of video poker at a particular bank of machines. Near those machines I kept hearing a cat shrieking. Every few minutes, it sounded like a cat got stepped on. Well, the sound had its desired effect. Eventually I went on a search for the machine that the poor cat’s yell was coming from. I found it. It was a machine based on black magic or some such thing. I didn’t play it, but I couldn’t help feeling that lots of people would. The cat sound was very distinctive and stood out among the many different sounds coming from all directions.
The new sounds coming from all the new machines had a surprising effect on me. It made the casino seem even more exciting. The soundscape of the casino is changing. And I would say it’s changing for the better. The sound designers for the new machines have to be careful, though. Distinctive sounds can be a double-edged sword. They can draw people in as easily as they can keep people away. But the new gaming machines’ sounds are an excellent tool for drawing people in, if used wisely. The cat machine did it right, only playing that cat sound every few minutes. If it had sounded more frequently, I certainly would have avoided not only that machine, but that wing of the casino.
I once thought about working at a slot machine company. I decided I didn’t want to live in Vegas. But the issues surrounding gaming machine audio are fascinating, and I envy the people who get to work on them.
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