The Dopamine We Get from Playing Slots

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Slots People enjoy playing slots

What do free online slots have in common with caffeine-free coffee and non-alcoholic beer? Well, all these things are mere simulations that make you feel whatever you want to feel, but without any harmful consequences. So what’s so interesting about free slots? We all know that video games might be pretty exciting, especially ones with great graphics and exciting storylines; but this is not about slots!

Recently, developers are trying to add some gamification to their online slot machines, by creating entertaining opening videos, making bonus rounds, progressively unlocking features, and achievements. All these improvements shouldn’t bring slots even near regular video games in terms of excitement, but the facts tell us the opposite: there are way more slot players than there are gamers. And free slots should be even less exciting! What’s the secret then, if people are willingly choosing the obviously not interesting slots over the fascinating video games? And who would win the battle between real-money slots and free slots that should be even less interesting?

Dopamine Is The Key

We all know that the particular areas of the brain reacts on particular types of external stimulus, and has a special compound for virtually any kind of experience or activity. Dopamine, for example, is a compound that inundates our brain when we do or experience something that we consider good or exciting in any way. You increase your dopamine levels when you eat delicious food, and when you experience something joyful and exciting, getting a long-awaited reward, e.g., winning big!

Yet the highest level of dopamine you can get when you are about to get rewarded but don’t know when it will happen. Sounds quite familiar for a slots player, right? Even the free slots allow us to feel this: the reward is very close, just one spin away; and you will get it eventually, but just not yet!

How Do the Slots Make Us Feel High?

Realtime Gaming Two woman enjoy playing slotsSlot providers know how to make players feel high, and use all means available to do it. One of these tools is the so-called “near miss” mechanic, making us think that we are somehow very close to winning big. Slots work quite simply: you either get one of the winning combinations, or you don’t. There is nothing in between for the machine brain that operates the slot, and it can show you literally any combination of symbols when you lose, as long as they do not form a winning combination. For example, if you need to get three symbols in a line to hit the jackpot or get a bonus game, but two symbols give you nothing — you will often see two symbols. With these “big win” symbols, if you hit two of them, all the reels that haven’t stopped yet start spinning slower, allowing you to see the desired third one passing through the reel.

Although you cannot affect the result of your spin in any way, you still think that you’ve almost made it, you’ve almost hit the jackpot, and next time you will surely win! The bitter truth is that every time you hit two of three, it is the same as if you hit nothing because the outcome is zero.

And there is also another method to make us feel almost identical, and it’s a possibility to stop the reels from spinning. When we spin the reels, we look at them and think about them as physical objects: here they are spinning, and here they have stopped, showing some particular combination. Some providers add a possibility to stop the reels halfway through the spin so that you could feel that your actions matter. Unfortunately, all slots player’s actions after the button is pressed have no effect whatsoever. What happens when you stop the reels and don’t win? You start wondering about what the outcome would’ve been if you didn’t stop the reels. If you’ve stopped them and won — you think that you’re on a winning streak, and can win more if you try again. Either way, you lean towards playing more and the dopamine receptors ask for a refill, forcing you to spin the reels.

Is It Important to Win Real Money?

Each slots player knows this thrilling feeling when you have played for a while, and then, suddenly, you hit a relatively big win. The blood is pounding in your ears, and you admit that you now have more money than at the beginning of your session, and you can either stop while you’re on velvet or try to win more. That’s the real excitement of the game, and that’s why most people play real money slots: to feel that they’re in charge of their luck, and it’s in their power to choose how to spend their money.

Gambling A lots of coinsAll the studies suggest that the players who start playing to earn money usually end up with less than they’ve invested, and those who don’t care about winning or losing can manage their balance and see the whole game through until a major win occurs. Earning money by playing a completely luck-based casino game is a dubious decision, but using a game to make yourself feel better and stimulate your brain in a way that daily activities cannot is brilliant!

Even free games, where you cannot win anything and play for fun, stimulate different parts of the brain by making you imagine how the things would have turned out. Let’s suppose that you have won 100,000 free credits by hitting the jackpot in a free slot machine. Your brain suggests that if you had played for real money, you would have gotten a hundred thousand dollars. And of course, sooner or later you will try playing for real money to prove that your positive expectations were met.

If It’s All About Winning, Why Do We Like Fancy Slots?

That’s an interesting question, because most people prefer video slots over classic slots. Why do we need all those bells and whistles if they’re not necessary to win, and dopamine can be produced without them? It is so because the technologies are getting more advanced day by day, offering us more exquisite forms of entertainment. It’s like seeing Star Wars episode V in 2019. You know that the movie is great, and the script is a work of art, but without decent CGI it just doesn’t feel right. Then again, the latest episodes do have decent special effects, and yet they still don’t feel right, but that’s a whole different story…

Gamification in slot machines allows us to think that we’re doing something that makes sense, and that we’re not just mindlessly pressing buttons. We are gathering all the symbols we require, unlocking bonus features, and stockpiling resources to hit the progressive jackpot, all to distract our attention from what we do, which is clicking one button over and over again. Dopamine floods us within, and we keep playing even if we know that the actual chances to win at slots are negligent.

The main thing about slot machines is that they’re cool to play as long as you don’t care about how much you win or lose. With such an attitude, you can enjoy playing them for a long time without any drama, and continue getting your brain high with excitement as much as you want. Responsible gaming is the key to everything, because as soon as gambling stops being fun, it starts being a problem, and we all should remember that. You can play both free slots and slots for real money, as long as you remember that gambling is all about excitement — and everything else plays a secondary role.

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