Saturday, 26 March 2011

Len's Ainsworth Soaring Eagle

Len Ainsworth was the founder of Australian billion dollar company Aristocrat Leisure. Aristocrat is our largest pokie manufacturer. As such, he is the man most responsible for the harm caused by these dangerous machines. Len left Aristrocrat and founded Ainsworth Game Technology. I dropped by their stand at a recent UK trade show and picked up some of their material. Ainsworth spruicks a feature on their new Soaring Eagle Super Game that make me worry.

There has been an ongoing debate about whether pokies are programmed to display a near miss. A 'near miss' is where the symbols nearly line up to reward the gambler. To understand the Victorian situation, here's what the Victorian Gambling Commission published in Spring 2010 about an article that appeared in the Herald Sun;
"The newspaper also claimed that gamblers experience a ‘near miss’ effect when playing gaming machines. This occurs when players believe they have almost won a prize and are encouraged to keep playing. For instance, a reel may show four of the five symbols required to win the major jackpot.
Contrived ‘near misses’ are banned in Australia. Games must display symbols that are the result of a random number generator.
A gaming machine showing a contrived ‘near miss’ will not be approved in Victoria."
P 3.9.57a of the Australian/New Zealand Gaming Machine National Standard Version 10.0 and 10.1 states:
"3.9.57a The display of the result of a game outcome must not be misleading or deceptive to the player (e.g. must not improperly indicate a near-miss)."
One of the ways that a near miss can be contrived is when the symbols leading to a win are stacked on certain of the computerised reels but held back on other reels. The gambler experiences winning symbols on say, reels 2, 3, and 4 but because those sysmbols are held back on, say reel 5, the win never comes. By weighting the reels, the near miss effect will be experienced notwithstanding that reels spin by virtue of a random number generator.

Tim Falkiner has been an evangelist about the circumstance of weighted reels.

Click on the image below and have a look at the third bulleted feature of the Soaring Eagle game.

Here's the spruick:
"Long arrays of stacked wilds across reels 2, 3 and 4 held on reel 5 for exciting play"
I could be wrong but this sounds a lot like Ainsworth deliberately weights reels on the Soaring Eagle in a way that contrives near misses.

And a near miss is certainly "exciting" for the pokie gambler. Professor Kevin Harrigan of Waterloo University has written about how a near miss encourages a gambler to continue gambling:
"The above research shows that near misses are an indirect risk factor that may explain how “cognitions are influenced and distorted” (Griffiths 1995, p. 196), lead to “significantly longer playing times” (Strickland and Grote 1967), “may motivate people to gambling” (Cote et al. 2003, p. 433), “causes a gambler to over-estimate their chances of winning” (Clarke as cited in Lane 2006), and “appears to perpetuate play, and is therefore a structural characteristic that has the potential to greatly influence the ‘addictiveness’ of the machine” (Parke and Griffiths 2004, p. 409)."
You can read more about near misses by following these links:
http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/05/the_near_miss.php
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790935/

It is quite possible that I have mis-read the Ainsworth spruick. It could be that Len intends that the Soaring Eagle game never soars in Australia. I hope so.

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