Saturday, October 12, 2013

Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling, Coming To Boston Soon, Book Review

Posted September 26, 2013 2:46 AM ET; Last updated October 12, 2013 7:25 PM ET

Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas
Natasha Dow Schull
Princetion University Press 2012

Natasha Dow Schüll is a cultural anthropologist and associate professor at MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society. Her new book, ADDICTION BY DESIGN: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton University Press 2012), draws on extended research among compulsive gamblers and the designers of the slot machines they play to explore the relationship between technology design and the experience of addiction. Her current, ongoing research concerns the rise of digital self-tracking technologies and the new modes of introspection and self-governance they engender. Her documentary film, BUFFET: All You Can Eat Las Vegas, has screened multiple times on PBS and appeared in numerous film festivals.
This is a very well researched book on video gambling. Schull spent ten years attending corporate gaming conferences, and interviewing addicted gamblers. She found the compelling factor is not winning, but "getting into the zone." She tells of gamblers who ignore others who get ill and they just keep gambling. The machines are able to gather information about every time the player touches the machine. When they get near their losing limit the house sends out "ambassadors of luck," who have hand held computers, with vouchers for free dinners to keep the players at the machines.

The casinos can estimate how much a person will lose in a lifetime. Some stories show that the players are highly intelligent and intentionally play to lose as a way of helping bring on death. Their inability to cope with human interaction is a reason why the video machines are attractive. The machines eliminate uncertainty. The players know they will win or they will lose. No uncertainty. The only decisions they have to make are which cards to keep and which ones to throw. The objective is to keep playing as long as possible. Winning is an interruption. Some innovations came to the US from Australia. What struck me as problematic is that the way that the gambling industry gathers information about their players, is a pattern used by the military, and by corporations to try to control a person's actions and spending behavior.

That is the addiction which casinos bring to an area. Boston, Massachusetts voters will decide where they want their casino to be. It is an issue in the Boston Mayor's race to be decided on November 5, 2013.

October 11, 2013, 1:56 p.m. ET
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Las Vegas casinos increasingly pay attention to their customers - their likes, dislikes, moods and patterns - in order to create an engaging experience. As Natasha Schull explains, the stated goal of these new designs is "customer extinction" - the moment at which the customer is out of money. This talk, essential viewing for anyone interested in the design or user experience of electronic gambling machines.

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