A Holiday Jackpot: The Lounge is Open

Continuing our tradition of releasing new sets of emulated items around the holidays, the Internet Archive has added a new collection: THE JACKPOT LOUNGE.

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Previous sets of items, including arcade machines, handheld toys, computer software and flash animations, all represent thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of individual items from history, all playable in the browser.

The Jackpot Lounge is much more focused and refers to one specific group of coin-operated games: Gambling Machines.

Not too soon after video games began replacing mechanical coin-operated games on the midway, bars and other locations, games with a gambling theme or straightforward gambling payouts began to arrive. The same arguments for video games taking over (cheaper maintenance, more dependable, easily upgradable) applied to these potential replacements for slot machines.

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“Super Twenty One”, a gambling machine from 1978. the same year as Space Invaders.

While such games would exist in a grey zone for a few years, Poker and Slot/Fruit machines of a video game nature quickly fell under the jurisdiction of gaming authorities in different countries. In some cases, however, it is clear looking through the code of these games that a select few cheated or ended winning runs quickly.

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“Cal Omega”, a 1981-era poker machine.

Still, there was little to compete with the complete automation and dependability of these machines, and over time they took over gambling houses and areas where games of chance were legal. Even the venerable and charming mechanical horse-racing games began to fall compared to a simple horse-racing videogame like Status Fun Casino:

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“Status Fun Casino”, a 1981 game for betting on various casino games, including horse racing.

As more and more pressure came down to ensure the slot and poker machines had dependable random number generation and payouts, the games became more homogenized, only reflecting changes in sound and visuals while letting the rules stay dependably the same.

From those early beginnings, the increase in quality of sound and video with videogames extends to gambling machines – the colors are bright, the sounds intense, and all are intended to catch your eye and bring you over to play “just a few rounds”.

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“Black Rhino”, a 1996 example of the advances in the look of video slot machines, including multi-line bets and amounts of payout.

Reflecting that we are now closing in on a decade of emulation at the Internet Archive, it seems a good time to bring in this class of machines, which have at the start of each game a very complicated start-up process. Reflecting that actual money could be involved with a machine and the tallies of what it was paying out for the day would be very important to a casino, these games have very complicated processes for starting up. By pressing these keys, you are simulating Audit and Jackpot keys being inserted, sign-off buttons are being pressed, and that the metal “cage” door of the machines were closed and locked. Thanks to a set of volunteers, however, these extremely un-intuitive keypresses have been documented for you.

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Slot Machines have become particularly graphically intense over the years, even though the legal restrictions of the games have caused them to stay with a very basic set of rules.

Because of the nature of this genre of machine, many of the 500+ machines will look rather similar: made by the same companies, with only minor modifications to the code to reflect different rules or providing compatibility with gaming commission chips (which would not be manufactured by the game companies, but supplied to them under authority of the commission). Others, however, will seem like strange one-off creations that you can’t imagine attracted anyone to play them – except they did.

One particular fascinating set of machines exists in this collection: Stealth Gambling Machines, meant to look like one kind of video game, but secretly playing another, based on when a secret switch (or secret coin slot) was used. In countries where hosting a gambling machine of any sort held severe penalties. For example, this game acts like Breakout but is actually a poker machine.

It looks like Breakout – but put your money into the secret coin slot and the game will play poker instead.

And finally, let’s just remember that sometimes, the game is out to get you. The game Tetris Payout will wait until you are winning a bit too much, and then intentionally throw the worst pieces at you to ensure your game comes to an end early.

So go ahead, check out the lounge, and walk through decades of electronic coin-operating casinos. You can’t win real money…. but you can’t lose it, either.

A very large thank you to Xarph and others, who played through these hundreds of machines to learn the by-machine instructions for getting them into a standard playing mode. The process was weeks of work and incredibly appreciated.

If coming into contact with gambling machines causes stress or issues for you or your family, contact Gamblers Anonymous.

1 thought on “A Holiday Jackpot: The Lounge is Open

  1. Tod Weitzel

    I’d like to call out one specific machine that isn’t formally in the collection. https://archive.org/details/arcade_cmpacman is, arguably, the worst Pac-Man in existence. Tod Frye can sleep comfortably, knowing that his Atari 2600 port is suddenly in the top 50th percentile of Pac-Mans.
    The Pac-Man front game on this Cherry Master video slot machine has a maze that is repetitive and has so many turns that getting caught is a mark of shame. Not that you have to worry, because the ghosts don’t actually chase you most of the time, instead deciding to mill around in the corners drinking beer and catcalling your odd-looking Ms. Pac Man.

    The only reason this game is not in the main collection is that, should you switch into slot mode (press “K”) and win, you are offered the chance to play for double or nothing. Go on a winning streak, and a crudely drawn pixel lady will undress and “perform.” This is common for most of these underground games, as encouraging you to throw money at riskier and riskier bets was the most important aspect of theming, and it remains so to this day.

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