Slot maker IGT dominates many casino floors. If you’ve played Megabucks, Sex and the City, The Hangover, or many video poker variants recently, you’ve played on IGT machine. This year, the company made a splash at the Global Gaming Expo (closing today at the Sands Expo Center) with big new releases like CSI, Family Guy, Judge Judy, and Dolly Parton.
As you can see, pop culture tie-ins are a big deal: putting content from a beloved (or simply well-known) performer or show can lead to instant acceptance by fans of that property, boosting play. Of course, it can be a double-edged sword: I doubt anyone’s got preconceived notions one way or the other about Takes the Cake, a game where spinning cupcakes and other sweets dance across the reels, while it’s very likely that some people aren’t going to want to sit down at a game dedicated to a show that they despise.
Sometimes, the adaptation is fairly straightforward, even if the original property has nothing to do with gambling. Other times, there are interesting changes. Take, for example, the Twliight Zone. Rod Serling’s classic sci-fi anthology series was represented at the show by The Twilight Zone in 3D, a game featuring Serling’s likeness and images from many of the more memorable shows: Burgess Meredith’s broken glasses from that one where Burgess Meredith broke his glasses; the scary tall alien from the one where it turned out to be a cookbook; and pictures of the people in that diner from the one where they were trying to figure out who the alien was. But it doesn’t have anything from the Twilight Zone episode that actually dealt with gambling.
That’s not a surprising omission. Rod Serling, apparently, went to Las Vegas once and lost a ton of money playing slots. The 1960 episode “The Fever” was his revenge. In it, rigid, puritanical Franklin Gibbs has been dragged to Las Vegas by his wife, who won a free trip. Franklin is having a ball not having any fun until he starts playing a slot machine, at which point he becomes a textbook compulsive gambler. He refuses to leave the machine, becomes abusive as he loses, and chases his losses. In his introduction, Serling declared this was “an illness worse than any virus can produce. An inoperative, deadly, life-shattering affliction known as: the fever.” For those who weren’t sure just what Serling was talking about, a slot machine hit a winning combination and clattered out some coins as the final words were spoken.
So yeah, we’re not going to be seeing a Twilight Zone: The Fever slot at next year’s conference, but the fact that there’s a Twilight Zone machine at all shows just how malleable pop culture can be. But it might be fitting. After all, seeing the likeness of a bitterly anti-gambling public figure on a slot machine might be the ultimate Rod Serling twist ending.