There are themes in art one cannot but run across. Unrequited love, the tragedy of loss, the nature of the human condition. And then there is the goddamned lightsaber, whizzing away at you from every screen whenever a new Star Wars film is due.
Let’s be honest — every creative work requires rehashing of old ideas to a certain degree. The broader entertainment industry cannot but recast archetypes, themes, and design solutions, to varying degrees of success.
Video and, believe it or not, slot games are much the same. As gaming technologies advance, game designers are slowly but surely running out of ideas. Seeing how the two industries have gradually begun to overlap (loot boxes, anyone?), we’ve decided to dedicate a lengthy article to their creative influences, or lack thereof.
Dia de los Muertos
The Day of the Dead is a vaguely Christianized Aztec holiday, today celebrated by Mexicans everywhere, remembering and praying for deceased loved ones. What makes it unique is an odd mix of morbidity and festivity, melancholy and joyfulness.
Come the Festival of the Dead (otherwise known as The Feast of Ancestors), people in Calavera makeup come out to the streets, street bands play music, and drinks and food enjoyed by their dearly departed are consumed. If anything, it is a celebration of life as much as remembering the dead.
It is no wonder that the unique aesthetic and atmosphere of the holiday inspires artists everywhere. In 1998, the legendary Tim Schafer directed the equally legendary Grim Fandango game, inspired by (and starting on) the Day of the Dead.
This adventure game takes place in the Land of the Dead, where chain-smoking calaca-like figures roam, living lives as mundane as they did in life, working, drinking, and falling in and out of love. It is in that setting that a film-noir adventure is set, and it’s surprisingly effective, considering the characters you are supposed to develop an attachment to (and you do) are walking skeletons.
Other video games, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Ghost Recon Wildlands had graphic designers similarly inspired by the Dia de los Muertos.
It is no wonder then, that slot games took a liking to the esthetics and sounds of the holiday as well. Online slots like the Mariachi 5 and the aptly named Dia de los Muertos lean heavily on the grim, yet cheerful look and feel of the traditional holiday.
The Wild West
It is our firm belief that if you are not a permanently squinting gunslinger with a temper, you have no right to wear a poncho. There, we said it. Apropos of nothing.
The Wild West has been an inspiration to writers, filmmakers, and other artists for more than a century now. The sense of freedom, the vast sprawling prairies, the ability to shoot anyone not wearing a white hat with impunity, the rampant alcoholism. What’s not to like?
We remember when they shot John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. Oh, to be shot in a far-flung corner of the United States in front of his family. We did manage to take a few of the bastards with him, and avenged him in the game’s epilogue, but still, not a dry eye in the room.
Even before that, we delighted in stealthily sniping, slitting the throats of or simply (and less-stealthily) exploding the villains of Desperados and its sequels, as well as fast-drawing and slow-motion murdering in the Call of Juarez.
Primitive versions of the slot machine first appeared when the Wild West was starting to become tame and had their upswing when the Golden Age of Hollywood made the theme popular. Accordingly, there are quite a few gunslinger-themed slot games.
Online slots such as Trigger Happy (since there is no hyphen, we can only assume that the words are separate and the authors are overjoyed that there is such a thing as a trigger) and Rain Dance clearly have the Old West as their inspiration.
We enjoyed turning the world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a nuclear war with Gandhi in Civilization, watching Stalin chew the scenery while conquering Europe in Red Alert and killing Hitler with a rocket to the face in Wolfenstein. These games play like a pulp alternate history novel, and they’re better for it.
The main character in any given Assassin’s Creed game is contractually obliged to meet several historical figures of the era, and a historically, but creatively, murdering a few is a must by now too. Cleopatra and Caesar, Tesla and Edison, Bonaparte and Robespierre, to name-drop a few.
Trying to list all online slot games with historical figures in their titles would take a decade of writing. After all, slots thrive on brands, and they are, even centuries after their deaths, still exactly that.
Expand the lands of the Tang dynasty with Wu Zetian, destroy the Roman Republic in Caesar’s Empire, and bed a succession of relatives and Romans in Cleopatra’s Gold. And make some big wins while you’re at it, why don’t you? An online casino for players from the USA would be our choice.
The evolution of vampires in popular culture is a sore subject for many. They’ve gone from pants-crappingly terrifying bloodsucking servants of Satan to sparkly and creepily over-emotional boy-toy fantasies. Nevertheless, they still, to steal an overused phrase, capture the imagination of millions.
From Castlevania to the sadly inadequate and tragically misspelled Vampyr, vampires have been featured prominently in the video game industry since the 8-bit era. Worth mentioning is the action RPG Vampire: the Masquerade — Bloodlines a cult-classic game due for a hopefully worthy sequel in 2020.
Nothing beats crawling through the sewers as a hideous member of the Nosferatu clan, or talking to inanimate objects as a Malkavian, a vampire breed with insanity passed from sire to progeny (“No, you stop. No, YOU stop! You’ve made a powerful enemy, sign.”).
No popular culture fad escapes the online casino industry, so vampires are quite prominent in it. Eternal Love, for example, features the latter of the two categories of vampires we discussed earlier, along with a recent trend of two pretty-boy vamps fighting over a perpetually confused-looking human girl, but also a surprisingly rockin’ goth soundtrack.
Another one is Count Spectacular, featuring a beautifully animated cartoonish version of Bela Lugosi’s interpretation of Dracula, a character belonging firmly to the former category. What, like you don’t find short Hungarians with slicked-back hair glaring at you frighteningly?
We used to have a colleague in the office whose farts made the same tortured noise as Errol Flynn sliding down a sail of a pirate ship using his blade. Again, apropos of nothing.
Besides teaching us that Gandhi is a genocidal, WMD-totting lunatic, Sid Meier also endeavored to instruct us in pirate-oriented logistics in his groundbreaking game Pirates! (The exclamation point is his, not ours.) From getting a letter of marque to deciding when to marry and divide the booty, this game taught us that there was more to pirating than swashbuckling and improbably seducing the ladies while suffering from scurvy and smelling of feces.
The Monkey Island series took a different approach, being a light-hearted, cartooney, and laugh-out-loud funny game about an average schmuck dying to become a pirate. Many of the lines from that point and click adventure game (“You fight like a dairy farmer!” “How appropriate, you fight like a cow!”) and its wacky logic (feeding cheese to a lactose-intolerant volcano god so that it could erupt with a belching sound) have since passed into legend, never to be equaled.
Not to be outdone, the online casino industry has had its share of pirate-themed slot games. Slots players can have swashbuckling adventures in the beautifully drawn Pirate Island, Goldbeard, and Ghost Ship.
Orcs, Elves and the Like
Ever since Peter Jackson adapted professor Tolkien’s magnum opus to the silver screen, you cannot throw a stick and not hit someone who will not insult your mother in High Elvish.
Ever since the original Warcraft, video game Elves and Orcs have been at each others’ throats. The conflict, like any other, has its share of war criminals. Take Shadow of Mordor’s Celebrimbor, a long-dead Elf who possesses a human, Talion, and goes on to brainwash Orcs into killing each other, all the while parkouring and riding trolls around. Sorry, you’d have to play it to believe it.
Slot games, ever eager to embrace the latest trends, were quick to profit from the sad fate of those embroiled in the ages-long war. Orc vs. Elf manages to encapsulate the tragic nature of war using the eponymous characters, perpetually murdering each other whenever you line up winning combinations or win bonus games. Either this is the most profound online slot we’ve ever played, or we’re reading too much into it due to deadline stress.
There is also Warlock, Star Dust, Goblin’s treasure, and so on, all picking up scraps of Tolkien’s lore from the overstuffed table of Peter Jackson.