Focus on Yfageo: Using neuroscience to make a more enjoyable gaming experience

March 12, 2024 8:00 AM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
March 12, 2024 8:00 AM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
  • United States

Slot machines first emerged in the 1890s, with Charles Fey’s Liberty Belle often cited as a template for today’s games. Since then, the one-armed bandits have undergone numerous iterations, from coin-fed machines that were wildly popular in Las Vegas strip casinos to today’s brightly illuminated marvels of advanced technology.

Yfageo Technologies founder Justin Georgilas says the competition amongst the industry is fierce. The slot machine cabinet designers are focused on what appearance attracts players to their machines, and the game developers on what game design features keep the players craving, what math models excite them and what rewards hook them on their seats hoping and, in some cases, gambling oblivious to logic and their realistic situation.

Gaming engineers, constantly working to develop new products that by trial and error are deemed successes or failures, have had to base their innovations on vague psychological findings, inadequate laboratory studies, limited understanding of how the brain functions and why the players are reacting to some games and not to others. At the same time, they knew all along that applying psychological principles to game design is crucial to maximize engagement and retention, but it was unclear which ones. The theory of throwing enough mud on the wall and keeping what sticks became most prevalent. Ironically, gambling game development is a gamble!

The casino operators also have to consider how to best accommodate local versus tourist markets and personality categories like: get thrilled through risk taking, play to forget and escape, kill a little time, recreational play, get something for nothing seekers, hard core gamblers, and sometimes pathological gamblers – while also understanding how to apply “Responsible Gaming” and protect the vulnerable.

Within the last decade, the innovations in medical technologies helped laboratories profoundly and accurately understand many previous unknowns of the human brain. Neuroscience understood the infrastructure and the mechanics while chemistry and biology did the rest, to give us today a pretty clear picture of how and why slot machine games affect the human brain.

They explained the role of the Nucleus Accumbens in the reward prediction error and the motivation to play slots, the roles of the Mesostriatal and Nigrostriatal pathways and how it affects the motor controls of a player, the crucial roles of the Insula and the Amygdala into healthy playing, and the importance of maintaining a good level of dopamine baseline in order for a player experience to be enjoyable, exciting, captivating, engaging and pleasing but not compulsive, Georgilas said. All the creative talent in our industry will have the needed tools to innovate and immensely improve future game design.

Yfageo, a Las Vegas-based company, incorporates neuroscience to create its games. Specifically, Yfageo’s designers are aligned on how a human brain interacts and is affected by slot machines. They seem to have created a model that is original and groundbreaking. While the specifics remain mysterious, Yfageo’s games likely include features that resonate with how our brains process rewards, excitement, and risk.

Georgilas, whose gaming industry experience includes many years of experience in information technology, product development, analysis, and management, says Yfageo’s games are by design “different although not obvious because one can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes.”

He explains, “Our initial focus on our first platform is minimizing anxiety and stress and delivering an entertaining, exciting, and pleasurable experience. At the same time, our technology will give some controls to casino operators to adjust the games to their client base. We feel it will benefit the casino, but it will also benefit the player,” Georgilas says.

“Everything is designed around neuroscience whether someone understands it or not,” he says. “The principles are always there. Scientific principles like sensory stimulation, variable rewards, and award anticipation play a key role in game design. It’s like creating a sensory simulation that involves incorporating audio and visual effects in real time.

“So, as you’re playing the game, things are happening. There are beautiful sounds and visual effects and symbols going down the reels. Everything is very pleasant and coordinated. Sound cues play a role, especially to the Frontal Cortex. Flashing lights are known to heighten arousal and excitement,” he notes.

“Using the mechanics of neuroscience, game designers can really enhance the appeal of their games and create a pleasurable player experience,” Georgilas says. In titles such as Superstar Bar, Cauldrons of Fortune, and Flaming Hot 7s, Yfageo’s designers use neuroscience and the reward prediction error mechanism to make the games joyful. Yfageo aims to make gameplay smoother and more pleasant by considering factors like stress and anxiety, and designing games that minimize negative emotions.

Georgilas admits the concept is complicated, but at their core Yfageo games tap into a very basic aspect of human behavior. There are plenty of scientific studies that explain the effects of neuroscience that can be applied to gaming. “You can take bits and pieces of that that are applicable and build a model in your mind of what you’re doing, and then try to do something good,” Georgilas says.

But what exactly sets Yfageo apart? The science for Yfageo’s products, like most gaming technology, is complex. Artificial intelligence, the latest trend in gaming (and society at large) is used. But it’s the neuroscience component that distinguishes Yfageo from other game designers. In summary, Yfageo’s fusion of neuroscience and gaming technology promises a thrilling future for slot enthusiasts worldwide!