BY STEVE ODDENThe word “ergonomics” is thrown around a lot in the gaming industry without people knowing what it really means.
In the early 1900’s, ergonomic concepts were developing to improve worker productivity. Scientific management, focused on work processes, became popular. After World War II, the focus of concern expanded to include worker safety as well as productivity. Currently, ergonomics (or human factors) is the understanding of interactions between people and other elements of a system. Ergonomics is employed to fulfill the two goals of health and productivity. It is relevant in the design of such things as safe furniture and easy-to-use interfaces with machines.
Over the past 40 years, with the increasing use of the computer in the office, ergonomics has helped develop an understanding of seating in order to help the individual sit in a comfortable, non-stressful position while positioning the equipment a person uses in such a way that does not cause stress to the body, joints or neck. Ergonomics is about how we can insure an individual’s activity does not cause stress to parts of the body, which increases the chances of injury and reduces productivity.
Now we come to gaming! What improves play time? What affects play time? This is a topic to which no clear answers exist. Casino managers continually play with floor design, machine mix, game mix, denomination choices, etc. Games are continually changing. Technology is continually changing. Player preferences are continually changing.
What can we take from an understanding of ergonomics and seating that might help with this question? From the study of ergonomics in the office we know that the top of the monitor/game video screen should be slightly above eye level. If there is the need to bend the neck up or down to see the screen, or to see a second screen above, this causes neck strain and discomfort. We know that if a person/player has to lift their arm to use the machine/keyboard/game buttons this also causes strain to the shoulder and discomfort. We know that the more you bend your knee to put your foot on the foot rest, the more you cut off blood flow to the lower leg and that causes discomfort. We know if you stretch your leg to put your foot on a foot rest built into the machine base-and in doing so you compress the leg behind the knee-that this also cuts off blood flow to the leg and causes discomfort. We know that with slots and table games, the player is “playing forward” to get to the machine and table. If the back of the stool is too far back, the individual either doesn’t get support from the back or is forced when sitting back to reach further to get to the table/buttons, which causes discomfort.
From a seating perspective, we can help, in the design of our products, to minimize discomfort that would cause a person to get up and move around. From a machine design standpoint, there is room for standards on button placement-distance of the button panel from the bottom of the machine, location of video displays and distance of the button platform and monitor from the player. Minimizing discomfort will improve the time that a person will sit in front of a game. We will eliminate one reason for getting up.
But will this actually increase slot play? There is need for a scientifically designed and carried out industry-wide study that may provide insights of this question. Right now there appears to be a lot of opinions but not much conclusive evidence.
Steve Odden is vice president of sales and marketing for Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based MLP Seating Corp., a manufacturer of seating products for a variety of consumer markets including banquet and meeting room, casino and gaming, commercial office, restaurant and healthcare. He is a 37 year veteran of the furniture industry, having spent 30 years in commercial furniture and the last seven years in the hospitality and gaming furniture end of the trade. He can be reached at www.mlpseating.com.