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Even though the term “superhero” arose in the early 1900s, humanity's fascination with mythical and real heroic tales dates back centuries. Ancient cave paintings and scrolls depict stories of men slaying magnificent beasts to defend or feed their villages. Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse mythologies tell the stories of gods and demigods who possess superpowers and battle otherworldly foes to save humanity. One might say superheroes are the modern equivalent of the heroes in these age-old tales. Marvel created Superhero Day in 1995, and each year on 28 April, we celebrate modern-day superheroes from comic books and movies. Many choose to honour real-life superheroes and tell their stories of extraordinary bravery and selflessness. Let’s look at how superheroes came about, where the antiheroes fit in and discover superhero-themed slots. The Original Superhero Legendary comic book creator Stan Lee described a superhero as a character with extraordinary powers that performs heroic acts. Unlike police, firefighters, and other ordinary heroes, superheroes have unique capabilities such as flying and super strength or speed. The first character that fits this description in modern times is Mandrake, the magician. Lee Falk's 1924 creation became the first to wear a superhero outfit as The Phantom Magician. Modern-day DC and Marvel groupies may not recognise the magician as the original, but his influence is evident. Clad in tights, a cape, and a mask, his character inspired the look of pretty much all that followed. He directly influenced the likes of Batman, Superman, and The Phantom, whom many believe to be the first superhero. Technicalities aside, the originals in the superhero realm trigger images of Superman, Batman, and Captain America. We could ascribe this to their link with the two most prominent and oldest comic book creators, DC and Marvel. These characters truly stood the test of time. Spanning as far back as the late 1930s, story writers constantly reimagine these characters to suit the generation they find themselves in. Their popularity spans multiple generations and, in recent years, increased so much that grandfathers and grandsons equally relish the release of the next Marvel or DC box office hit. ✓ Superman Superman first appeared in June 1938, spurring the start of the superhero revolution with new comic book publishers popping up everywhere. The man of steel’s origin is probably the best known of all, but it is interesting to note that he could not always fly. His original powers included invulnerability, incredible strength, super speed and the ability to leap great distances. Superman's power only grew due to his competition, primarily Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel could fly, and his popularity soon rivalled Superman, outselling him in the 1940s. Subsequently, Superman's creators swapped his great leaps for the ability to fly. World War 2 saw Superman become the beacon of patriotism for the DC universe, taking on Axis forces frequently. Post World War 2 saw a steep decline in sales of superhero titles, yet Superman continued to enjoy success in other media such as radio, television and big-screen movies. Since then, the character has endured highs and lows to become one of the most recognisable superheroes in pop culture, with the latest box office hits grossing $600 million and $800 million globally. ✓ Batman Batman debuted in May 1939 in Detective Comics no. 27 and was an immediate sensation. Unlike Superman, Batman has no superpowers. Instead, after losing his parents and declaring war against crime, a young Bruce Wayne spends years training his body and mind to perfection. He uses his inheritance to develop technology that aids him in fighting crime. Initially, Batman was hardcore, throwing thugs off rooftops and executing a vampire with a silver bullet, sparking the debate about him being the original modern antihero. However, they eliminated this for fear that its young audience would emulate the sinister elements. Creators steered Batman away from fierce battles and firearms, and the character was later softened, even more, when his sidekick Robin arrived on the scene. Although many comics did not survive Frederic Wertham’s 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, Batman rose from the ashes. His revival in 1964 enjoyed the success that continues today with many movies, animated series, and graphic novels, and the dark knight is still a beacon of hope in pop culture today. ✓ Captain America Modern followers recognise him as the leader of The Avengers, but Captain America arrived on the superhero map in March 1941 in a stand-alone title called Captain America Comics. The plot was pretty simple, kicking Nazi butt, and he became increasingly popular after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Captain America was the hero young Americans needed in a time of great uncertainty. After the war, they put Captain America on ice in an issue where he and his sidekick, Bucky, attempted to diffuse a bomb on a plane that exploded over the ocean, sending Cap's body into the icy waters below. Producers later used this scene when rebooting the character. Even though it didn't enjoy the same success as powerhouse titles such as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, it remained a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe throughout the sixties. Fast forward to 2011, and Cap appears on the big screen for the first time in almost 70 years. Captain America: The First Avenger propelled the character to icon status, enjoying even more success than Batman and Superman. The Rise of the Antihero The antihero is a central character of a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities. These heroes typically have good intentions, but their method of arriving at the desired result is often questionable. In other words, the antihero is more relatable and thus more likeable. They are more human, even though they possess superhuman abilities. Perhaps they address our shadow self, as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would say, transcending the boundaries of good and evil in pursuit of the greater self. The antihero’s fight is often not only against the forces of evil but also the forces inside himself, whether it be guilt, anger, or rage. We can use Harry Potter as an example here. The only way he could combat Voldemort was to release the "monster" inside himself. While fighting for the greater good, Batman often operates outside the law and uses the death of his parents to fuel his pursuits. Deadpool, Wolverine, and even James Bond kill to realise their goal and assign the methods and outcomes as collateral. Although it may be morally wrong, perhaps they could not achieve the goal otherwise. Spin with Your Favourite Heroes Slot developers have titles inspired by all, from the most classic and loved heroes to the antihero leagues that force us to reflect on our shadow selves. Comic book fans and followers of traditional Marvel and DC heroes have a list of titles available from Playtech, thanks to their partnership with Warner Brothers. That being said, some studios tap into their imaginations and introduce heroes of their own making, giving slot players a vast collection of exciting hero-themed games. ✓ Superman II by Playtech One of Playtech’s newer additions to their selection of DC comic titles is Superman II, which is based on the 1980s film with the same title. An absolute must for followers of the franchise as imagery includes Christopher Reeve as the man of steel and all the original characters that joined him in the famous films. Set in the Metropolis skyline, this nostalgic slot comes with the iconic soundtrack and sound effects to thrill players, as a silver screen production does. The 5x3 slot grid presents 25 paylines and multiple extras to match the phenomenal superhuman powers the hero from Krypton owns. Every spin is a battle for Metropolis, and the nefarious General Zod will stop at nothing. Superman randomly turns up to 4 symbols into Wilds or reveals more Wilds with his X-Ray vision. During the Unlimited Phantom Zone Free Games, a 2x2 Walking Wild and win multipliers add excitement. More features await in the Skyline Fight bonus, and Superman II is part of Playtech's DC Super Hero Jackpot range of slots. ✓ Wonder Woman Gold by Bally Technologies If you enjoy retro design work and 70s fashion, Bally Technology's Wonder Woman Gold is the perfect online slot game. Based on the iconic 70s TV series, the superhero-themed slot presents original characters from the cast and a jackpot feature. The developers of this superhero slot remained faithful to the series that inspired the game, and punters play the 5x4 reels while the original soundtrack plays in the background. With 40 paylines, 5 Bonus Features, and 3 Jackpots, Wonder Woman Gold isn't just a blast from the past; it is a must for any superhero fan’s slot list. Pop art symbols may include mystery symbols to reveal any standard paying symbol for bigger wins. Mystery Stacked Reels and an expanding Wild symbol create a thrilling base game experience while jackpots could trigger at any given moment. Three gold shield Scatters with Diana on them trigger Free Spins, where punters choose between options for a customised experience with Wonder Woman. ✓ Robin: Sherwood Marauders by Peter & Sons In a YG Masters collaboration with Peter & Sons, we find an antihero loved by the poor and loathed by the rich. Robin: Sherwood Marauders is a video slot inspired by the famous archer and thief, Robin Hood. The rebellious hero sets out to steal treasures from the wealthy, and he is in good company with a band of merry men. The graphic design work is in faithful Peter & Sons' style, with quirky cardboard-like cartoon images containing beady eyes. Six reels spin in the wood-framed grid, and cascading wins increase the win multiplier in this volatile game. With 4,096 ways to find winning combinations and soothing instrumental music fit for Robin’s era, this title provides superb entertainment. Pillage the reels in Free Spins with 3 Scatter chests in view and enjoy the thrilling combination of cascading symbols, increasing multipliers, and expanding Wilds. Fill the Super Free Spin bar by collecting 670 chests and start the bonus game with a 5x multiplier. ✓ Star Guardians by Evoplay This revolutionising game introduces a band of heroes geared to change the slot world as they fight in an intergalactic battle to save humanity. Star Guardians is Evoplay’s biggest budget game, allowing punters to become sharpshooters in this third-person shooter slot and trade the reels for a trigger and bullets. Meet Butcher, Skyler, and Kelliot, who comprise the special forces team and accompany your hero of choice on the mission of a lifetime. Each hero has unique skills to enhance gameplay, and instead of clicking spin, punters pull the trigger. Confident shooters can change from automatic to manual mode for a more immersive experience. The heroes blast their way through rooms filled with insect-like aliens, while the movie-like score adds to the adventure. Collect wins from kills and loot boxes that appear at certain room exits with Butch, Skyler, and Kelliot contributing multipliers, loot box keys, or guaranteed loot. A random event can trigger the bonus feature where players battle it out with the swarm queen, and big prizes await those who take all her heads.
Our gambler grandmas find it easy to spot how far technology has brought the reel-spinning games, but sometimes it’s not that apparent to modern gamblers. Imagine the journey from single pay-line slot machines to the astonishing 117,000-odd MEGAWAYS in their online counterparts. These changes have decades of work in between, but since the world wide web launched and online casinos appeared, developers (and their imaginations) shifted a gear, or two. Truth be told, innovation moves much faster in this generation than ever before as the improvements from the past five years prove. The popularity of online gambling increased to unprecedented heights since 2020 and quite a few countries joined the regulated market. Higher demand and licensing opportunities opened important doors for developers as casino platforms seek content that engages players and boosts loyalty. Today, we discuss exciting shifts in the online slot space, focusing specifically on what developers do to create thrilling and fresh experiences for gambling enthusiasts. How do they create immersive gaming with players signing in from remote locations? What innovations can we enjoy at this stage? Where may we find our slot-spinning selves in the future of online casinos? Engaging the Senses Some punters who frequent online casino platforms have years of experience with brick-and-mortar gambling facilities. Others discovered their affinity with slot games by clicking spin online. While it is easy to create a sensory experience for patrons at a physical venue, implementing this quality becomes tricky in online gaming. This element has punters returning to land-based casinos and platform providers scratching their heads on how to enable player loyalty. Because it is impossible to engage all the senses with an online experience, igaming developers must employ innovative design principles to focus on the ones they can. The obvious focal points are visual and audio effects. Much like enticing theatre productions or Hollywood blockbusters, an online slot with well-considered sound effects and music leaves the player with an unforgettable experience. Intuitive developers hit the nail on the head by attracting punters with glorious graphic work and inspiring them with a soundtrack worthy of a volume boost. Others, not so much. Inevitably, there will always be those who enjoy sound effects and those who choose to mute audio, much like some choose to spin on slots and others prefer table games. Each to their own. Modern software providers who grasp the importance of atmospheric and suitable audio effects have dedicated audio teams allowing them to present awe-inspiring slots. These sound experts navigate the intricate details like file sizes and device adaptability while ensuring the most immersive audio experience possible. Punters on the receiving end of these creations can utilise various tools, such as Dolby headsets or surround sound systems on their PCs. With Silicon Valley having a clear intent to launch the Metaverse, we can only wait and watch in amazement at what game developers come up with to improve audio experiences. Innovation Beyond Reels Long gone are the days where punters can only choose between 5 or 10 paylines filled with fruity icons when they feel like a flutter. Games of chance in the golden age of online gambling morphed into a whole new sphere of entertainment with storylines, cinematic artwork, and genres fit for any kind of personality. If we predict what the next couple of years may bring to our screens in gambling entertainment, based on the innovations from the last half-decade, the prospects are extremely exciting. Six years ago, we could never have imagined innovations like Big Time Gaming’s Megaways mechanics. This created a wave of innovation in the slot market with other leading developers introducing impressive features to boost gameplay. Slicing and Shooting In the last year alone, online slot developers broke the mould a few times. In no specific order, Evoplay and Raw iGaming come to mind. The former introduced us to their first-person shooter game, Star Guardians, where punters trade the reels for some action-packed inter-galactic warfare. The latter took the reels to the chopping block and sliced them up, subsequently introducing their SuperSlice slots late last year. Evoplay’s Star Guardians game is a great success, and the approach is unrivalled. The only downside to the game is that it speaks to a very particular segment of gamblers. That being said, this game has the potential to inspire developers as BTG did back in 2016. SuperSlice from Raw iGaming has the potential to become a fan favourite as the innovation doesn’t move too far off from slot game norms. Both types of innovation have their place in the industry and are equally important. Crash Gambles There is another trend making a mark in the slot scene. A whole new genre. Crash gambling games incorporate straightforward mechanics, but developers use unique approaches to attract players to their crash games and slowly chip away at market share because of its commercial success. Improved RTP rates are another reason these games are popular. Some offer a house edge as low as 1%. Suitable for punters who enjoy quick plays, Crash games offer players a sense of more control. The original game appeared in the crypto gambling industry first and slot developers like BGaming jumped on the bandwagon to create one for traditional online casinos. The rules are very simple. Place your bet and risk sticking around for as long as possible while the win multiplier increases like stocks on a good day. Cash-out before it crashes and you walk away as a winner. With the cash-out or crash-and-burn thrill lingering with every increase of the multiplier, the vertical attracts younger audiences and punters that prefer an interactive gambling experience. Crash-style games also offer a higher level of socialising, bringing the human factor closer to remote wagers. Players compete against others in the community, introducing a fresh opportunity for traditionally solo gamblers. What the Future of Slots May Look Like The topic on everyone’s lips in the tech world is blockchain. This is the technology that powers decentralised currency like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Blockchain technology is revolutionary, to say the least, and the online gambling industry, especially games like slots, can benefit from it. Some software providers have cottoned on to the advantages, allowing punters to reap the benefits of features like provably fair mechanics and crypto gambling. Others remain sceptical or uneducated, but experts believe blockchain adoption is inevitable in the technology-driven gambling industry. ✓ Non-Fungible Token Gambling From the technology that makes cryptocurrency so attractive and unique came NFTs (Non-fungible Tokens), digital collector’s items that are all the rage. These blockchain-based items are as unique as a piece of art from Picasso and, depending on who the creator or owner is, it could be as valuable as one. The authenticity of these digital assets makes them extremely sought after and collectors pay astonishing sums to own one. With crypto gambling enjoying an increasing share of online wagers, the market shows potential for these types of additions to attract more players. Elia Software is so confident of this that they created the NFT gambling concept, Slotie. Capitalising on the niche of NFTs, Sloties introduced Ethereum investors to Defi (decentralised finance) gambling paired with NFT ownership. In time, the success of concepts like Slotie will inspire further innovations with blockchain. We are inclined to bet on the NFT reward increasing in demand. ✓ Spinning in Virtual Reality The adoption of virtual reality in gaming has slowly increased, but the market is still lopsided in this regard. A contributing factor is a high cost of acquiring the right equipment for VR experiences and regarding VR gambling, a lack of suitable content fails to motivate players in this direction. Recent shifts in the tech world show that an expansive virtual world is closer than ever before, as Mark Zuckerberg and others set out to create the metaverse. This may be a long way off, but the prospect of walking into a virtual world and travelling impossible distances in seconds sounds pretty amazing. Imagine gambling in an Aussie casino with kangaroos serving you cocktails. Then, with the click of a button, you change venues (and outfits) to Vegas and step out of your limousine into the streets of Sin City. All from the warm comfort of your recliner in your London home. VR presents online players with the chance to get out while staying in and experience gambling like never before. Anticipate in Wonder Although some of the ideas seem far-fetched and others may take time to materialise, we can only imagine what the reality of online slots could become. Taking stock of all the impressive changes from the last couple of years makes it seem like exciting innovations await us, sooner than we can predict.