Art of education: the ideology of slot machines

    On November 30, RUVDS together with the Museum of Soviet Gaming Machines will hold the first Game Overnight old-school video game tournament in Russia. The preliminary tournament continues on the game site , it remains 4 days before the final. In the meantime, we decided to talk about the features of the Soviet gaming machines from the point of view of the Soviet ideology.

    A still from the film “The Amazing Adventures of Denis Korablev”, 1979. In the foyer of the cinema are the good old slot machines: from the most popular in the spaces of the former USSR "Sea Battle" to the rare "On the Moon".

    The question of the influence of games on the moral character of the younger generation worried not only modern researchers, but also Soviet ones. Until the 1970s, there was painfully little entertainment in our country, and all of them were not something new, but the first door in this direction — slot machines — changed the situation.

    After the “Attraction-71” exhibition, which featured foreign models from Sega and various other manufacturing companies, the Ministry of Culture decides to produce its own line of gaming machines. And after a while it became clear: not everyone likes a new trend from the west.

    A calendar with the image of the Telesport machine gun, 1980.

    No, they wanted to play - and they played - many, the exhibition was a huge success, the pioneers and adults were delighted with the game situations and the opportunity to forget about life for a couple of minutes. Even the design of the automatons — colorful, bright — was defiant, cheerful — in the midst of the common dullness it was a breath of fresh air. But not everything is so simple.

    At first, automata were not accepted by part of the population. Firstly, it was believed that from the west there was an "infection", games "taught the bad." Secondly, unknowingly, slot machines were confused with “one-armed gangsters” and were considered to be gambling, corrupt. Thirdly, in order to play, it was necessary to spend money - and there was a rejection of such “capitalism”. But the process has already been launched - and there was no wish to refuse the profits that the automata brought to the state.

    This was a manifestation of the erosion of the Soviet system: people wanted to have fun, but at the same time the face of the country with a communist ideology collapsed. This erosion began after the thaw, when the press was gradually removed from the everyday life of Soviet citizens. The power tolerated the western origin of certain phenomena, such as entertainment - slot machines and attractions of large forms. And some segments of the population opposed, for example, school teachers, who noted the “ideologically incorrect” origin of slot machines and their often aggressive story (there were proposals to produce “useful” machines, for example, to teach children to swaddle). about the availability of money in adolescents to play machines.

    A resolution of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR appears, which directed the automata to promote the ideological, aesthetic and labor education of young people.

    Photo from the site “Magnum”

    To distribute slot machines, it was necessary to influence the attitude towards the new industry, to explain it. In the case of Soyuzatraktsion, an association that was responsible for the production and distribution of gaming machines throughout the Union, printed publications, posters and advertisements appeared telling about gaming machines.

    Scan of the booklet "Soyuzpromkultury" dedicated to gaming machines, 1987.

    Advertising calendars "Soyuzatraktsion"

    But this is - little things. In its structure, Soyuzatraktsion had a real, and almost unique, Central Research Laboratory of Amusement Rides for the design and implementation of new attraction technology (CNILAT), which was engaged in sociological research, including the adaptation of Western gaming machines for Soviet realities , research and organizational and methodological work on the educational impact of slot machines on young people. There was also a design office that was engaged in modeling new game situations (and there are not so many of them: pursuit and avoidance).

    Scan of the booklet "Soyuzpromkultury" dedicated to gaming machines, 1987.

    Employees of the museum of Soviet slot machines met with employees of Soyuzatraktsion, Alexei Georgievich Levinson and Yury Zinovievich Bochever, in 2015, and found out some interesting facts about the ideology of slot machines at that time.

    Alexey Georgievich Levinson (right) and Yury Z. Bochever (left) at the Museum of Soviet Gaming Machines, 2015

    Alexey Georgievich was the head of the sociological research department from 1977 to 1982 at TsNILAT. In 1981, he wrote several articles, in particular: "Some issues of the educational effect of slot machines on children and adolescents" in the journal "Express Information", published by the specialized information center on culture and art, the material and technical base of the culture "Giproteatr."

    Here is how he defined the ideology of the sphere of entertainment and automatons of the time in the article:

    The overall social effect of attractions is defined as a kind of recreation effect. Under the recreation of Soviet scientists is understood the action to restore the ability to work, more broadly - the reproduction of labor. This concept includes not only physiological rest, nervous relaxation, but also the transfer of certain skills, knowledge, and ideas necessary for an active member of society.

    What does this mean for the gaming industry? Automatic machines began to be promoted as a way not only to have fun, but also to develop - that is, they had to have a certain educational, teaching function, to put it simply - to become useful to society.

    The turnover of the Soviet poster, 1984.

    The games were designed to develop athletic qualities, accuracy, agility, quick response, and an eye. Some machines trained memory, some taught the rules of the road. In addition, in the USSR there was a number of automata that had no analogues in the west - invented by our engineers at the design bureau at TsNILAT.

    Scan of the booklet "Soyuzpromkultury" dedicated to gaming machines, 1987.

    The “Repka” Silomer, in contrast to the “sledgehammers” and “punching bags” common abroad, measured the force in kilograms by pulling a kind of “turnip” from the body of the machine. Many say that he is deprived of primitive aggression - on the contrary, he uses the plot of a good children's fairy tale.

    Such automata as “Gorodki”, “Little Humpbacked Horse”, “Skorokhod” appeal to Russian folk games and folklore.

    The design of some automata teaches us to understand the sensors on the devices (the panels of racing machines “Motor Racing”, “Overtaking”, the image of the depth and pressure sensors on the “Icebreaker”, “Torpedo Attack.” In addition to this, the “Navy” alphabet "Flags-characters, which are transmitted by certain commands between ships). Children could acquire initial skills in understanding the symbols on military maps using the “Sea Battle” machine gun, and a special version of this machine, the ET10-M (“electronic simulator”), was supplied to submarines for the entertainment of submariners — it was believed that this machine developed his eye, and his periscope on the device - almost an exact copy of this periscope.

    Photo of the exterior design of the Sea Battle machine, Museum of Soviet gaming machines, 2018

    In the CNILAT study “Socio-aesthetic problems of small forms of amusement rides” (slot machines), special attention is paid to the fact that the person and the gaming machine are equally the creators of the game. The creation of new situations is the result of the addition of the player’s actions to the automaton - and therefore, develops it.
    In attractions with sports activity, the game is close in its aesthetic qualities to the actual sports games - it is built as a competition, the participants of which have equal rights and equal opportunities.
    The magazine "Express information
    " Issue 5, 1981

    Scan of the magazine "Express information", 1981

    Of course, in many respects it is conditionality. An automaton that demands agility, an eye gauge, and quick reaction from a player, not so much develops these qualities, but measures them. In all machines, the player is invited to demonstrate some of their qualities and compare the possibilities with a certain standard, or with the capabilities of an “opponent”. In this sense, rides are more like sports competitions than sports training. Develop any ability, skill, machine can really, but only in the case of a constant, for a sufficiently long period, playing on it.

    In his work, Levinson remarks:

    A certain educational effect of automata is that they offer children acquaintance with some features of adult occupations and professions. For a child who learns about the world through play, playing chauffeur or pilot is not a form of “vocational training” for a job, but it contributes to general preparedness for taking a professional role. True, in this capacity, the slot machines largely coincide with children's toys, i.e. are not the only means of such a "super early career guidance." But this does not diminish their own value.
    The magazine "Express Information"
    Issue 2, 1981

    Another important ideological difference between our machines and the western ones was due to gambling. In the west, there were “one-armed bandits,” where sometimes people lost all their fortunes. "One-armed bandits" in the United States called machines, equipped with a large handle on the side panel. Playing on these machines is gambling in nature. Winning - money or tokens, balls, exchanged for money - does not depend on the actions of the player and is absolutely random in each game cycle. Since the media had formed a negative image of “one-armed bandits” common in some capitalist countries, this label and the corresponding negative attitude were unreasonably transferred to domestic automata that appeared later by many insufficiently knowledgeable people. But all automata serially produced in the USSR differ from those described in that they make the gain dependent on the player's actions; for his money, the player acquires the right to the game itself, and not to win money lost by others. For the performance of a specific task, the player is given a certain souvenir prize or a free (“bonus”) game is provided.

    In fact, with the slot machines, the Soviet Union was in a unique situation. At that time, it was a new, advanced technique - and Soviet researchers pay attention to the importance of its appearance in the life of adolescents:

    It is worth noting that in home appliances, toys, a child does not have to deal with such devices that are so complex in nature, or with such a variety of ways of manipulation. This speaks of the uniqueness and importance of the role of automata in nurturing the skills of handling modern equipment. This function easily connects to the function of the game, without at all suffering from it: it is not intrusive, since it is not noticeable to the player.
    The magazine "Express Information"
    Issue 2, 1981

    Aleksey Georgievich Levinson plays the “Horse Racing” machine, the Museum of Soviet gaming machines, 2015

    And indeed - this was the first step towards the era of computers and modern technologies - yes, from its gaming side, however, first of all, slot machines represent a unique layer of technical history THE USSR. Their significance was primarily in the acquaintance of a generation with scientific progress:

    Slot machines - samples of technology era of scientific and technological revolution. For the most part, they offer the player actions that, by general principles, are close to the actions of the operator, i.e. actions characteristic of the management processes of complex modern technology. They do not teach the management of any particular installation, but they introduce the elementary principles of operator control actions in the machine-to-person system.
    Magazine "Express information"
    Release 2, 1981

    In the Soviet Union, in principle, very responsibly approached the production of gaming equipment - not only ideologically or aesthetically, but also in terms of safety for the consumer.

    At a meeting with employees of Soyuzatraktsion at the Museum of Soviet Gaming Machines, Yuri Z. Bochever, who worked there as a designer from 1975 to 1980 and headed the advanced research department, shared his memories:

    I was still engaged in checking the reliability of machines. We went to the factories to assess the performance of the machines and their safety (there were a lot of requirements for these items). Machines were assembled at military factories, and there secrecy is terrible.

    We were blindfolded until the factory was brought to the right place with machine guns. There was a nondisclosure subscription - simply due to the fact that it is a military factory.

    The series of reliability tests that we conducted is serious. The machine should be completely safe, but at the same time anti-vandal.

    Scan of the booklet "Soyuzpromkultury" dedicated to gaming machines, 1987.
    Sometimes there were funny incidents: somehow roller coasters were taken in Penza. We were led past an elegantly laid table - to cajole, probably. They said about the slides that "the plumber was doing a talented guy." It was very scary to climb this design. I ask my partner: “Do you have to ride?” And he told me: “Did you see the table? Do you want to leave us without a table? ”

    And we went - and what to do? They came barely alive - the design roared terribly, it was ready to fall apart before our eyes. Sign it did not, of course.
    In general, they took about 92 machines while they were working.

    Yuri Z. Bochever plays in the machine "Duplet", the Museum of Soviet gaming machines, 2015.

    Since 1991, with the collapse of the USSR, the release of slot machines almost instantly stopped. In the new conditions, in the absence of a state monopoly, it turned out to be more profitable to buy automatah abroad. So domestic metal-consuming games were unclaimed, without proper qualified care they began to fall into disrepair and just give up for scrap metal. The era of Soviet slot machines has come to an end, but it has given a lot to those who caught them - this is not only warm childhood memories, but also a transition to modernity, to technology, to scientific and technical development.

    Now similar samples of technical history are presented in the Museum of Soviet Gaming Machines, where you can remember and play them - for example, on November 30 at the Game Overnight tournament .

    Also popular now: