Anaxi’s studio head on slot design and the ‘art of the math’

Slot machine innards
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Anaxi Head of Studio and Content Kim Rogers

Some would say that math and creativity are not two things that naturally go hand-in-hand. Anaxi’s Head of Studio & Content Kim Rogers wasn’t so sure on the connection herself, but after a career in slot games development, she certainly has harnessed how the two relate and uses her knowledge to guide her team to build and develop engaging slot content.

There is a joke in gaming that no one really grows up aspiring to be in gaming, but Rogers thought back on your youth and said she should have seen the career path coming.

“I think when I reflect back on my life, there’s probably foreshadowing that I was meant to be here. What I mean by that, and I have the picture up at my desk in the office here in town, was my grandmother had a slot machine in her dining room when I grew up. In fact, that slot machine is in my garage today,” she said.

While she had childhood memories of pulling a one-armed bandit, it was actually a chance encounter that got Rogers thinking about other ways her degree in math could be put to use.

“I was working at a bank as a teller. Somebody came in with an IGT check. We got to talking and came to realize like, actually, there’s probably a math degree utilization here at the business that I hadn’t really thought of.”

When she was just starting out, math appealed to Rogers because it was cut and dry.

“For me, math was comfortable. It was black and white, right? Math is always it’s either correct or it’s not. But I think the beauty is, and I say this phrase all the time to my team, it’s an art of how you get there, or the art of the math. There’s an infinite number of ways to solve the problem.”

The art of the math is what led Rogers to the studio.

“It was once I was exposed to the infinite ways to solve the problem that I actually turned my attention to game design, because I didn’t want to necessarily verify the accuracy, I wanted to make the rules that provide joy to the players. And so it really was that art of math that that led me that way because it is so subjective, the solution, but we all arrive at the same accurate answer. And, to me, that problem is never solved. It’s just always innovated and evolved.”

Some might think that math is a solitary procedure either, but Rogers said her day involves talking with tons of groups working towards a common goal. She spends her day speaking with teams around the globe in India, London and at the home office in Las Vegas. This collaboration is what Rogers thinks is core to Anaxi and Aristocrat’s success.

“I think the best part about being part of the studio about part of a studio and I actually think the competitive advantage specifically here at Aristocrat and all of our studios, is each studio head does look at things slightly differently. And the best way to succeed is to surround yourself for with people that excel in places where you are less strong.”

One task for Rogers is being able to take the success of Aristocrat games at brick-and-mortar casinos and creating a version for the online consumer that can replicate the experience players get in real life.

“In the land-based space, we have these amazing machines. Some of them are even two screens and the footprint that they take up and the real estate have to now be considered on a mobile device or our web browser. So how do we create a experience for the player that is familiar, that is authentic to the original game but that is targeted for the mobile or desktop experience? And so when we’re considering that, we’re looking at what the features are,” Rogers explained. “How does that feature work with a player appetite in the online space? What does the cost to cover look like? What is the player behavior, desire online versus land? And what does that mean for our game?”

Rogers talked about Buffalo as a great example of how this approach is put into practice. As one of the company’s most popular titles, Rogers thinks the appeal of the game, both in retail and online, is rooted in “the design of hope.”

“If you take Buffalo, you know the the goal of that game is to get five of a kind buffalo. Everybody loves to hear the chant Buffalo. Once you get into the free games, now it’s kind of been notched up a bit. Not only is it five of a kind buffalo but can you get five of a kind buffalo with one or more wilds on there. Now that there are wilds on there, there’s multipliers. Can those multipliers now be a 3x? And so, I think for our player, it’s a very tangible, focused game to understand what they are rooting for as they play and are entertained.”

As Rogers has said, the path to replicating that experience online can take a lot of different routes. But the beauty and the art of math means that with collaboration and creativity, Rogers and her Anaxi team can reach a solution.