Evolution of slot symbols and themes: Influence of pop culture

28 November 2023

As the saying goes, ‘you can’t fight city hall,’ and you certainly can’t deny that pop culture is a force that shapes societies, influences trends, and fuels the pulse of our collective identity. Gambling, firmly entrenched as a form of entertainment, stands as a testament to the fact that pop culture’s pervasive influence extends even into the realms of chance and risk.

And we can’t downplay its role as the driving force behind the evolution of casino slots.


It all begins with a historical spin

Gambling has been around since the dawn of civilisation. Picture ancient folks throwing dice, medieval Europeans hitting the tables – it’s a history as old as time. While actual gambling parlours didn’t pop up, people driven by the thrill of luck began gathering together to share this experience with individuals who have the same interests. This shared passion laid the groundwork for the evolution of gambling into a pursuit of monetary stakes as participants sought meaningful incentives to enhance their gaming.

In terms of the rise of casinos in the United States, the frontier concept played a crucial role. When the Gold Rush began in the 19th century, a plethora of people with gold emerged, but they had nowhere to spend it because civilisation had not yet reached those corners of America. Consequently, they often gambled away their nuggets in humble saloons, engaging in card games with other gold prospectors, farmers, and cowboys.

As the Industrial Revolution gave way to a more leisure-oriented society, in the late 19th century, the dawn of the slot machine era unfolded, propelled by the winds of technical innovation. It became the beginning of the earliest slot machine – the 3-reeled Liberty Bell, crafted by Charles Fey. 

With the emergence of vaudeville and the lively entertainment scene, slot machines began to reflect the flamboyant and extravagant style of the era. Ornate detailing, intricate carvings, and vibrant colours adorned these machines, mirroring the exuberance of the entertainment world. 

As the Liberty Bell’s chimes reverberated through the corridors of time, slot machines embedded themselves in the American culture. 

In the mid-20th century, the neon-lit streets of Las Vegas emerged as the veritable gambling mecca. The city underwent a transformative phase, propelled by the burgeoning entertainment industry and the emergence of iconic figures in music, film, and sports. The Rat Pack, featuring luminaries like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, became synonymous with Vegas’ entertainment scene, drawing in crowds seeking both sophisticated entertainment and the allure of celebrity culture. As pop culture continued to shape societal norms, the city adapted, embracing themes from blockbuster movies and pop music in the design of its casinos and attractions. It became a symbol of excess and indulgence, mirroring the cultural zeitgeist.

Fast forward, and here we are with online casinos and betting. The point is, the whole gambling shebang started simple, but now it’s this global, tech-driven industry and, at the same time, a part of modern society.  It’s a story that goes from dice to digital, showing we’ve always been hooked on a bit of risk and reward. 


Symbolism that transcends centuries

With the establishment of gambling, slot symbols emerged as integral elements in shaping the visual language of casinos. Let’s get back to the Liberty Bell with its symbols like horseshoes, stars, and, of course, the namesake liberty bells. 

Reflecting the cultural milieu of its time, these symbols were not arbitrary; rather, they carried profound significance. Horseshoes, long associated with luck and protection from evil spirits, are also a practical tool in everyday life familiar to many who have to do with horses. Stars, emblematic of aspirations and celestial wonders, added a touch of mystique and anticipation to the spinning reels. In the context of the United States, stars could also carry deeper layers of meaning, symbolising the sheriff’s badge or the stars on the American flag. The liberty bells, however, were the pièce de résistance, symbolising the core values of freedom and independence. 

In the contemporary realm of online classic slot machines, the symbols of stars and horseshoes have undergone a transformation, adapting to modern pop culture. Stars, once emblematic of celestial wonder and aspirations, now carry an allure reminiscent of celebrity culture. The horseshoe, steeped in historical superstition, has evolved into a symbol of prosperity and good luck, reflecting a more optimistic and positive outlook in modern culture. 

The concept of the number 7 is a vivid example of the collective unconscious. It is a universal symbol of luck. Its special powers are attributed to the seven days of the week, seven wonders of the ancient world, seven colours in a rainbow, and seven continents. In astrology and numerology, the number 7 is linked to positive traits such as intuition, spirituality, and good fortune. 

We can’t but mention the triple-seven combination that solidified its reputation as a symbol of luck in the early to mid-20th century. Psychologically, the repeated pattern of the same digit triggers a sense of rhythm and predictability that the human brain finds appealing. In the chaotic world of chance, the ordered sequence of three identical numbers provides a comforting illusion of control, fostering a belief in the auspicious nature of the combination.

The inclusion of fruits in slot machines can be traced back to the influence of anti-gambling laws. In the early 20th century, there were various laws and regulations governing gambling, and slot machines were often designed to skirt these laws. Some machines would dispense fruit-flavoured gum or candy as prizes, allowing the machines to avoid some gambling restrictions. 

These symbols were simple and easy to recognise, embodying simplicity and familiarity. Their vibrant colours and intrinsic association with freshness and sweetness evoke positive emotions. They trigger a visual appeal that goes beyond mere chance, playing on the psychology of attraction.

The allure of fruit symbols in slot machines harks back to ancient times when our survival instincts were finely tuned to seek out essential sustenance. In those primal days, our eyes evolved to discern the colours of fruits amidst the greenery and leaves, a crucial skill for locating nourishment. The inherent attraction to these colours became ingrained in our psyche as a symbol of abundance and vitality, a visual cue that transcends time. Thus, when fruits adorn the reels of slot machines, they tap into this ancient connection, triggering a primal sense of pleasure and satisfaction.

When it comes to today’s video slots, classic fruits such as cherries, lemons, oranges, and plums still trigger that nostalgic feeling. But don’t be fooled into thinking the job is done. Nowadays, people’s eyes, accustomed to an overwhelming amount of visual stimuli from social media and the entire online entertainment industry, have become more discerning.

Slot developers now face the challenge of enhancing the visual appeal of these fruits, making them even more enticing and distinctive. Thanks to advancements in technology, creative interpretations have flourished, giving fruits a modern and stylised makeover. Art designers constantly explore innovative ways to maintain the fruits’ recognisability while capturing players’ attention in a sea of options.


The image of a casino slot in modern pop culture

The classic charm of old-school slots has been vividly portrayed in cinematography, fueled by the heightened popularity of casino culture during the Golden Age of Las Vegas. The glitz and glamour of the casino scene were on a cultural high, inspiring filmmakers to capture and celebrate the timeless magnetism of classic slots and the broader gambling experience. 

Let’s mention The Las Vegas Story (1952), directed by Robert Stevenson; Diamonds Are Forever (1971) – a James Bond film directed by Guy Hamilton; Casino (1995), directed by Martin Scorsese, this epic crime film starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone depicts the rise and fall of a casino empire in Las Vegas. In Twin Peaks: The Return, which aired in 2017, one of the main characters finds himself in a series of comedic and surreal situations while interacting with slot machines and casino personnel. 

On the flip side, we witness a reel reversal, where slot machine developers draw inspiration from blockbuster movies and hit series. Consider, for instance, the case of Light & Wonder’s collaboration with Netflix, where they crafted a slot game inspired by the sensational Korean thriller-drama series Squid Game. Another interesting example – Aristocrat Gaming’s slot machine based on Dune – an epic science fiction film. 

It’s as clear as day that developers are tapping into society’s love for the latest and greatest in pop culture and create products to hit the sweet spot for a whole generation.

It’s not always about riding the wave of a movie or series release hype. Sometimes, drawing inspiration alone is enough to craft a casino product that truly resonates with the audience. A case in point is Evoplay’s Bloody Brilliant online slot game, inspired by films penned by Guy Ritchie, including The Gentlemen, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch. Cultural archetypes embedded in the movies have served as our muse, and we’ve transferred them to the game:

  • The Mentor Archetype: Represented by the Boss, this character guides players as an experienced figure, unveiling the intricacies of the underworld.
  • The Antihero Archetype: Through the game’s bandit symbols, players encounter antiheroes – protagonists lacking traditional heroic traits, navigating morally ambiguous scenarios and pursuing personal interests.
  • The Underworld Archetype: A concealed and dark gangster world within the game, complete with its unique rules and hierarchy, epitomised in the game by a hidden bar.
  • The Power Struggle Archetype: The Bloody Brilliant plot introduces a compelling power struggle within the gangster world, as conflicts for dominance and control unfold between the Boss and smaller thieves.

Sequels have become an integral and defining component of modern movie culture, reflecting a desire for continuity and familiarity among audiences. The success of sequels is often tied to the establishment of cinematic universes, where interconnected stories unfold across multiple films, creating a sense of cohesion and anticipation

The influence of the sequel phenomenon in modern movie culture has transcended into iGaming. Video slots developers are adopting a similar approach by replenishing their products with new features and filling them with a sense of continuation. From a holistic business perspective, a logical extension becomes imperative if a product proves to be a success. The process of cultivating a successful idea demands substantial time and effort, and when those investments pay off, it necessitates further development.

A prime example is Evoplay’s games with follow-ups, like Hot Triple Sevens Special (the next chapter of Hot Triple Sevens) and Mega Greatest Catch (the sequel to The Greatest Catch).

The influence of sports is undeniably on the rise as a pop culture phenomenon. While football remains a perennial favourite, the surge of MMA into pop culture has been nothing short of remarkable. MMA, once a niche interest, has now catapulted its stars into a realm where they rival Hollywood celebrities in terms of fame and influence. Notably, the allure of MMA has even reached the tech titans, as both Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk attempted to add their own hype to the scene by announcing a potential face-off in the cage.

With this burgeoning fascination for sports, particularly the escalating interest in MMA, we created The Belt of Champion slot game, planned for release in December 2023. Recognising the substantial number of individuals engaging in MMA betting, we aimed to provide them with a digital arena where they can place a bet when live battles are not accessible. The game encapsulates the thrill of MMA competition, offering an immersive experience for fans and bettors alike.


The evolution of casino slots reflects the deep intertwining of gambling with cultural shifts – from ancient practices to the glitz of Las Vegas and the online gaming landscape. It is an interplay that extends into every nook and cranny of the entertainment industry and gambling as its part.

On one hand, slots have long been a canvas for the expression of popular culture. Conversely, the influence doesn’t stop there. The glamour of casinos has also seeped into the pop culture. The portrayal of gambling in blockbuster movies or the depiction of casino settings has become a source of inspiration for creatives across various mediums.

The relationship between slots and pop culture is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of entertainment. It’s where one side inspires the other, creating a dynamic feedback loop that keeps both worlds fresh and exciting.

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