John Grochowski, Gaming Guru

Slot machines are constantly changing and evolving. The three-reel games of yore are still with us, but the kings of the slot floor are video games with their array of animation, special effects, 3D sound, second-screen bonuses, free-spin events, mystery pays and multi-tiered jackpots.

Part of the slot evolution and revolution has been the rise of community-style slots. They have a small niche, catering to slot players who want a social experience rather than just one-on-one with the games. Nearly every manufacturer has community games in its mix, and the mix evolves along with the rest of slot technology. Let's look at a few community games in the current generation:

Deal or No Deal Join 'N Play has been Spielo International's most successful game to date. There have been some tweaks in Join 'N Play 2. Part of it has been ramping up individual awards with four bonus events in the base game, on the individual player screens.

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The community suitcase bonus, in which all qualified players get to choose a video suitcase holding credits and accept or reject deal offers from the Banker character, occurs on a timed basis. Players collect suitcase symbols during regular and individual bonus play to qualify.

The Game of Life from WMS Gaming is based on the classic board game. And WMS knows something about transferring board classics to the slots, having had a long run of success with Monopoly.

There are four community bonus features. One of them is Speed Spins, a quick spin bonus where everyone moves together along the board, but there's also an individual pursuit element. You pick your career - do you want to be a doctor, an athlete, a lawyer? Then in the big event, if the lawyer gets called, the ones who picked lawyer get an enhanced payoff.

Hot Roll Community is part of International Game Technology's new Connected series. Those familiar with the original Hot Roll will know about the dice-rolling bonus, where you touch dice on the bottom screen, drag and let fly.

In the Community version, three players go to the dice-rolling bonus together, and the bonus credits keep mounting until all three seven out. For non-craps players, that means rolling a loser 7 to end play and pass the dice to the next player. In Hot Roll Community, each player is eliminated from the bonus rolls when he rolls a 7. But when two are eliminated, they still can keep rooting for the third to keep their bonuses growing.

Crazy Taxi Fare 4 All is the first community game from Aristocrat Technologies, which also is bringing out the pirate-themed Caribbean Treasure with three community features. Crazy Taxi is based on the popular Sega console game, and the Fare 4 All version has four mini-bonus features and three community events where players work together to collect jackpot points. One event is the Crazy Pick Community Feature, where players take turns picking passengers. Each passenger selected reveals either bonus credits for all or the word "TAXI." The number of TAXIs accumulated determines the jackpot level awarded to the group.

Rich Life, which follows Paradise Fishing and Amazon Fishing in Aruze Gaming's lineup of community games, places two players in a head-to-head competition called the Versus Event. There's a turning point where the player elects to take a steady road for less volatile game options, or a bumpy road for higher volatility. If the player makes it all the way to the goal in the individual game, he's awarded a chance to win credit awards through the spin of a wheel.

Gambling author and columnist John Grochowski's weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.

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