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Publication numberWO2006002194 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberPCT/US2005/021974
Publication date5 Jan 2006
Filing date21 Jun 2005
Priority date21 Jun 2004
Also published asEP1781387A1, EP1781387A4, US20080039197
Publication numberPCT/2005/21974, PCT/US/2005/021974, PCT/US/2005/21974, PCT/US/5/021974, PCT/US/5/21974, PCT/US2005/021974, PCT/US2005/21974, PCT/US2005021974, PCT/US200521974, PCT/US5/021974, PCT/US5/21974, PCT/US5021974, PCT/US521974, WO 2006/002194 A1, WO 2006002194 A1, WO 2006002194A1, WO-A1-2006002194, WO2006/002194A1, WO2006002194 A1, WO2006002194A1
InventorsJay S. Walker, Stephen C. Tulley, James A. Jorasch, Robert C. Tedesco, Daniel E. Tedesco, David F. Zucker
ApplicantWalker Digital, Llc
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet
Products and processes for employing video to initiate game play at a gaming device
WO 2006002194 A1
Abstract
In an embodiment, a method of operating a gaming device includes the steps of (1) receiving an indication of an occurrence of a game initiation trigger associated with audio/video programming being provided to a player of the gaming device; and (2) in response to the occurrence of the game initiation trigger, initiating game play at the gaming device. The audio/video programming may comprise, for example, a television show, a movie, an animated show, a live event, or the like. Numerous other aspects are provided.
Claims  (OCR text may contain errors)
We claim:
1. A method comprising: receiving a plurality of game initiation triggers that are each associated with a video, in which each game initiation trigger defines a time within the video; playing the video to a player of a gaming device; receiving an indication of an occurrence of at least one of the game initiation triggers during the playing of the video; in response to the occurrence, initiating game play at the gaming device substantially simultaneously with the occurrence of the game initiation trigger; determining an outcome of the game play; determining if the outcome is a winning outcome; and arranging for payment of an outcome amount to the player if the outcome is a winning outcome.
2. An apparatus, comprising: a processor, and a memory storing instructions which, when executed by the processor, direct the processor to perform the method of claim Z.
3. The apparatus of claim 2, further comprising: a display device, and in which the instruction direct the processor to play the video via the display device.
4. The apparatus of claim 3, further comprising: a second display device; and in which the instruction direct the processor to display an indication of game play via the second display device.
5. A method comprising: providing audio/video programming to a player of a gaming device; receiving an indication of an occurrence of a game initiation trigger associated with the audio/video programming; and in response to the occurrence of the game initiation trigger, initiating game play at the gaming device.
6 The method of claim 5, in which the audio/video programming comprises one or more portions of: a television show, a movie, an animated show, and a sporting event.
7. The method of claim 5, in which the game initiation trigger comprises: a characteristic of the audio/video programming that the player can detect.
8. The method of claim 7, in which the game initiation trigger comprises at least one of: a time trigger, an audio trigger, a visual trigger, and a tag.
9. The method of claim 5, further comprising: selecting the audio/video programming from a plurality of audio/video programmings.
10. The method of claim 9, in which selecting the audio/video programming from a plurality of audio/video programmings comprises: receiving a selection of audio/video programming from a player of the gaming device.
11. The method of claim 5, in which the step of receiving an indication of an occurrence of a game initiation trigger associated with the audio/video programming comprises: receiving an indication of an occurrence of a game initiation trigger associated with the audio/video programming while the audio/video programming is being provided to the player.
12. The method of claim 5, in which the step of receiving an indication of an occurrence of a game initiation trigger associated with the audio/video programming comprises: detecting an occurrence of a game initiation trigger substantially simultaneously with the occurrence.
13. The method of claim 5, in which the step of initiating game play at the gaming device in response to the occurrence of the game initiation trigger comprises: initiating game play substantially simultaneously with the occurrence of the game initiation trigger.
14. The method of claim 5, further comprising: determining an outcome of the game play; determining if the outcome is a winning outcome; and arranging for payment of an outcome amount to the player if the outcome is a winning outcome.
15. The method of claim 5, further comprising: receiving a selection of at least one game initiation trigger from a plurality of game initiation triggers.
16. The method of claim 15, in which receiving a selection of at least one game initiation trigger from a plurality of game initiation triggers comprises: receiving, from a player, a selection of at least one game initiation trigger from a plurality of game initiation triggers.
17. The method of claim 5, further comprising: playing the audio/video programming via a first display device.
18. The method of claim 17, further comprising: displaying an indication of game play.
19. The method of claim 18, in which displaying an indication of game play comprises at least one of: displaying a plurality of reels, and displaying a plurality of cards.
20. The method of claim 17, further comprising: displaying an indication of game play via a second display device that is not the first display device.
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

PRODUCTS AND PROCESSES FOR EMPLOYING VIDEO TO INITIATE GAME PLAY AT A GAMING DEVICE

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a gaming device control system. FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a controller. FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a gaming device. FIG. 4 illustrates a sample of the contents of an embodiment of a programming database. FIG. 5 illustrates a sample of the contents of an embodiment of an episode database. FIG. 6 illustrates a sample of the contents of an embodiment of a game initiation trigger database. FIG. 7 illustrates a sample of the contents of an embodiment of a probability database. FIG. 8 illustrates a sample of the contents of an embodiment of a payout database. FIG. 9 illustrates a sample of the contents of an embodiment of a player database. FIGS. 10A-1 OB illustrate a flow chart of an exemplary process of the gaming device control system. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Terms The term "product" means any machine, manufacture and / or composition of matter as contemplated by 35 U.S.C. § 101 , unless expressly specified otherwise. The terms "an embodiment", "embodiment", "embodiments", "the embodiment", "the embodiments", "one or more embodiments", "some embodiments", "one embodiment" and the like mean "one or more (but not all) embodiments of the disclosed invention(s)", unless expressly specified otherwise. A reference to "another embodiment" in describing an embodiment does not imply that the referenced embodiment is mutually exclusive with another embodiment (e.g., an embodiment described before the referenced embodiment), unless expressly specified otherwise. The terms "including", "comprising" and variations thereof mean "including but not limited to", unless expressly specified otherwise. The terms "a", "an" and "the" mean "one or more", unless expressly specified otherwise. The term "plurality" means "two or more", unless expressly specified otherwise. The term "herein" means "in the present application, including anything which may be incorporated by reference", unless expressly specified otherwise. The phrase "at least one of, when such phrase modifies a plurality of things (such as an enumerated list of things) means any combination of one or more of those things, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the phrase at least one of a widget, a car and a wheel means either (i) a widget, (ii) a car, (iii) a wheel, (iv) a widget and a car, (v) a widget and a wheel, (vi) a car and a wheel, or (vii) a widget, a car and a wheel. The phrase "based on" does not mean "based only on", unless expressly specified otherwise. In other words, the phrase "based on" describes both "based only on" and "based at least on". The term "whereby" is used herein only to precede a clause or other set of words that express only the intended result, objective or consequence of something that is previously and explicitly recited. Thus, when the term "whereby" is used in a claim, the clause or other words that the term "whereby" modifies do not establish specific further limitations of the claim or otherwise restricts the meaning or scope of the claim. Where a limitation of a first claim would cover one of a feature as well as more than one of a feature (e.g., a limitation such as "at least one widget" covers one widget as well as more than one widget), and where in a second claim that depends on the first claim, the second claim uses a definite article "the" to refer to the limitation (e.g., "the widget"), this does not imply that the first claim covers only one of the feature, and this does not imply that the second claim covers only one of the feature (e.g., "the widget" can cover both one widget and more than one widget). Each process (whether called a method, algorithm or otherwise) inherently includes one or more steps, and therefore all references to a "step" or "steps" of a process have an inherent antecedent basis in the mere recitation of the term 'process' or a like term. Accordingly, any reference in a claim to a 'step' or 'steps' of a process has sufficient antecedent basis. When an ordinal number (such as "first", "second", "third" and so on) is used as an adjective before a term, that ordinal number is used (unless expressly specified otherwise) merely to indicate a particular feature, such as to distinguish that particular feature from another feature that is described by the same term or by a similar term. For example, a "first widget" may be so named merely to distinguish it from, e.g., a "second widget". Thus, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers "first" and "second" before the term "widget" does not indicate any other relationship between the two widgets, and likewise does not indicate any other characteristics of either or both widgets. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers "first" and "second" before the term "widget" (1) does not indicate that either widget comes before or after any other in order or location; (2) does not indicate that either widget occurs or acts before or after any other in time; and (3) does not indicate that either widget ranks above or below any other, as in importance or quality. In addition, the mere usage of ordinal numbers does not define a numerical limit to the features identified with the ordinal numbers. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers "first" and "second" before the term "widget" does not indicate that there must be no more than two widgets. When a single device or article is described herein, more than one device / article (whether or not they cooperate) may alternatively be used in place of the single device / article that is described. Accordingly, the functionality that is described as being possessed by a device may alternatively be possessed by more than one device / article (whether or not they cooperate). Similarly, where more than one device or article is described herein (whether or not they cooperate), a single device / article may alternatively be used in place of the more than one device or article that is described. For example, a plurality of computer-based devices may be substituted with a single computer-based device. Accordingly, the various functionality that is described as being possessed by more than one device or article may alternatively be possessed by a single device / article. The functionality and / or the features of a single device that is described may be alternatively embodied by one or more other devices which are described but are not explicitly described as having such functionality / features. Thus, other embodiments need not include the described device itself, but rather can include the one or more other devices which would, in those other embodiments, have such functionality / features.

Disclosed Examples Are Not Limiting Numerous embodiments are described in this patent application, and are presented for illustrative purposes only. The described embodiments are not, and are not intended to be, limiting in any sense. The presently disclosed invention(s) are widely applicable to numerous embodiments, as is readily apparent from the disclosure. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the disclosed invention(s) may be practiced with various modifications and alterations, such as structural, logical, software, and electrical modifications. Although particular features of the disclosed invention(s) may be described with reference to one or more particular embodiments and / or drawings, it should be understood that such features are not limited to usage in the one or more particular embodiments or drawings with reference to which they are described, unless expressly specified otherwise. The present disclosure is neither a literal description of all embodiments of the invention nor a listing of features of the invention which must be present in all embodiments. Neither the Title (set forth at the beginning of the first page of this patent application) nor the Abstract (set forth at the end of this patent application) is to be taken as limiting in any way as the scope of the disclosed invention(s). Devices that are in communication with each other need not be in continuous communication with each other, unless expressly specified otherwise. On the contrary, such devices need only transmit to each other as necessary or desirable, and may actually refrain from exchanging data most of the time. For example, a machine in communication with another machine via the Internet may not transmit data to the other machine for weeks at a time. In addition, devices that are in communication with each other may communicate directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries. A description of an embodiment with several components or features does not imply that all or even any of such components / features are required. On the contrary, a variety of optional components are described to illustrate the wide variety of possible embodiments of the present invention(s). Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no component / feature is essential or required. Further, although process steps, algorithms or the like may be described in a sequential order, such processes may be configured to work in different orders. In other words, any sequence or order of steps that may be explicitly described does not necessarily indicate a requirement that the steps be performed in that order. The steps of processes described herein may be performed in any order practical. Further, some steps may be performed simultaneously despite being described or implied as occurring non-simultaneously (e.g., because one step is described after the other step). Moreover, the illustration of a process by its depiction in a drawing does not imply that the illustrated process is exclusive of other variations and modifications thereto, does not imply that the illustrated process or any of its steps are necessary to the invention, and does not imply that the illustrated process is preferred. Although a process may be described as including a plurality of steps, that does not indicate that all or even any of the steps are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other processes that omit some or all of the described steps. Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no step is essential or required. Although a product may be described as including a plurality of components, aspects, qualities, characteristics and / or features, that does not indicate that all of the plurality are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other products that omit some or all of the described plurality. An enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are mutually exclusive, unless expressly specified otherwise. Likewise, an enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are comprehensive of any category, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the enumerated list "a computer, a laptop, a PDA" does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are mutually exclusive and does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are comprehensive of any category. Headings of sections provided in this patent application and the title of this patent application are for convenience only, and are not to be taken as limiting the disclosure in any way.

Determination "Determining" something can be performed in a variety of manners and therefore the term "determining" (and like terms) includes calculating, computing, deriving, looking up (e.g., in a table, database or data structure), ascertaining and the like.

Computing It will be readily apparent that the various methods and algorithms described herein may be implemented by, e.g., appropriately programmed general purpose computers and computing devices. Typically a processor (e.g., one or more microprocessors) will receive instructions from a memory or like device, and execute those instructions, thereby performing one or more processes defined by those instructions. Further, programs that implement such methods and algorithms may be stored and transmitted using a variety of media in a number of manners. In some embodiments, hard-wired circuitry or custom hardware may be used in place of, or in combination with, software instructions for implementation of the processes of various embodiments. Thus, embodiments are not limited to any specific combination of hardware and software A "processor" means any one or more microprocessors, central processing units (CPUs), computing devices, microcontrollers, digital signal processors, or like devices. The term "computer-readable medium" refers to any medium that participates in providing data (e.g., instructions) which may be read by a computer, a processor or a like device. Such a medium may take many forms, including but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media. Non-volatile media include, for example, optical or magnetic disks and other persistent memory. Volatile media include dynamic random access memory (DRAM), which typically constitutes the main memory. Transmission media include coaxial cables, copper wire and fiber optics, including the wires that comprise a system bus coupled to the processor. Transmission media may include or convey acoustic waves, light waves and electromagnetic emissions, such as those generated during radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR) data communications. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape, any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM, DVD, any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM, an EPROM, a FLASH-EEPROM, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave as described hereinafter, or any other medium from which a computer can read. Various forms of computer readable media may be involved in carrying sequences of instructions to a processor. For example, sequences of instruction (i) may be delivered from RAM to a processor, (ii) may be carried over a wireless transmission medium, and / or (iii) may be formatted according to numerous formats, standards or protocols, such as Bluetooth, TDMA, CDMA, 3G. Where databases are described, it will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that (i) alternative database structures to those described may be readily employed, and (ii) other memory structures besides databases may be readily employed. Any illustrations or descriptions of any sample databases presented herein are illustrative arrangements for stored representations of information. Any number of other arrangements may be employed besides those suggested by, e.g., tables illustrated in drawings or elsewhere. Similarly, any illustrated entries of the databases represent exemplary information only; one of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the number and content of the entries can be different from those described herein. Further, despite any depiction of the databases as tables, other formats (including relational databases, object-based models and / or distributed databases) could be used to store and manipulate the data types described herein. Likewise, object methods or behaviors of a database can be used to implement various processes, such as the described herein. In addition, the databases may, in a known manner, be stored locally or remotely from a device which accesses data in such a database. The present invention can be configured to work in a network environment including a computer that is in communication, via a communications network, with one or more devices. The computer may communicate with the devices directly or indirectly, via a wired or wireless medium such as the Internet, LAN, WAN or Ethernet, Token Ring, or via any appropriate communications means or combination of communications means. Each of the devices may comprise computers, such as those based on the Intel® Pentium® or Centrino™ processor, that are adapted to communicate with the computer. Any number and type of machines may be in communication with the computer.

Continuing Applications The present disclosure provides, to one of ordinary skill in the art, an enabling description of several embodiments and / or inventions. Some of these embodiments and / or inventions may not be claimed in the present application, but may nevertheless be claimed in one or more continuing applications which claim the benefit of priority of the present application.

In an embodiment, various types of audio/video programming (e.g., pre-recorded or live video) may be provided to a player of a gaming device (e.g., a slot machine, a video poker machine). Game play at the gaming device may be initiated (e.g., automatically) while the audio/video programming is being provided to the player. For example, game play may be initiated (e.g., automatically) in response to the occurrence of one or more game initiation triggers that are associated with the audio/video programming. In an embodiment, game play is only initiated in response to the occurrence of a game initiation trigger (and not, e.g., upon the command or directive of a player). In an embodiment, game play may be initiated substantially simultaneously with (e.g., within two seconds of) the occurrence and / or the detection of the game initiation trigger. The audio/video programming may comprise, for example, one or more portions, or all of, a television show, a movie, an animated show (e.g., a cartoon or animated motion picture), a previously recorded event (e.g., a sporting event), a live event, etc. A game initiation trigger may comprise a detectable characteristic of the audio/video programming. In an embodiment, the game initiation trigger is a characteristic of the audio/video programming that the player can detect, and therefore is something that the player can verify has occurred. A game initiation trigger may comprise a time trigger (e.g., an elapsed time since the start of the audio/video programming, such as "10:55:11"). A game initiation trigger may comprise an audio trigger, such as the playing of a certain sound or type of sound (e.g., the playing of a laugh track), a change in volume of the audio/video programming generally or in a particular line or word spoken by a character. A game initiation trigger may comprise a visual trigger, such as a character entering a scene or a type of object being displayed. Another exemplary game initiation trigger includes any other detectable characteristic of the audio/video programming (e.g., images, sounds, etc.). Another exemplary game initiation trigger includes a track change, in which the audio/video programming comprises a plurality of tracks, and the audio/video programming transitions to play of another track (e.g., upon finishing the previous track). Yet another exemplary game initiation trigger includes a "tag" (e.g., computer program code that indicates certain predetermined times within the audio/video programming) that is included in and / or has been added to the audio/video programming and which can be read or ascertained (thereby allowing game play at a gaming device to be initiated). Such tags may be codes that exist throughout the audio/video programming (e.g., embedded in the audio/video programming at locations which define the indicated times), and / or may exist elsewhere (e.g., all located at a header or menu portion of the audio/video programming, but nonetheless defining the indicated times). In various embodiments, by providing audio/video programming to a player of a gaming device, and by automatically initiating game play in response to the occurrence of one or more game initiation triggers while the audio/video programming is being provided to the player, numerous advantages can be realized. When contrasted with conventional game play, such a gaming experience may be more exciting, interactive, and in some cases more spontaneous (e.g., when the player is unaware of when game play will be initiated during the audio/video programming). Further, automatically initiated game play can be attractive to physically-challenged gaming device players, such as arthritic, handicapped and/or certain elderly players, who might find conventional slot machine or similar game play too demanding (e.g., due the requirements of having to pull a handle repeatedly). Increased player satisfaction can attract a larger pool of gaming device players and / or increase the amount of time and / or money that players are willing to spend at a gaming device. Casino profitability thereby may increase.

In an embodiment, the audio/video programming is selected from a plurality of audio/video programmings. The player of the gaming device may select the audio/video programming to be provided, or the programming may be automatically selected in a variety of other manners. In an embodiment, a method of controlling a gaming device includes the steps of (1) receiving a selection of audio/video programming fora player of the gaming device; (2) providing the selected audio/video programming to the player; (3) detecting an occurrence of a game initiation trigger associated with the selected audio/video programming while the selected audio/video programming is being provided to the player; and (4) in response to the occurrence of the game initiation trigger, initiating game play at the gaming device.

The methods disclosed herein may be performed, for example, by a gaming device and/or by a controller which directs some or all of the operations of a gaming device. Numerous other embodiments are disclosed, including systems, apparatus, computer program products and data structures. In another aspect of the invention, a gaming device control system is provided. The gaming device control system includes means for providing a plurality of audio/video programming selections to a player of the gaming device, and means for receiving a selection of audio/video programming by the player. The gaming device control system further includes means for determining at least one game initiation trigger associated with the selected audio/video programming, and means for displaying the selected audio/video programming to the player. The gaming device control system can also include means for detecting an occurrence of the at least one game initiation trigger while the selected audio/video programming is being displayed to the player, and means for initiating game play at the gaming device in response to the detection of the occurrence of the at least one game initiation trigger. Finally, the gaming device control system includes (1) means for determining an outcome of the game play; (2) means for determining if the outcome is a winning outcome; and (3) means for at least arranging for payment of an outcome amount to the player if the outcome is a winning outcome.

TERMINOLOGY The following terms are employed herein: A "gaming device" refers to a slot machine, a video poker machine, a keno machine, a bingo machine or other devices for gaming. "Audio/video programming" includes any sequence or sequences of video, such as one or more of a television show, a movie, an animated show (e.g., a cartoon or animated motion picture), a previously recorded event (e.g., a sporting event), a live event, etc. An "audio/video program" can refer to a single episode of audio/video programming, a portion of an episode of audio/video programming, or a plurality of episodes of audio/video programming (e.g., a television program such as "Friends" which includes numerous episodes). A "game initiation trigger associated with audio/video programming" refers to a game initiation trigger that (1) is related to, depends on and/or is otherwise based on audio/video programming; and (2) may be employed to initiate (e.g., automatically) game play at a gaming device. A "game initiation trigger associated with audio/video programming" does not include a trigger that is based on or defines an outcome of game play at a gaming device, such as reel positions / symbols of a slot machine-type game, or hands of cards in a video poker-type game.

EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS OF GAMING DEVICE CONTROL SYSTEM FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary gaming device control system 100 provided in accordance with various embodiments. The gaming device control system 100 includes a controller 102 in communication with a plurality of gaming devices 104a-n. Although three gaming devices 104a-n are shown in FIG. 1 , it will be understood that fewer or more than three gaming devices may be in communication with the controller 102. Further, the controller 102 may comprise one or more controllers. Exemplary embodiments of the controller 102 are described below with reference to FIG. 2. The gaming devices 104a-n may include, for example, slot machines, video poker machines, a combination thereof, etc. Other suitable gaming devices also may be employed (e.g., cellular phones, personal computers, etc.). Exemplary embodiments of the gaming devices 104a-n are described below with reference to FIG.3. The gaming devices 104a-n may be in communication with the controller 102 via any conventional or practical communications medium and/or protocol. For example, the gaming devices 104a-n may communicate with the controller 102 via a Web-based connection, a local area network (LAN), a wide area network (WAN), the Internet, other forms of internet protocol (IP) networks (e.g., intranets or extranets), a publicly switched telephone network (PSTN), a wireless communications network or any other known communications system/medium. As will be described further below, in one or more embodiments of the invention, the controller 102 may be adapted to receive audio/video programming (e.g., from a casino owner or operator or other controller operator), and provide the audio/video programming to one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n. During provision of the audio/video programming, the controller 102 may initiate game play at one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n in response to the occurrence of one or more game initiation triggers associated with the audio/video programming. For example, the controller 102 may monitor the audio/video programming and/or initiate game play at one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n at a predetermined run time (time elapsed, time of play) of the audio/video programming, in response to a laugh track or a line spoken by a character, as a character enters a scene, as a scene, a prop or a type of prop is displayed, an object or a type of object appears, at other predetermined time s in the programming, or in response to the occurrence of any other game initiation trigger. In other embodiments of the invention, all or a portion of the functions performed by the controller 102 may be performed by the gaming devices 104a-n. For example, each game device 104a-n may locally store audio/video programming, and / or game initiation triggers associated with the audio/video programming. In one embodiment, all or a part of audio/video programming may be stored in a local memory (e.g., in any suitable format such as MPEG2) of a gaming device. Alternatively or additionally, such audio/video programming may be provided, for example, from an optical or magnetic storage media (e.g., a DVD) and periodically replaced or updated as required or desired. Whether stored locally or provided from a remote location, each gaming device 104a-n can be operable to output audio/video programming to a player of the respective gaming device 104a-n and initiate game play at the respective gaming device 104a-n in response to the occurrence of one or more game initiation triggers associated with the audio/video programming (e.g., by monitoring the audio/video programming to detect the occurrence of the one or more game initiation triggers).

EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS OF THE CONTROLLER FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary embodiment of the controller 102 of FIG. 1 (shown in communication with gaming devices 104a-n). The controller 102 may be implemented as a system controller, as a dedicated hardware circuit, as an appropriately programmed general-purpose computer, or as any other equivalent electronic, mechanical or electro-mechanical device. With reference to FIG. 2, the controller 102 comprises a processor 202, such as one or more conventional microprocessors (e.g., one or more Intel® Pentium® processors). The processor 202 is in communication with a communication port 204 through which the processor 202 communicates with other devices (e.g., with the gaming devices 104a-n or with other gaming devices not shown). The communication port 204 may include multiple communication channels for simultaneous communication with, for example, the gaming devices 104a-n and/or other gaming devices (not shown). Devices in communication with each other need not be continually transmitting to each other. On the contrary, such devices need only transmit to each other as necessary, may actually refrain from exchanging data most of the time, and may require several steps to be performed to establish a communication link between the devices. The processor 202 also is in communication with a data storage device 206. The data storage device 206 may comprise an appropriate combination of magnetic, optical and/or semiconductor memory, and may include, for example, Random Access Memory (RAM), Read-Only Memory (ROM), a compact disc and/or a hard disk. The processor 202 and the data storage device 206 each may be, for example, located entirely within a single computer or other computing device; or connected to each other by a communication medium, such as a serial port cable, a telephone line or a radio frequency transceiver. Alternatively, the controller 102 may comprise one or more computers that are connected to a remote server computer (not shown) for maintaining databases. The data storage device 206 may store, for example, (i) a program 208 (e.g., computer program code and/or a computer program product) adapted to direct the processor 202 in accordance with various disclosed embodiments, and particularly in accordance with the processes described in detail herein; (ii) a programming database 210 adapted to store audio/video programming information that identifies and/or describes types of audio/video programming that may be provided to a player of one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n; (iii) an episode database 212 adapted to store information regarding specific episodes of audio/video programming that may be provided to a player of one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n; (iv) a game initiation trigger database 214 adapted to store information regarding one or more game initiation triggers associated with episodes of audio/video programming; (v) a probability database 216 adapted to store information that may be used to establish frequencies with which various random number and/or outcome values will occur at one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n; (vi) a payout database 218 adapted to store information that may be utilized to determine a game result (e.g., a slot machine reel position) and an associated payout for one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n; and (vii) a player database 220 adapted to store information regarding one or more identified gaming device players. Exemplary embodiments of the databases 210-220 are described below with reference to FIGS. 4-9. The program 208 may be stored, for example, in a compressed, an uncompiled and/or an encrypted format, and may include computer program code that allows the controller 102 to employ the communication port 204 to perform various disclosed methods, such as:

1. receive a selection of audio/video programming from a player of one of the gaming devices 104a-n;

2. provide the selected audio/video programming to the player;

3. detect the occurrence of one or more game initiation triggers associated with the selected audio/video programming while the selected audio/video programming is being provided to the player; and/or

4. in response to the occurrence of the one or more game initiation triggers, initiate game play at a gaming device.

Suitable computer program code may be provided for performing numerous other functions such as receiving audio/video programming, determining game initiation triggers for audio/video programming, receiving payment in exchange for game play and/or the provision of audio/video programming, determining audio/video programming and/or a number of games to be initiated during the provision of audio/video programming based on an amount paid by a player, determining a result of game play (e.g., whether a player wins a prize), providing a payout if a player wins, etc. The computer program code to implement the above functions (and the other functions described herein) can be readily developed by a person of ordinary skill in the art. The controller 102 may include any peripheral devices (e.g., microphones, speakers, a keyboard, a computer display, a touch screen, voice recognition software, an optical or magnetic read head, etc., generally represented by input/output devices 220 in FIG. 2) required or preferred to implement the disclosed functionality. The program 208 also may include program elements such as an operating system, a database management system and "device drivers" that allow the processor 202 to interface with computer peripheral devices (e.g., a video display, a keyboard, a computer mouse). Note that instructions of the program 208 may be read into a main memory (not shown) of the processor 202 from a computer-readable medium other than the data storage device 206, such as from a ROM or from a RAM. While execution of sequences of instructions in the program 208 can cause the processor 202 to perform the process steps described herein, hard¬ wired circuitry may be used in place of, or in combination with, software instructions for implementation of the processes of various embodiments. Thus, embodiments are not limited to any specific combination of hardware and software. The processor 202 also may be in communication with a clock (not shown) that supplies time and date information to the processor 202 and that may comprise, for example, a clock internal to the processor 202, a clock external to the processor 202 or a clock embodied within the program 208 (e.g., based on a system clock not shown). EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS OF THE GAMING DEVICES FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary embodiment of the gaming device 104a of FIG. 1 (shown in communication with the controller 102). The gaming devices 104b-n may be similarly configured. Any or all of the gaming devices 104a-n may comprise a slot machine, a video poker machine or a similar device modified in accordance with various embodiments. With reference to FIG, 3, the gaming device 104a comprises a processor 302, such as one or more conventional microprocessors (e.g., one or more Intel® Pentium® processors). The processor 302 is in communication with a communication port 304 through which the processor 302 communicates with other devices (e.g., with the controller 102 or with other devices not shown). The communication port 304 may include multiple communication channels for simultaneous communication with multiple devices. The processor 302 also is in communication with a data storage device 306. The data storage device 306 may comprise an appropriate combination of magnetic, optical and/or semiconductor memory, and may include, for example, Random Access Memory (RAM), Read-Only Memory (ROM), a compact disc and/or a hard disk. The processor 302 and the data storage device 306 each may be, for example, located entirely within a single computer or other computing device; or connected to each other by a communication medium, such as a serial port cable, a telephone line or a radio frequency transceiver. Alternatively, the gaming device 104a may comprise one or more computers that are connected to a remote server computer (not shown) for maintaining databases. The data storage device 306 may store, for example, a program 308 (e.g., computer program code and/or a computer program product) adapted to direct the processor 302 in accordance with various embodiments, and particularly in accordance with the processes described in detail hereinafter with regard to the gaming devices 104a-n. In one or more embodiments wherein all or part of the functionality of the controller 102 (FIG. 2) is implemented by the gaming device 104a, the gaming device 104a may include one or more databases similar to the databases 210-220 described previously with reference to FIG. 2. For convenience, the same reference numerals for these databases are employed in FIGS. 2 and 3. Such databases that a gaming device includes may be copies of or substitutes for corresponding databases of the controller. Specifically, the data storage device 306 may store (ii) the programming database 210 adapted to store audio/video programming information that identifies and/or describes types of audio/video programming that may be provided to a player the gaming device 104a; (iii) the episode database 212 adapted to store information regarding specific episodes of audio/video programming that may be provided to a player of the gaming device 104a; (iv) the game initiation trigger database 214 adapted to store information regarding one or more game initiation triggers associated with episodes of audio/video programming; (v) the probability database 216 adapted to store information that may be used to establish frequencies with which various random number and/or outcome values will occur at the gaming device 104a; (vi) the payout database 218 adapted to store information that may be utilized to determine a game result (e.g., a slot machine reel position) and an associated payout for the gaming device 104a; and (vii) the player database 220 adapted to store information regarding one or more identified gaming device players. One or more of the databases 210-220 may be eliminated if the corresponding functionality is provided by the controller 102. Exemplary embodiments of the databases 210-220 are described below with reference to FIGS. 4-9. The program 308 may be stored, for example, in a compressed, an uncompiled and/or an encrypted format, and may include computer program code that allows the gaming device 104a to, for example:

1. receive a selection of audio/video programming from a player of the gaming device 104a;

2. provide the selected audio/video programming to the player;

3. detect the occurrence of one or more game initiation triggers associated with the selected audio/video programming while the selected audio/video programming is being provided to the player; and/or

4. in response to the occurrence of the one or more game initiation triggers, initiate game play at the gaming device 104a.

Suitable computer program code may be provided for performing numerous other functions such as receiving audio/video programming, determining game initiation triggers for audio/video programming, receiving payment in exchange for game play and/or the provision of audio/video programming, determining audio/video programming and/or a number of games to be initiated during the provision of audio/video programming based on an amount paid by a player, determining a result of game play (e.g., whether a player wins a prize), providing a payout if a player wins, etc. The computer program code required to implement the above functions (and the other functions described herein) can be developed by a person of ordinary skill in the art, and is not described in detail herein. The program 308 also may include program elements such as an operating system, a database management system and "device drivers" that allow the processor 302 to interface with computer peripheral devices (e.g., a video display, a keyboard, a computer mouse, etc.). Note that instructions of the program 308 may be read into a main memory (not shown) of the processor 302 from a computer-readable medium other than the data storage device 306, such as from a ROM or from a RAM. While execution of sequences of instructions in the program 308 causes the processor 302 to perform the process steps described herein, hard-wired circuitry may be used in place of, or in combination with, software instructions for implementation of the processes of various embodiments. Thus, embodiments of the present invention are not limited to any specific combination of hardware and software. The processor 302 also may be in communication with a clock (not shown) that supplies time and date information to the processor 302 and that may comprise, for example, a clock internal to the processor 302, a clock external to the processor 302 or a clock embodied within the program 308 (e.g., based on a system clock not shown). The gaming device 104a may include any additional components required or preferred to implement the above functionality. For example, the gaming device 104a may include one or more input devices 310 such as a microphone, a touch screen, a keyboard or keypad, voice recognition software/hardware, an optical or magnetic read head, a card reader (e.g., for reading player tracking cards issued by a casino), a coin accepter and/or a paper currency validator, a bar code reader (e.g., for discerning value from "cashless" gaming vouchers), a game play initiator such as a button or handle, a biometric device for determining an identity or age of a player, a credit or debit card authorization terminal, etc. The gaming device 104a also may include one or more output devices 312 for outputting appropriate audio/video programming and game play results to a player of the gaming device 104a. For example, the gaming device 104a may comprise one or more speakers, a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor, a touch-sensitive liquid crystal display (LCD) screen, a projector, a physical or electronic representation of slot machine reels or a poker hand, etc. Note that, in some embodiments, a gaming device104a may comprise more than one display device (e.g., a touch- sensitive LCD screen and a CRT display screen, two CRT displays, etc). Note also that the controller 102 may include similar input or output devices. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the gaming device 104a also may include a random or pseudo-random number generator 314 that, in a known manner, may be utilized by the gaming device 104a and/or the controller 102 for determining a game result (e.g., after game play has been initiated at the gaming device 104a in response to the occurrence of a game initiation trigger). The random number generator 314 also may be employed to determine a corresponding payout to be provided to a player of the gaming device 104a as described further below. As is known in the art, the random number generator 314 may be embodied in hardware, software or a combination thereof, and may include one or more features that prevent or identify tampering or other security concerns. In some embodiments, an output device may comprise a benefit output device. For example, to assist in payouts as a result of winning game results at the gaming device 104a, the gaming device 104a may include a hopper controller 316 and a hopper 318. The hopper controller 316 may be configured to instruct the hopper 318 when to dispense payment, and how much payment to dispense, to a player as a result of a winning game result at the gaming device 104a. Hoppers and hopper controllers are well known in the casino gaming device arts. In other embodiments, the gaming device 104a may comprise a "ticket-in/ticket-out" device (not shown). Such a device may be configured to, e.g., accept a "cashless gaming" voucher, determine a value associated with a cashless gaming voucher (e.g., by reading a bar code) and output (e.g., print) a cashless gaming voucher as a form of payment. A variety of other benefit output devices may be used, including ticket dispensers, credit balance meters (e.g., an electronic LED display that indicates a number of credits a player may be entitled to cash out), etc. In one or more embodiments of the invention, an additional memory or data storage unit 320 may be provided, for example, to serve as an intermediate storage location for audio/video programming being provided to the gaming device 104a from a remote source (e.g., the controller 102 or another location). As stated, the gaming devices 104b-n may be configured similarly to the gaming device 104a of FIG. 3.

EXEMPLARY DATABASES FOR THE CONTROLLER AND/OR GAMING DEVICES Samples of the contents of the programming database 210, the episode database 212, the game initiation trigger database 214, the probability database 216,the payout database 218 and the player database 220 are shown in FIGS.4-9, respectively. The specific data and fields illustrated in these figures represent embodiments of the records that may be stored in the databases of the invention. The data and fields of these databases, as well as the number of databases, can be readily modified, for example, to include more or fewer data fields. A single database also may be employed. Note that in the databases of the controller 102 and/or the gaming devices 104a-n, a different reference numeral is employed to identify each field of each database. However, in an embodiment of the invention, fields that are similarly named (e.g., program identification fields, episode identification fields, etc., described below) store similar or the same data in a similar or same data format, and / or may be mutually linked or indexed. FIG.4 illustrates a sample of the contents of an embodiment of the programming database 210. In this embodiment, the programming database 210 contains information related to seven exemplary programming choices available to a player of one of the gaming devices 104a-n. Though only seven choices are illustrated in FIG.4, those skilled in the art will recognize that any number of records or entries may be included in the programming database 210. The seven programming choices are identified in records 402-414, respectively. Specifically, the programming database 210 contains records having fields corresponding to, for example, (1) a program identifier (ID) 416; (2) a program description 418; and (3) a program genre 420. Such fields will be referred to as a program identifier field, a program description field and a program genre field, respectively. Other program information also may be stored in the programming database 210, including various information described herein with respect the episode database. The program identifier field of each record 402-414 may store data (e.g., a program identifier 416) representing a unique identifier (e.g., a numeric, alpha-numeric or other code) for audio/video programming that may be provided to a player of any of the gaming devices 104a-n. Further, as will be described below, the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n may use program identifiers 416 to access audio/video programming to be provided to a gaming device player, and to determine a general category or type of audio/video programming to be provided to the gaming device player. The program description field of a record may store a generalized textual, graphical or other description (e.g., a program description 418) for programming identified by a respective program identifier 416 of the record, such as a name or other explanation of the programming. Such a program description may be human readable and concise, and therefore suitable for display or other outputting to a player. The program genre field of a record 402-414 similarly may store general classification or genre information (e.g., a program genre 420) for programming identified by a respective program identifier 416 of the record. For example, each program genre field may identify whether programming is a comedy, a drama, a documentary, sports-related, educational, a game show, etc. As described below, by storing program genre information, the controller 102 and/or the gaming devices 104a-n may provide gaming device players with increased flexibility, information and/or assistance during programming selection (e.g., so that gaming device players receive the exact programming they wish to receive). The programming database 210 (and the episode database 212, the game initiation trigger database 214, the probability database 216, the payout database 218, and the player database 220) may be populated with data provided to the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n by an operator, by an owner or manufacturer of the controller 102 and/or of any or all of the gaming devices 104a-n, or by any other relevant party. Such data population may occur in a known manner, for example, via the communication port 204 of the controller 102 or via the communication port 304 of a gaming device 104a-n. With reference to the programming database 210 of FIG. 4, the record 402 illustrates exemplary data for a program P001 (program identifier 416) named "The Cartoon Family" (program description 418) that is a comedy (program genre 420). FIG. 5 illustrates a sample of the contents of the episode database 212 of FIGS. 2 or 3. More specifically, FIG. 5 illustrates exemplary contents of an entry or table 212a of the episode database 212 that contains episode information relating to the sixth program P006 of the record 412 of the programming database 210 of FIG. 4. Similar entries or tables may be provided for the programs P001-P005 and P007 of records 402-410 and 414, respectively, of the programming database 210 of FIG. 4. Although depicted as two tables, the programming database and the episode database may form a single database or other data structure in another embodiment. As shown in FIG. 5, the entry/table 212a of the programming database 210 contains information related to three exemplary episodes of programming available to a player of a gaming device. Though only three episodes are illustrated in FIG. 5, those skilled in the art will recognize that any number of records or entries may be included in the episode database 212. The three episodes are identified in records 502-506, respectively, and represent viewable episodes of the sixth program P006 (as identified by record 508 in FIG. 5). Specifically, the entry/table 212a of the episode database 212 contains records having fields corresponding to, for example, (1) a program identifier 510; (2) an episode identifier 512; (3) an episode description 514; (4) episode content 516; and (5) running time 518. Such fields will be referred to as a program identifier field, an episode identifier field, an episode description field, an episode content field and a running time field, respectively. Other episode information also may be stored in the episode database 212. The program identifier field of the record 508 may store data (e.g., a program identifier 510) representing a unique identifier (e.g., a numeric, alpha-numeric or other code) for audio/video programming that may be provided to a player of any of the gaming devices 104a-n. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the information stored in the program identifier field of the record 508 may correspond to (e.g., be the same as) information stored in the program identifier field of one of the records 402-414 of the programming database 210 of FIG. 4. The episode identifier field of each record 502-506 may store data (e.g., an episode identifier 512) representing a unique identifier (e.g., a numeric, alpha-numeric or other code) for an episode of audio/video programming (identified by the program identifier 510) that may be provided to a player of any of the gaming devices 104a-n. As described further below, the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n may use the episode identifiers 512 to access one or more episodes of audio/video programming to be provided to a gaming device player. The episode description field of each record 502-506 may store a generalized textual, graphical or other description (e.g., an episode description 514) of an episode of programming identified by a respective episode identifier 512 of the record, such as a name or other explanation of the episode. Such a program description may be human readable and concise, and therefore suitable for display or other outputting to a player. In an embodiment, the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n may employ information stored within episode description fields of the episode database 212 to assist a player of a gaming device during the selection of audio/video programming (e.g., by providing the player a description of each episode of programming that may be provided to the player during game play). In an embodiment, the information stored within the episode description fields of the episode database 212 may be employed in any known or practical manner to create a menu of programming options from which a player may select a specific episode of programming (e.g., via a gaming device 104a-n, the controller 102 or another means). The episode content field of each record 502-506 may store or indicate data (e.g., episode content 516) that may be used by the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n to provide an episode of audio/video programming to a gaming device player. For example, the episode content field of one or more of the records 502-506 may store a playable audio/video programming file, such as a file in MPEG2, MPEG, AVI, MOV, WAV or other similar file format as is known in the art. Alternatively, the episode content field of one or more of the records 502-506 may include a pointer to remotely stored audio/video programming. For example, if the episode database 212 is located within one of the gaming devices 104a-n, an episode content field may contain a pointer to an audio/video programming file stored in another local database, stored within the controller 102 or stored at another of the gaming devices 104a-n. Further, an episode content field may contain a pointer to audio/video programming stored at any other location (e.g., in a file stored at a world wide web address or server of an affiliated hotel property, a DVD stored within the gaming device 104a-n or controller 102, etc.). A pointer may include other information that is required to access the indicated audio/video programming (e.g., a usemame, a password, a verification code). Still further, in some embodiments, a gaming device 104a-n may store only a portion of all available audio/video programming. For example, gaming device 104a-n may store only the most popular audio/video programming, as determined by player selection (detailed further herein), thereby "caching" the audio/video programming. In one embodiment, the remaining content may be stored by the controller 102. Alternatively, all content may be stored by the controller 102. Many benefits can result from such an embodiment, since gaming device 104a-n data storage requirements may be reduced, audio/video programming storage redundancy between a gaming device 104a-n and the controller 102 may protect against network failures, and so on. In a further embodiment, a controller 102 may be programmed to evaluate (e.g., periodically) which audio/video programming is most popular, such that the content residing on one or more gaming devices 104a-n may be adjusted accordingly (e.g., in accordance with the relative popularity of the various audio/video programming, file sizes of the various audio/video programming, the storage capacity of gaming devices, and network transmission speed to the gaming device from the storage location of the remotely-stored audio/video programming). Appropriate caching techniques are well known. The running time field of each record 502-506 may store data (e.g., running time 518) indicative of a running time of an episode of audio/video programming identified by a respective episode identifier 512 of the record. Such information may be used for a number of purposes. For example, running time information may be employed by the controller 102, one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n, an owner or operator of a casino, etc., to determine a total number of game initiation triggers to associate with an episode of audio/video programming. In this manner an owner or operator of a gaming device may ensure that at least a minimum number of game initiation triggers are associated with each episode of audio/video programming that may be displayed at the gaming device (e.g., an episode of audio/video programming may comprise at least a certain number of associated triggers per unit of time). Additionally, in certain embodiments of the invention, running time information may be provided to a player of a gaming device, with or without episode description information, to assist a player with audio/video programming selection (e.g., as a player may have a limited amount of time for game play, wish to view multiple audio/video programs, etc.). The episode database 212 may be populated with data provided to the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n by an operator, owner or manufacturer of the controller 102 and/or gaming devices 104a-n, or by any other party. Such data population may occur, for example, via the communication port 204 of the controller 102 or via the communication port 304 of a gaming device 104a-n. With reference to the entry/table 212a of the episode database 212 of FIG. 5, the record 502 illustrates exemplary data for an episode EP S1 E1 (episode identifier 512) of a program P006 (program identifier 510). The episode EP S1 E1 is named "SERIES PREMIERE" (episode description 514), is stored as an MPEG4 file (e.g., within the data storage device 206 of the controller 102 or within the data storage device 306 of one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n, as identified by episode content 516), and has a running time of 22 minutes and 15 seconds (running time 518). FIG. 6 illustrates a sample of the contents of the game initiation trigger database 214. More specifically, FIG. 6 illustrates exemplary contents of an entry or table 214a of the game initiation trigger database 214 that contains game initiation trigger information relating to the first episode EP S1 E1 of the episode database 212 of FIG. 5 (which corresponds to an episode of the program P006 of the programming database 210 of FIG. 4). Similar entries or tables may be provided for episodes EP S1 E2 and EP S1 E3 of the program P006 (FIG. 5) as well as for any episodes of the programs P001-P005 and P007 of the programming database 210 of FIG.4. As shown in FIG. 6, the entry/table 214a of the game initiation trigger database 214 contains information relating to nine game initiation triggers that may be used or otherwise associated with the episode EP S1 E1 of audio/video program P006 (FIG. 5). Though only though only nine game initiation triggers are illustrated in FIG. 6, any number of records or entries may be included in the game initiation trigger database 214. The nine game initiation triggers are identified in records 602-618, respectively. Specifically, the entry/table 214a of the game initiation trigger database 214 contains records having fields corresponding to, for example, (1) an episode identifier 622; (2) a trigger identifier 624; (3) a trigger condition 626; (3) a trigger type 628; and (4) a trigger status 630 (e.g., an indication of whether the trigger is to be used). Such fields will be referred to as an episode identifier field, a trigger identifier field, a trigger condition field, a trigger type field and a trigger status field, respectively. Other trigger information also may be stored in the game initiation trigger database 214. The episode identifier field of record 620 may store data (e.g., an episode identifier 622) representing a unique identifier (e.g., a numeric, alpha-numeric or other code) or other means for identifying an episode of audio/video programming that may be provided to a player of any of the gaming devices 104a-n. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the information stored in the episode identifier field of the record 620 may correspond to information stored in the episode identifier field of one of the records 502-506 of the entry/table 212a of the episode database 212 of FIG. 5, or of a record of another entry/table (not shown) of the episode database 212. The trigger identifier field of each record 602-618 may store data (e.g., a trigger identifier 624) representing a unique identifier (e.g., a numeric, alpha-numeric or other code) for a game initiation trigger associated with an episode of audio/video programming (identified by the episode identifier 622) that may be provided to a player of any of the gaming devices 104a-n. As described further below, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may use a trigger identifier 512 to access a trigger condition of a game initiation trigger, which in turn may be employed to initiate game play at the gaming device 104a-n. The trigger condition field of each record 602-618 may store conditions under which game play may be initiated (e.g., automatically) at one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n (e.g., during the provision of the episode of audio/video programming identified by the episode identifier 622). Suitable trigger conditions may comprise the occurrence of detectable characteristics of an episode of audio/video programming such as a time trigger (e.g., an elapsed time, a predetermined time in the total running time of the episode or some other time-dependent factor or time code that may or may not be associated with content of the episode); an audio trigger such as a laugh track, change in volume level or a line or word spoken by a character; a visual trigger such as a character entering a scene; a prop or type of prop being displayed; the occurrence of a particular type of action (e.g., a win occurs during a game show program, a joke is told during a comedy program, a score changes during a sporting event, etc.); or other programming contexts or features. Other exemplary trigger conditions may include the occurrence of a track change or a "tag" that has been added to or is otherwise included in the audio/video programming (e.g., computer program code adapted to initiate game play at a gaming device at predetermined times of play of the audio/video programming). In another embodiment, audio/video programming comprises closed-captioned text, and a trigger condition comprises the appearance of a particular word in closed captioning. Further, trigger conditions may comprise commercials, periods of time during which no signal is detected during audio/video programming (e.g., "fades to black"), and so on. Triggers (e.g., embodied in tags or other code) may be manually inserted into audio/video programming or otherwise manually defined (e.g., by a human who determines what times / events in a particular audio/video programming should initiate game play). Additionally or alternatively, triggers may be automatically detected from a particular audio/video programming, generated (e.g., by software) and inserted into audio/video programming or otherwise automatically defined. The various types of triggers can determine how events within an audio/video programming should be detected. For example, the detection of certain words can be accomplished through, e.g., natural language processing software which recognizes predefined spoken phrases. In one or more embodiments of the invention, an episode of audio/video programming may be reviewed (e.g., by a casino owner or operator, some other relevant party, the controller 102, a gaming device 104a-n, etc.), and as a result of the review, one or more trigger conditions may be determined and/or deemed suitable to the episode of programming. The one or more trigger conditions thereafter may be assigned to and/or associated with the episode in the form of one or more game initiation triggers (e.g., by appropriately populating an entry/table of the game initiation trigger database 214 such as the entry/table 214a). Occurrence of the trigger conditions/game initiation triggers during provision of the episode of programming then may be used to initiate game play at a gaming device 104a-n as described further below. The trigger type field of each record 602-618 may store "classification" data (e.g., a trigger type 516) for a respective game initiation trigger, and may be used, for example, to determine when, how often and/or how many times a game initiation trigger should be employed during an episode of audio/video programming. In the example of FIG. 6, game initiation triggers are one of either "PERSISTENT" or "SINGLE-USE" (although in other embodiment many other types may be employed). A "persistent" game initiation trigger designation may correspond to a game initiation trigger that may be utilized repeatedly during an episode of programming. That is, game play at a gaming device may be initiated each time the trigger condition associated with the respective game initiation trigger is satisfied. Exemplary persistent game initiation triggers include a laugh track, a track change, speech by a main character, entry of a character into a scene, etc. Other persistent game initiation triggers may be employed. In at least one embodiment of the invention, audio/video programming may be tagged or include processor-executable instructions that allow game play at a gaming device to be initiated in response to the occurrence of a persistent- type game initiation trigger. A "single-use" game initiation trigger designation may correspond to a game initiation trigger that may be utilized only once during an episode of programming to initiate game play at a gaming device. Exemplary single-use game initiation triggers include time codes (e.g., an elapsed time or any other time less than or equal to the running time of the programming), a character's first line or some other similar event, etc. Other combinations and types of game initiation triggers may be employed (e.g., periodic, random, player selectable, etc.). The trigger status field of each record 602-618 may store data (e.g., a trigger status 630) that indicates a status of a game initiation trigger identified by a respective trigger identifier 624. For example, a trigger status field may indicate whether a game initiation trigger is to be used to initiate game play during the provision of an episode of audio/video programming to a player of a gaming device, in one embodiment of the invention, a single-use game initiation trigger may initially have a trigger status of NOT USED (indicating that the trigger is to be subsequently used during the provision of the respective episode of programming to a gaming device player). However, following an occurrence of the single-use game initiation trigger, the status of the game initiation trigger may be changed to USED (indicating that the trigger is not to be subsequently employed during the episode of programming). The controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may perform such a status-change operation. In another embodiment, a trigger status field may indicate whether a particular trigger (identified by a trigger identifier 624) is "ACTIVE" (i.e., should be used to trigger game play) or "INACTIVE" (i.e., should not be used to trigger game play). In another embodiment of the invention, a player of a gaming device may select how many and/or which game initiation triggers should be employed during an episode of programming. In such an embodiment, the player may control the status of game initiation triggers (e.g., indicate a number of triggers to be "activated") and the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may determine a payment amount required by the player to have the selected number and/or type of game initiation triggers employed during the provision of an episode of audio/video programming (e.g., as a monetary value or cost may be associated with each "spin" of a slot machine, a total value may be determined for a total number of spins that will be triggered during an episode). The game initiation trigger database 214 may be populated with data provided to the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n by an operator, owner or manufacturer of the controller 102 and/or the gaming devices 104a-n, or by any other relevant party. Such data population may occur, for example, via the communication port 204 of the controller 102 or via the communication port 304 of a gaming device 104a-n. With reference to the entry/table 214a of the game initiation trigger database 214 of FIG. 6, the record 602 illustrates exemplary data fora game initiation trigger TR001 (trigger identifier 624) associated with the episode EP S1 E1 (episode identifier 622) of the program P006 (FIGS. 4 and 5). The trigger condition (trigger condition 626) for the game initiation trigger TR001 is "ANY LAUGH TRACK", and is a persistent game initiation trigger (trigger type 628) that is to be used (trigger status 630). FIG. 7 illustrates a sample of the contents of the probability database 216. As described further below, the probability database 216 contains information that may be utilized in a known manner by the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n to establish frequencies with which various random numbers, game results and/or outcome values occur during game play. With reference to FIG. 7, the probability database 216 contains frequency information for eighteen number ranges as provided in records 702-736, respectively. Though eighteen ranges of numbers are illustrated in FIG. 7, those skilled in the art will recognize that any number of records or entries may be included in the probability database 216. Specifically, the probability database 216 contains records having fields corresponding to, for example, (1) a random number range 738; and (2) a game result 740. Such fields will be referred to as a random number range field and a game result field, respectively. Other probability information also may be stored in the probability database 216. The random number range field of each record 702-736 may store data (e.g., a random number range 738) representing a range of numbers (or a number) associated with an a game result (identified by an game result 740 of a respective game result field of the corresponding record). For example, the random number range 1-8570 (e.g., the random number range 738 of record 702) may be associated with a game result of "NONWINNING COMBINATION" (e.g., the game result 740 of record 702). Accordingly, when the random number generator 314 (FIG. 3) of a gaming device 104a-n generates a random number in the range of 1-8570, the controller 102 and/or the corresponding gaming device 104a-n may associate an outcome value of 0 with the random number. This outcome value, in turn, may be employed by the controller 102 and/or the gaming device 104a-n to determine a payout for a gaming device player (as described further herein). In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 7, the data within the probability database 216 is suitable for use with a three-reel, 22-stop slot machine. Such a slot machine will have 22 x 22 x 22 = 10,648 possible outcomes. In operating in such an embodiment, the random number generator 314 of FIG. 3 may be adapted to generate a random number having a value between 1 and 10,648. In this manner, the random number generator 314 (FIG. 3) will only generate a number that falls within the random number ranges 720 of the probability database 216. It will be understood that other number ranges; outcome values; expected hits per cycle and/or slot machine arrangements (e.g., other numbers of reels and/or stops per reel, virtual reels, etc.) may be employed in any of a number of known manners. The probability database 216 may be populated with data provided to the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n by an operator, owner or manufacturer of the controller 102 and/or gaming devices 104a-n, or by any other relevant party. Such data population may occur, for example, via the communication port 204 of the controller 102 or via the communication port 304 of a gaming device 104a-n. FIG. 8 illustrates a sample of the contents of the payout database 218 of FIGS. 2 or 3. As described further below, the payout database 218 contains information that may be utilized in a known manner by the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n to determine a game result and corresponding payout for game play at the gaming device (based on a random number generated by the random number generator 314 of the gaming device). In an embodiment, the game result may include one or more slot reel positions, and the payout may include a number of coins, a payment voucher or the like to be provided to a gaming device player (e.g., based on the game result). With reference to FIG.8, the payout database 218 contains game result and payout information for eighteen numbers or number ranges as provided in records 802-836, respectively. Though eighteen ranges of numbers are illustrated in FIG.8, those skilled in the art will recognize that any number of records or entries may be included in the payout database 218. Specifically, the payout database 218 contains records having fields corresponding to, for example, (1) a random number range 838; (2) a game result 840; and (3) a payout 842. Such fields will be referred to as a random number range field, a game result field and a payout field, respectively. Other game result and/or payout information also may be stored in the payout database 218. The random number range field of each record 802-836 may store data (e.g., a random number range 838) representing a range of numbers (or a number) associated with a game result (identified by a game result 840) of the record. That is, when a random number is generated by a gaming device 104a-n during game play, the controller 102 and/or the gaming device 104a-n may determine a game result for the game play by examining data stored within the game result field of the record 802-836 having a random number range 838 that includes the random number. For example, in the exemplary payout database 218 of FIG.8, the game result "NON-WINNING COMBINATION" (e.g., the game result 840 of record 802) is associated with the random number range 1-8570 (e.g., the random number range 838 of record 802). Accordingly, when the random number generator 314 (FIG.3) of one of the gaming devices 104a-n generates a random number in the range of 1-8570, the controller 102 and/or the corresponding gaming device 104a-n may associate a non-winning game result with the random number. This game result, in turn, may be employed by the controller 102 and/or gaming device 104a-n to determine a payout (or no payout as the case may be) for a gaming device player (as described further below). In one or more embodiments of the invention, the information stored in a game result field of a record 802-836 may include reel position information (e.g., for a slot machine embodiment of the invention), a representation of cards to be dealt (e.g., for a video poker machine embodiment of the invention) or any other indicator of game results. The payout field of a record 802-836 may store data (e.g., a payout 842) that indicates an amount of payment or other reward due to a gaming device player when the corresponding game result 840 of the record is achieved. For example, in the embodiment of FIG. 8, the payout 842 associated with a record 802-836 may represent a number of coins to be output by the hopper 318 (FIG.3) of a gaming device 104a-n when a random number is generated by the gaming device 104a-n that falls within a respective random number range 838 of the record. Other payout indicators and/or methods may be employed (e.g., cashless vouchers, game credits, etc.). The payout database 218 may be populated with data provided to the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n by an operator, owner or manufacturer of the controller 102 and/or the gaming devices 104a-n, or by any other relevant party. Such data population may occur, for example, via the communication port 204 of the controller 102 or via the communication port 304 of a gaming device 104a-n. FIG.9 illustrates a sample of the contents of the player database 220 of FIGS.2 or 3. As shown in FIG.9, the player database 220 contains information related to four exemplary players (e.g., of the gaming devices 104a-n). Though only four players are illustrated in FIG.9, those skilled in the art will recognize that any number of records or entries may be included in the player database 220, and any type of player related information may be stored. The four players are identified in records 902-908, respectively. Specifically, the player database 220 contains records having fields corresponding to, for example, (1) a player identifier (ID) 1010; (2) a player name 1012; (3) a player address 914; (4) an active episode 916; and (5) an episode bookmark 918. Such fields will be referred to as a player identifier field, a player name field, a player address field, an active episode field and an episode bookmark field, respectively. Other player information also may be stored in the player database 220. The player identifier field of each record 902-908 may store data (e.g., a player identifier 1010) representing a unique identifier (e.g., a numeric, alpha-numeric or other code) associated with a player of a gaming device. Further, as will be described below, the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n may use player identifiers 1010 to read, write or otherwise access various data associated with a particular player. The player name field of each record 902-908 may store a textual description of a particular (e.g., identified by a player identifier 1010) player name 1012. Such data may be used by a gaming device 104a-n and/or controller 102, e.g., when outputting messages to or otherwise communicating with a player as described further below. The player address field of each record 1002-1008 may store a textual description of a particular player address 914. Such data may be used by a gaming device 104a-n and/or controller 102, e.g., to generate a mailing list for casino promotions. The active episode field of each record 902-908 may store data (e.g., an active episode identifier 916) representing a unique identifier (e.g., a numeric, alpha-numeric or other code) associated with an episode of audio/video programming that a gaming device player has begun watching but has not concluded. It should be noted that an active episode identifier 916 may identify a particular episode in a format or code similar to that used generally for identifying episodes (e.g., an episode identifier 512, such as "EP S1 E1"). Such data may be used by a gaming device 104a-n and/or controller 102, e.g., for determining an episode that a player has not finished viewing, as will be detailed further below. The episode bookmark field of each record 902-908 may store data (e.g., an episode bookmark 918) representing a location during an episode at which a player terminated watching the episode. Various means of identifying such locations are imagined, such as an elapsed time (e.g., the player stopped watching the episode at 11 minutes and 14 seconds); a particular scene (e.g., the player stopped watching the episode during the thirteenth scene); a chapter, tag, track or other marker; and so on. Thus, an identified player (e.g., a player who has inserted a tracking card associated with a player identifier 1010) may begin watching an episode of audio/video programming (e.g., identified by a unique active episode identifier 916). After a period of time elapses, the player may terminate audio/video programming. The elapsed time may then be stored in a player database 220 as an episode bookmark 918 associated with an active episode 916. Thus, the player may return to a gaming device 104a-n at a later time, insert a player tracking card (e.g., such that a gaming device 104a-n may determine a player identifier 1010, an associated active episode identifier 916 and an associated episode bookmark 918), and elect to watch the same episode from the point at which audio/video programming was previously terminated. With reference to the player database 220 of FIG. 9, the record 902 illustrates exemplary data for a player "P-OOT (player identifier 910), named "BOB JONES" (player name 912), residing at "15 ELM STREET" (player address 914). The player P-001 began watching episode "EP S1 E1" (active episode 916), and concluded watching the episode after 11 minutes and 14 seconds has elapsed (episode bookmark 918). The player database 220 may additionally store a variety of other types of data (e.g., episodes the player previously watched may be incorporated into a "favorite episodes" menu from which the player may select an episode to watch). The player database 220 may be populated with data provided to the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n by an operator, owner or manufacturer of the controller 102 and/or the gaming devices 104a-n, or by any other relevant party. Such data population may occur, for example, via the communication port 204 of the controller 102 or via the communication port 304 of a gaming device 104a-n.

EXEMPLARY OPERATION OF THE GAMING DEVICE CONTROL SYSTEM FIGS. 10A-10B illustrate a flow chart of an exemplary process 1000 of the gaming device control system 100 of FIGS. 1-9. This flow chart can be useful in describing the general operation of the gaming device control system 100 according to an embodiment. One or more of the steps of the process 1000 may be embodied within computer program code of the program 208 of the controller 102 and/or the program 308 of one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n. The above-mentioned computer program code may be embodied in one or more computer program products. With reference to FIG. 10, the process 1000 begins in step 1001. In step 1002, audio/video programming is received by the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n. In at least one embodiment of the invention, the audio/video programming may be stored locally at the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n (e.g., within the data storage device 206 of the controller 102, the memory 320 or data storage device 306 of a gaming device 104a-n, etc.). Alternatively, a pointer to audio/video programming may be received and/or stored by the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n (e.g., a URL, a WORLD WIDE WEB address or other similar address). Audio/video programming (or pointers to such programming) may be received from a variety of sources. For example, audio/video programming, pointers and/or other information may be provided to the gaming devices 104a-n via the controller 102. Further audio/video programming, pointers and/or other information may be provided to the gaming devices 104a-n and/or the controller 102 from a source outside of the gaming device control system 100 (e.g., from a casino owner or operator, or other third party). In one or more embodiments of the invention, audio/video programming may be provided to the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n from a portable media such as a DVD1 CD-ROM, etc., from hardware such as a hard disk, dedicated server, set top box (e.g., a TiVo® unit manufactured by Phillips®), etc., from the Internet (e.g., via a download from the World Wide Web), or from any other similar source. Additionally, the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n may create audio/video programming (e.g., animated audio/video programming). In step 1003, one or more game initiation triggers are associated with the audio/video programming received by the controller 102 and/or gaming device(s) 104a-n. For example, the controller 102 and/or gaming device(s) 104a-n may examine the received audio/video programming and determine one or more game initiation trigger that may be associated with the audio/video programming. Likewise, game initiation triggers may be provided with the audio/video programming (e.g., from an outside source such as a casino owner or operator or some other third party). In one or more embodiments of the invention, game initiation triggers are "associated" with audio/video programming by creating and/or storing corresponding trigger conditions within the game initiation trigger database 214 (FIG. 6). As stated, game initiation triggers (and/or the trigger conditions of such game initiation triggers) may be based on audio/video programming content and may include, for example, a time trigger (e.g., an elapsed time); an audio trigger such as a laugh track or a line spoken by a character; or a visual trigger such as a character entering a scene or a prop being displayed; a type of object, prop or scene being displayed; the occurrence of a particular action; and so on. Other exemplary game initiation triggers may include a track change or a "tag" that has been added to the audio/video programming (e.g., computer program code adapted to initiate game play at a gaming device). As an example, a game initiation trigger for a situational comedy (a "sitcom") may include an appearance of a specific character, a new scene, a line, word or phrase spoken by a character, a laugh track, etc. In at least one embodiment of the invention, one or more game initiation triggers may be associated with a specific episode, genre, description and/or running time of audio/video programming (e.g., a particular game initiation trigger may be automatically associated with an episode of programming that falls within a particular genre or has a particular running time). Any number of game initiation triggers may be associated with an episode, genre, description and/or running time of audio/video programming. In step 1004, at least an indication of payment is received from a player of one of the gaming devices 104a-n in exchange for the provision of audio/video programming to the player. For example, the controller 102 and/or one of the gaming devices 104a-n may request/require payment in exchange for the provision of audio/video programming to a gaming device player. In one embodiment of the invention, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may associate a predetermined number of game initiation triggers with each episode of audio/video programming that may be provided to a gaming device player. In such instances, payment by a player in exchange for the provision of an episode of audio/video programming to the player may be considered a total wager presented by the player for the total number games that will be initiated at a gaming device via the game initiation triggers associated with the episode of audio/video programming. Accordingly, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may establish the payment required for outputting a particular episode of audio/video programming to a gaming device player. Similarly, the payment required for outputting audio/video programming may be based on any game initiation triggers associated with the genre, description and/or running time of the audio/video programming. In some embodiments, the number of game initiation triggers associated with an episode of audio/video programming may be variable. In one such embodiment, the payment required for outputting audio/video programming may be based on an expected number of game initiation triggers within a particular range (e.g., an episode yielding between 10 and 15 game plays may have a lower cost than an episode yielding between 15 and 20 game plays). In another embodiment of the invention, a player of one of the gaming devices 104a-n may determine how many games the player wishes to have initiated during the provision of audio/video programming, and the controller 102 and/or the respective gaming device 104a-n may calculate a payment required for the initiation of the number of games requested by the player during provision of the audio/video programming to the player. The controller 102, the gaming device 104a-n or the player may select which game initiation triggers should be employed to initiate game play. In another embodiment of the invention, a gaming device player may merely specify trigger conditions for game play during an episode of audio/video programming, and the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may examine the episode of programming to determine a number of games that will be initiated based on the selected trigger conditions and a total payment required for initiating the determined number of games. For example, after selecting an episode of audio/video programming, a player may specify that all "laugh track" trigger conditions should be activated within the episode. Thus, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may access a game initiation trigger database 214 to determine a number of "laugh track" events that will occur during the episode, and price the episode accordingly. It should be noted that such an example illustrates an embodiment wherein the steps of the invention may be performed in an alternate order (i.e., step 1005 may occur before step 1004). In step 1005, audio/video programming that is to be provided to the gaming device player is selected. For example, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may select audio/video programming based on a payment received from a gaming device player (e.g., in step 1004). Alternatively, the controller 102 and/or gaming device 104a-n may provide a menu or other list of audio/video programming that is available to the player. The menu or list of audio/video programming may or may not depend on the amount of payment received from the player. In one or more embodiments, the menu or list of available audio/video programming may be based on information from the programming database 210 or episode database 212 (e.g., program description, genre, episode description, running time, etc.). For example, a player may be allowed to select a specific episode, genre and/or running time of audio/video programming to receive. In an alternate embodiment, a controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may randomly select an episode of audio/video programming for output. In one example, a player may specify a particular program (e.g., "The Cartoon Family"), and the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may then randomly select (e.g., from an episode database 212) a particular episode of the identified program for output. In another embodiment, a player may specify a genre, and the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may randomly select a program and/or episode based on the genre. As stated previously, note that in embodiments in which payment from a player is based on the selection of audio/video programming, step 1005 may occur before step 1004. In step 1006, the audio/video programming selected in step 1005 is output to a gaming device player. For example, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may execute a file containing audio/video programming contained within the episode database 212 of FIG. 5 (e.g., an MPEG2, MPEG, AVI, MOV, WAV or other similar file), and output audio/video content via an appropriate device to the player (e.g., the output device 312 of one of the gaming devices 104a- n). Alternatively, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may host or output programming received from another source (e.g., a gaming device 104a-n may host/output programming received from the controller 102, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may host/output programming received from a remote location such as from a dedicated server or the Internet, etc.), In one or more embodiments, a gaming device may comprise a plurality of output devices (e.g., two display screens, one display screen and one set of mechanical reels, etc.). In one such example, a first display device may be dedicated to the output of audio/video programming, and a second display device may be dedicated to game play (e.g., the second display screen comprises video reels of a slot machine or other graphics, text, etc. to display an indication of game play). Thus, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may output audio/video programming to an appropriate output/display device. In step 1007, the audio/video programming being provided to the gaming device player (step 1006) is monitored for the occurrence of any game initiation triggers associated with the audio/video programming. For example, based on information stored in the game initiation trigger database 214 (FIG. 6) for the particular episode of programming being provided to the gaming device player, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may monitor the episode of audio/video programming to determine if the trigger condition for any "active" and/or "not used" game initiation trigger associated with the episode has been met (e.g., whether a certain elapsed time, a laugh track, a character speaking a particular line, a track change, etc., has occurred). Assuming a game initiation trigger is detected/has occurred, in step 1008, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may initiate game play at the respective gaming device 104a-. In some embodiments, upon the occurrence of a game initiation trigger, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may initiate a game play automatically (i.e., without requiring further player input). For example, if game play is to be initiated at a physical reel or video reel slot machine, the controller 102 and/or the respective gaming device 104a-n (e.g., via computer program code) may instruct the random number generator 314 of the gaming device to generate a random number. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the controller 102 may initiate game play at a gaming device by transmitting a game initiation signal to the gaming device (e.g., via the communication port 204 of the controller 102). Optionally, one or more output devices of a gaming device 104a-n may indicate that a game play has been initiated. For example, in an embodiment wherein a gaming device 104a- n comprises a physical reel or video reel slot machine, the reels may begin to spin. In one embodiment, graphics/text superimposed over audio/video programming output by a first display device may indicate that game play has been initiated on a second display device (e.g., "Reels spinning below!" appears in the corner of a display device used to output audio/video programming). In another embodiment, one or more output devices of a gaming device 104a-n may indicate that a game play is about to occur (i.e., a "game play warning indication" is output). For example, in an embodiment wherein a gaming device 104a-n comprises a first display area dedicated to the output of audio/video programming, as well as a second display area dedicated to game play (e.g., a separate display screen for video reels, mechanical reels behind a glass panel, etc.), a game play warning indication may be output to the first display area upon the occurrence of a game initiation trigger (e.g., a graphic and/or textual game play warning indication is superimposed over a first display area or portion thereof). A variety of such game play warning indications are contemplated, including but not limited to any combination of (1) pre-recorded audio output via speakers (e.g., a voice indicates "Your reels are about to spin!"), (2) graphics or icons output via a display device (e.g., an animation depicts the handle of a slot machine being pulled), and (3) text output via a display device (e.g., "Spin starts in 3 seconds!"). In some embodiments wherein the controller 102 and or gaming device 104a-n may be programmed to initiate a game play automatically upon the occurrence of a game initiation trigger, a player may have an opportunity to cancel or terminate pending game play before game play is initiated. In one such embodiment, a player may actuate an input device instructing the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n to cancel game play (i.e., during the period between when a game play warning indication is output and when corresponding game play is initiated). For example, a player may cancel or "opt out" of a pending game play by actuating a "Don't Play" button, touching a portion of a touch-sensitive LCD screen, etc. If no cancellation indication is received from the player, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may then initiate game play automatically. In some embodiments, the time a player may have before game play is initiated may be communicated to the player (e.g., a display device depicts a countdown of the number of seconds remaining before game play is automatically initiated). In some embodiments, if a player cancels a predefined number of consecutive game plays (or a number of game plays within a predefined time period, etc.), the output of audio/video programming may terminate (e.g., the player must maintain a minimum rate of play in order to continue viewing audio/video programming). In another embodiment, a gaming device 104a-n may comprise a "TRIGGERS ON/ TRIGGERS OFF" feature, which a player may utilize (e.g., by pressing a button, etc.) to indicate whether all game initiation triggers that occur should initiate game play or not. In some embodiments wherein the controller 102 and or gaming device 104a-n may be programmed to initiate game play automatically upon the occurrence of a game initiation trigger, a gaming device 104a-n may comprise a "game play initiation lock" feature. For example, a gaming device player may actuate a game play initiation lock feature, such that upon each occurrence of a game play initiation trigger, game play may be initiated automatically. The player may also actuate a "game play initiation unlock" feature, such that the player may be directed/required to initiate game play upon occurrence of each game initiation trigger (as described further below). In one or more embodiments, one or more input devices may be used in accordance with a lock and/or unlock feature (e.g., a physical button or foot pedal may be depressed to lock the device, a graphic representation of a lock and/or unlock button may appear on a touch-screen display device, etc.). In an alternate embodiment of the invention, a gaming device player may be directed/required to initiate game play at a gaming device upon occurrence of a game initiation trigger. In one embodiment, the occurrence of a gaming initiation trigger may initiate a "SPIN? YES/NO" prompt. A gaming device player may then actuate an input device (e.g., press a button, touch an image of a touch-sensitive LCD screen, etc.) so as to indicate whether or not game play is to take place. In some embodiments, the gaming device and/or the controller may temporarily suspend the presentation of audio/video programming to the player, such as by pausing the audio/video, upon the occurrence of a game initiation trigger. The player may thereafter resume the audio/video programming following the initiation of a game. In another example, audio/video programming may not be suspended while the player initiates game play (e.g., an episode of audio/video programming is displayed on a first display area, while a customer actuates a "SPIN" button associated with a second display area in which game play occurs). In step 1009 (FIG. 10B), based on the random number generated by a gaming device 104a-n in step 1008, the controller 102 and/or the gaming device 104a-n determines a result of the initiated game play. For example, the controller 102 and/or the gaming device 104a-n may access the game result field of the record 802-836 having a random number range 838 that includes the random number generated in step 1008, and determine a game result based on the contents of the game result field of the corresponding record. The game result then may be provided or otherwise displayed to the game player (e.g., as one or more physical or video reels, as a video poker hand, etc.). It will be understood that a variety of output device configurations may be utilized in providing game results to players. For example, in one or more embodiments, a game result may appear as a graphic, icon and/or animation sequence of a display device. In some embodiments, the same display device used to output audio/video content may also be used to output a game result. For example, a graphic/animation representing a slot machine outcome may be superimposed over audio/video content or a portion thereof. In some embodiments, the opacity of such a graphic/animation may be altered (i.e., the image is made to be semi-transparent, such that video programming may still be seen underneath). Further, such graphics/animations may only occupy a portion of a display device used to output audio/video programming (e.g., game results appear in the corner of a display screen used for the output of audio/video programming). In other embodiments, a first and second output device may be used to present audio/video programming and game results, respectively (e.g., a display screen presents audio/video programming while mechanical reels present game results). In further embodiments, a first device may be used to present audio/video programming and game results (e.g., game results appear small, in the corner of the screen), and a second device may only present game results (e.g., game results appear large). In step 1010, any payout due to the gaming device player (based on the game result) is provided to the gaming device player. For example, the controller 102 and/or gaming device 104a-n may access the payout field of the record 802-836 having a random number range 838 that includes the random number generated in step 1008 and/or corresponding to the game result determined in step 1009, and determine a payout amount based on the contents of the payout field of the corresponding record. In at least one embodiment of the invention, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may direct the hopper 318 (via the corresponding hopper controller 316) to dispense a predetermined payout to the gaming device player. The payout may be currency deposited to a coin tray of a gaming device, credit posted to an account associated with the gaming device player, a voucher or printed receipt that includes a bar code that may be subsequently validated (i.e., a cashless gaming voucher), etc. In step 1011, the controller 102 and/or the gaming device 104a-n determine if any more game initiation triggers are associated with the audio/video programming being provided to the gaming device player. For example, the controller 102 and/or gaming device 104a-n may examine the trigger status field of each record of the relevant entry/table of the game initiation trigger database 214 to determine if additional active game initiation triggers are associated with the audio/video programming. If so, the process 1000 returns to step 1007 to detect the occurrence of subsequent game initiation triggers; otherwise the process 1000 ends at step 1012. In some embodiments, audio/video programming may continue to be output even if no subsequent game initiation triggers are detected (e.g., a player may view an audio/video programming episode until its completion, even if no further game play will ensue). In an embodiment, different numbers or types of game initiation triggers may be assigned to different episodes of audio/video programming. As an example, each occurrence of a laugh track may serve as a game initiation trigger for an episode A of an audio/video program, while each appearance of a certain character may serve as a game initiation trigger for an episode B of the audio/video program. In this manner, the number of games to be initiated at a gaming device may vary based on the particular episode of a program being provided to a gaming device player. Multiple entries/tables of game initiation triggers (e.g., one for each unique episode) thereby may be associated with an audio/video program. Further, multiple entries/tables of game initiation triggers may be associated with a particular episode of audio/video programming. In one such example, a player may activate several persistent game initiation triggers (e.g., during an episode, game play will be initiated upon any "laugh track" occurrences as well as any appearances of a particular character). As stated, a price may then be determined by the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n according to an expected number of triggers that will occur (e.g., a customer pays a "package price" to activate two different trigger types). In another embodiment, the audio/video programming to be output to a gaming device player may include a live event (e.g., a sporting event such as a baseball game, basketball game, football game, a concert, etc.). In such an embodiment, a live broadcast may be monitored (e.g., by an operator of the gaming device control system 100), and game play may be manually initiated at one or more gaming devices 104a-n based on the occurrence of one or more game initiation triggers. For example, during a baseball game, an appropriate game initiation trigger may be the throwing of a pitch to a batter. An operator may monitor the baseball game and initiate game play at a gaming device 104a-n whenever a pitcher throws a pitch to a batter (e.g., while the baseball game is being provided to a player of the gaming device). Game play may be initiated by transmitting a game initiation signal to the controller 102 and/or one or more of the gaming devices 104a-n. In another embodiment, game play may be automatically initiated at one or more gaming devices 104a-n based on the occurrence of one or more game initiation triggers which software automatically detects, in another embodiment, game play may be automatically initiated at one or more gaming devices 104a-n based on the tags that are detected in the broadcast. In yet another embodiment of the invention, the occurrence of a game initiation trigger may result in the initiation of multiple game plays at a gaming device. For example, several sets of reels of a video slot machine may be initiated to spin at once. In another embodiment, several paylines associated with a slot machine may be activated (e.g., each occurrence of a game initiation trigger activates one payline). In another embodiment, a "bonus round" may be initiated or allowed at a gaming device in response to one or more game initiation triggers. For example, the occurrence of a particular trigger (e.g., a rare game initiation trigger, such as the cameo appearance of a celebrity during a television sitcom) may launch a bonus round as opposed to standard game play. In some embodiments, a bonus round may ensure that a player wins at least some minimum amount (as opposed to standard game play, which may conclude in a losing game result). In various embodiments, a bonus round may initiate upon the occurrence of a predetermined number of game initiation triggers within a certain predefined time frame, upon one or more consecutive winning game plays, upon a particular game result 840 (e.g., "cherry/cherry/cherry"), etc. Likewise, the occurrence of a game initiation trigger may result in the initiation of partial game play, and/or multiple game initiation triggers may need to occur before game play is initiated at a gaming device. For example, the occurrence of a laugh track during a sitcom may initiate spinning of a single reel of a three-reel slot machine, though three laugh tracks may be required to initiate the spinning of all three reels (and the subsequent determination of a game result). In further embodiments of the present invention, a gaming device 104a-n may be configured to operate as (1) a standard gaming device, wherein players may initiate game play and receive payouts without the output of audio/video programming, and (2) a gaming device as described above, wherein game initiation triggers associated with audio/video programming may initiate game play. Thus, a gaming device 104a-n may be configured to operate in two distinct "modes": (1) "standard mode," wherein game play occurs without audio/video programming, and (2) "audio/video programming mode," wherein game initiation triggers associated with audio/video programming may initiate game play. In one or more embodiments, such a gaming device 104a-n may comprise a plurality of payout databases 218. For example, a first payout database 218 may be associated with game results 840 achieved during standard mode operation, and a second payout database 218 may be associated with game results 840 achieved during audio/video programming mode operation. In one such example, payouts may be configured to pay less during audio/video programming mode operation than during standard mode operation (e.g., a slot machine game result 840 of "orange/orange/orange" pays 20 credits in standard mode, but only 15 credits in audio/video programming mode). Such an embodiment may be beneficial, as casinos may in effect charge a fee for the provision of audio/video programming (i.e., winning game results pay less in audio/video programming mode). As described, in some embodiments, game play may occur while audio/video programming is output, though game initiation triggers may not be associated with audio/video programming. Thus, the player may view audio/video programming during game play, though the programming may have no affect on game play. In one such embodiment, game play may automatically occur at a predetermined rate as audio/video content is output (e.g., a movie plays while slot machine reels spin once every 10 seconds). In another embodiment, a player may be free to initiate game play at any time (e.g., by actuating a "spin" button or pulling a handle). In one such embodiment, audio/video programming may only be output if a player maintains a certain specified rate of play (e.g., five game plays per minute). Apparatus and methods which, among other things, permit and enable various ways of providing benefits to gaming device players who maintain a particular rate of play, and which are appropriate for use in accordance with various embodiments are disclosed in pending U.S. Patent No. 6,238,288, filed December 31, 1997, entitled "METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR DIRECTING A GAME IN ACCORDANCE WITH SPEED OF PLAY," the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference. As stated, in some embodiments of the present invention, a flat price may be charged for an episode of audio/video programming. It should be noted that such embodiments are examples of session-based game play (i.e., players pay in advance for game play lasting a fixed period of time, a certain number of game plays, etc.). Apparatus and methods which, among other things, permit and enable various ways of providing contract play and game sessions such as prepaid or flat-rate play sessions, and which are appropriate for use in accordance with the present invention are disclosed in pending U.S. Patent Application No. 10/001,089, filed November 2, 2001, entitled "GAME MACHINE FOR A FLAT RATE PLAY SESSION AND METHOD OF OPERATING SAME," the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference. Such embodiments utilizing flat pricing can be beneficial, since in certain embodiments there may be no need for players to insert coins when game play is initiated by an occurrence of a game imitation trigger. As described, in other embodiments of the present invention, audio/video programming may be provided without requiring a player to pay "up-front" (i.e. initially before game play begins). For example, a player may establish a balance of credits by inserting currency into a gaming device 104a-n. Credits may then be deducted from the balance upon the initiation of game play (e.g., a slot machine balance is decremented by a wager amount in accordance with each spin). Thus, in some embodiments, a wager amount may be associated with game play. For example, the occurrence of a game initiation trigger may entitle a player of a gaming device 104a-n to game play. However, before game play begins, a player may be required to provide a wager amount (e.g., a number of coins or credits that are to be provided in exchange for game play). As is known in the art, a payout for a winning game result 840 may then be based on an associated wager amount (e.g., a larger number of coins may be paid if a wager amount is higher). In some embodiments, a "standard wager amount" may be associated with game play of a gaming device 104a-n. For example, each time a slot machine spin is initiated by the occurrence of a game initiation trigger, the same number of credits must be provided (e.g., three credits per spin are required). In other embodiments, a "variable wager amount" may be associated with game play of a gaming device 104a-n. Thus, in some embodiments, a player may indicate a first wager amount before a first game play occurs, and indicate a second wager amount before a second game play occurs (e.g., by selecting an amount from a list of options, pressing a button indicating a number of credits, using a touch-sensitive display screen to input a number of credits, etc.). As stated, in one or more embodiments, one or more output devices of a gaming device 104a-n may indicate that a game play is about to occur (i.e., a game play warning indication is output). Accordingly, a game play warning indication may also comprise a prompt to a player to input a wager amount (e.g., "Time to spin! How many credits to wager?"). In some embodiments, a minimum wager amount may be required (e.g., at least three credits must be wagered for every hand of video poker). In further embodiments, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may monitor a credit balance associated with a particular gaming device 104a-n, player (identified by a player identifier), etc. For example, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may determine a number of credits indicated by a credit balance meter. In one or more embodiments of the present invention, a "low credit balance" warning indication may be output to a player if a determined number of credits is less than or equal to a predefined threshold number of credits (e.g., if a gaming device 104a-n credit balance dips below five credits, text is output via a display screen indicating "Balance low! Make sure to deposit coins to keep watching the show!"). In further embodiments, if a determined credit balance is low (e.g., less than a predetermined threshold, less than a minimum or standard wager amount or multiple thereof, etc.), audio/video programming may be altered (e.g., shrunk, darkened, etc.). In some embodiments, a low credit balance warning indication may only be output if audio/video programming is also currently being output (such that low credit balance warning indications are not output unnecessarily via inactive or idle gaming devices 104a-n). In this manner, players enjoying audio/video programming may be informed of a pending need to deposit credits, such that the output of audio/video programming and/or game play may continue. In one or more embodiments of the present invention, an existing gaming device may be retrofit with a "separate device" configured to enable various processes described herein. For example, in one embodiment, a separate device may be mounted on, attached or otherwise retrofit to an existing gaming device, such that the device may at least be used to output audio/video programming (e.g., the separate device comprises a video screen). In some embodiments, a separate device may also be operable to send a signal to the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n (i.e., via a communication port) indicating an occurrence of a game initiation trigger. As stated, in one or more embodiments, upon the initiation of a bonus round, the output of audio/video programming may be temporarily suspended, such that the player may interact with elements of the bonus game. Further, the output of audio/video programming may be temporarily suspended upon the occurrence of a variety of other events, including but not limited to: payouts larger than a predefined threshold amount, the occurrence of a particular game result, the initiation of game play, etc. In other embodiments, a bonus round, game play and/or audio/video programming may be output concurrently. In some embodiments of the present invention, a gaming device 104a-n may comprise a number of audio/video programming controls. For example, a gaming device 104a-n may comprise means (e.g., physical buttons, graphics/icons output via a touch-sensitive display device, etc.) for a player to input commands such as "PAUSE," "REWIND," "FAST-FORWARD," and so on. Such commands may affect the output of audio/video programming. For example, if a player inputs a pause command, the output of audio/video programming may be temporarily suspended. In some embodiments, output may then resume in accordance with a timer mechanism (e.g., a gaming device 104a-n may be configured such that a player may only pause the output of audio/video programming for a limited amount of time). A player may input rewind and fast-forward commands such that earlier and later portions of audio/video programming may be output (e.g., a player holds down a rewind button to replay or skip to a favorite scene). It should be noted that typical content navigation commands such as "previous chapter/track" and "next chapter/track" are also contemplated. In some embodiments, a rewind feature may be beneficial as players may replay sections or scenes of audio/video programming perceived as "lucky" (e.g., a particular scene had previously triggered game play producing a winning game result 840). In some embodiments of the present invention, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may adjust the volume associated with audio/video programming and/or game play. For example, sounds associated with game play (e.g., music that accompanies the spinning of reels, bell sounds that accompany payouts, etc.) may be suppressed or eliminated during certain predetermined portions of audio/video programming (e.g., a quiet, critical scene of a drama). In another embodiment, normal game play sounds (e.g., music accompanying the spinning of reels, bell sounds that accompany small payouts) may be output at a first, lesser volume level, while special game play sounds (e.g., bonus round or jackpot sound effects) may be output at a second, higher volume level. In an alternate embodiment, game play that would normally occur during certain predetermined portions of audio/video programming may be "saved" such that it is initiated at a later time, so as to not interrupt a player's enjoyment of audio/video programming (e.g., game play triggered during a climactic scene of audio/video programming may be reserved and later output during a scene that is considered less important). In some embodiments of the present invention, the controller 102 and/or a gaming device 104a-n may be configured to track the output of audio/video programming. For example, in one embodiment, each time an episode of a particular program is selected by a player, a database may be updated to reflect the selection. In this manner, parties that hold the copyrights or other rights to audio/video programming may be compensated based on how many times (or, e.g., the total time in minutes) a program/episode has been shown. Turning to FIG. 9, a player database 220 may be used to enable a gaming device player who has begun watching an episode, cashed out or otherwise terminated game play, and returned to a gaming device 104a-n to continue watching an episode of audio/video programming from the point at which the player stopped previously. For example, a player may approach a gaming device 104a-n; insert a player tracking card (i.e., a plastic card with a magnetic strip readable by a gaming device that is associated with a unique alphanumeric player identifier or other code); pay a fixed, up-front price; select an episode of audio/video programming and watch the episode for a period of time. At this point, an active episode identifier 916 may then be associated with the player, who may be identified by a unique player identifier 910 indicated, for example, by the player tracking card. The player may then choose to cash out before the episode is complete. The elapsed time of the episode at the time the player requests cashout may then be associated with the player identifier and active episode identifier (i.e., an episode bookmark 918 is established). In this manner, should the player return to a gaming device 104a-n at a later time and insert a player tracking card, the player may be provided with the option to continue viewing the unfinished episode (e.g., from the point of termination). In another embodiment, a cashless gaming voucher output from a ticket-in/ticket-out device may comprise a barcode or other indicia, which may be used to indicate data such as a player identifier 910, an active episode 916 and/or an episode bookmark 918, such that the player may use the voucher to complete watching an episode of audio/video programming. In some embodiments of the present invention, a gaming device 104a-n may be configured to output (e.g., via a display device) a history of game results (e.g., a panel indicates the results of the "Last 10 Spins" or "Last 10 Hands"). Such embodiments may be beneficial as players may focus on audio/video programming without the need to frequently monitor game play; game play need not be monitored as it occurs, but rather may be monitored only when convenient for a player. In various embodiments of the present invention, game play may comprise a video poker game. In some embodiments, a video poker game may comprise a "five-card stud" or "seven- card stud" poker game (e.g., a display screen depicts poker hands being dealt). As no "hold" decisions are required in stud poker, such embodiments may be desirable, as players may enjoy audio/video programming without needing to focus on game play. In some embodiments, stud poker hands may be sorted (e.g., pairs and/or high cards are moved to the left, cards of the same suit are grouped, etc.) such that players may easily discern winning hands from losing hands. In other embodiments, a video poker game may comprise a "draw poker" game. As "hold" decisions may be required in draw poker, a gaming device 104a-n may be configurable to operate in an "auto- play" mode, wherein such decisions are made according to predefined game strategy rules. Strategy rules may be constructed, for example, such that when players are dealt a particular starting hand, hold decisions are automatically made so as to yield a final hand with the highest expected value. In some embodiments, a player may select preferred strategy rules. Such rules for automated play may be stored, for example, in a player database 220 in association with a player identifier 1010. In other embodiments, players may interact with a draw poker game and make decisions themselves. Accordingly, draw poker hands may be sorted (e.g., pairs and/or high cards are moved to the left, cards of the same suit are grouped, etc.) so as to aid players in making such decisions. In some embodiments of the present invention, a game initiation trigger occurring during audio/video programming output by a first device may initiate game play of a second device. For example, a plurality of gaming devices 104a-n may be networked to a common display device (e.g., a large television screen). Should a game initiation trigger occur during the output of audio/video programming, game play may be initiated on one or more gaming devices 104a-n.

EXEMPLARY USES OF THE GAMING DEVICE CONTROL SYSTEM Below are various exemplary uses of the gaming device control system according to certain embodiments. Accordingly, these examples are not limiting on he scope of any embodiment and are provided merely for convenience.

A slot machine located on the floor of a casino presents a menu of available television sitcoms on the machine's display screen (output device(s) 312). Each sitcom has a listing of available episodes along with brief descriptions of those episodes. Using a touch screen on the front of the slot machine, the player selects episode EP S1 E1 (entry 506 in programming database 212) of "My Wacky Roommate", his favorite television show. The episode costs $25, and triggers a reel spin (and 25-cent wager) every time the laugh track is used. Although the player is informed that there are 100 laugh tracks associated with this particular episode, he does not know when they will occur during the episode. The player inserts a $20 bill into the bill validator and touches an "accept" button to begin the show. The slot machine deducts $20 from his credit balance and the episode begins, displayed on display screen (e.g., output device(s) 312). Every time the laugh track is played, the reels of the slot machine spin to reveal an outcome such as "Cherry-Cherry-Bar" and the hopper disburses a payout (or credits are added to the credit meter) if the outcome is a winning outcome (e.g. in accordance with payout database 218). Since the reel spins are performed automatically, the player is free to relax and enjoy the episode as if he were in the comfort of his own home watching television - with the additional benefit of winning slot machine spins to add to the entertainment experience. In preparation for display at such a slot machine, the episode has been previously reviewed and the running times at which laugh tracks occur have been documented (e.g. as time codes in the trigger condition field 626 of the game initiation trigger database 214). Thus, by utilizing a running time to initiate slot machine reel spins, the spins are synchronized to the occurrence of individual laugh tracks occurring during the episode while being presented to the player (e.g., the spin occurs within one second of the corresponding laugh track). Because the player has prepaid for the entire episode, there is no need to insert coins when the reels are initiated by an occurrence of the laugh track. Following completion of the episode, the player may elect to cash out all or a portion of his balance or to watch another episode by selecting from the menu provided by the slot machine.

In another example, a player approaches a slot machine on a casino floor, and begins game play without selecting audio/video programming, such that no audio/video programming is output during game play. The player selects wager amounts, pulls the handle, and watches as the video reels on the machine's bottom display screen present outcomes. For certain outcomes (e.g., "bar/bar/bar" the player is paid an amount of credits (e.g., 10 credits are added to a credit meter). After playing in this manner for a period of time, the player notices that several players of adjacent gaming devices are watching television programs on the upper display of their respective slot machines. The reels spin automatically every time characters of the program speak certain words. The player request a menu of the slot machine, selects an episode of a television game show and begins watching the episode. Each time a triggering event occurs (e.g., a character says "money"), a small graphic in the corner of the television screen indicates that the video reels on the lower screen are about to spin (e.g., "SPIN upcoming"). The player has the opportunity to cancel spins by pressing a "TRIGGERS OFF" button. The player receives payouts each time a spin results in a winning outcome, though the payout amounts are lower than if the player were to play without watching television.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US20030211881 *16 Apr 200313 Nov 2003Walker Jay S.Methods and apparatus for employing audio/video programming to initiate game play at a gaming device
Non-Patent Citations
Reference
1 *See also references of EP1781387A4
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
EP2244795A1 *9 Feb 20093 Nov 2010Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty, LtdSystem and method for secondary promotion gaming in a gaming system
EP2244795A4 *9 Feb 200919 Mar 2014Aristocrat Technologies AuSystem and method for secondary promotion gaming in a gaming system
US811393512 Mar 200714 Feb 2012IgtSystem and method for presenting payout ranges and audiovisual clips at a gaming device
Classifications
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, A63F2300/69
European ClassificationG07F17/32
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