Title:
GAMING APPARATUS AND METHOD OF USE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming apparatus includes at least one gaming device that is configured to allow a player to place a wager and to play a game. A display device is mounted in association with the gaming device. The display device includes a housing and a housing positioning mechanism that is coupled to the housing. An indicator is coupled to the housing and an indicator positioning mechanism is coupled to the indicator. A controller is in communication with the gaming device, the housing positioning mechanism and the indicator positioning mechanism. The controller is configured to detect an indicator moving event and to move the housing and the indicator in accordance with the indicator moving event. The present invention also includes a gaming method using the gaming apparatus.



Inventors:
Seelig, Jerald C. (Galloway, NJ, US)
Henshaw, Lawrence M. (Hammonton, NJ, US)
Application Number:
12/247564
Publication Date:
05/07/2009
Filing Date:
10/08/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/16, 463/25
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
GRANT, MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ATIP Law (RENO, NV, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A gaming system comprising: (A) at least one gaming device configured to allow a player to place a wager and to play a game; (B) a display device mounted in association with the gaming device, the display device comprising: (a) a housing; (b) a housing positioning mechanism coupled to the housing; (c) an indicator coupled to the housing; and (d) an indicator positioning mechanism coupled to the indicator; and (C) at least one controller in communication with the gaming device, the housing positioning mechanism and the indicator positioning mechanism, the controller being configured to: (a) detect an indicator moving event; (b) move the housing; and (c) move the indicator in accordance with the indicator moving event.

2. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the controller determines a game outcome.

3. The gaming system of claim 2, further comprising awarding a prize if the game outcome is a prize awarding outcome.

4. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the housing has a plurality of walls, a slot being located in at least one of the walls, the indicator being moveable along the slot.

5. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the housing positioning mechanism comprises a first actuator coupled to the housing, the first actuator being adapted to rotate the housing.

6. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the indicator positioning mechanism comprises a second actuator coupled to a rod, the indicator being mounted to the rod, the second actuator being adapted to rotate the rod and thereby move the indicator.

7. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the indicator moves in a helical path around the housing.

8. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the indicator is a video indicator, the video indicator being in communication with the controller.

9. The gaming system of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of gaming devices, each of the gaming devices being configured to cause an indicator moving event.

10. The gaming system of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of indicators coupled to the housing.

11. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein each gaming device has a corresponding moveable indicator and wherein each moveable indicator indicates progress of a respective gaming device towards a prize awarding position.

12. A method of gaming comprising, not all necessarily in the order shown: (A) determining a game outcome; (B) determining if an indicator moving event has occurred; (C) if the indicator moving event has occurred, determining a number of indicator positions to move an indicator; (D) moving the indicator the number of indicator positions; and (E) if the game outcome is a prize awarding outcome, awarding a prize.

13. The method of claim 12, further comprising allowing a plurality of players at a plurality of gaming devices to play a game, each of the gaming devices being adapted to generate the indicator moving event.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein the prize is awarded to each player in proportion to the number of indicator positions which the respective player moved the indicator.

15. The method of claim 12, wherein the prize is divided equally between all of the players that had at least one indicator moving event.

16. The method of claim 12, wherein the prize is awarded to the player that moves the indicator to the prize awarding position.

17. The method of claim 12, further comprising rotating the indicator such that each of the game players at each of the gaming devices may view the indicator.

18. The method of claim 12, wherein if the indicator has reached an end of travel position, reversing the direction of the indicator.

19. A gaming apparatus comprising: (A) a plurality of gaming devices, each of the gaming devices being adapted to allow a player to place a wager and to play a game, each of the gaming devices being adapted to generate an indicator moving event; (B) a display device mounted such that the players may view the display device, the display device comprising: (a) a housing; (b) a housing positioning mechanism coupled to the housing; (c) an indicator coupled to the housing; and (d) an indicator positioning mechanism coupled to the indicator; and (C) at least one controller in communication with the plurality of gaming devices and the display device, the controller being configured to detect the indicator moving event and if the indicator moving event has occurred, to move the indicator.

20. The gaming apparatus of claim 19, wherein a prize is awarded when the indicator moves to a prize awarding position.

21. The gaming apparatus of claim 19, further comprising moving the housing.

22. The gaming apparatus of claim 19, wherein the housing positioning mechanism comprises a first actuator coupled to the housing, the first actuator being adapted to rotate the housing.

23. The gaming apparatus of claim 19, wherein the indicator positioning mechanism comprises a second actuator coupled to a rod, the indicator being mounted to the rod, the second actuator being adapted to rotate the rod and thereby move the indicator.

24. A gaming apparatus comprising: (A) means for placing a wager and playing a game; (B) means for moving a housing and an indicator mounted in association with the means for placing a wager and playing a game; (C) means for determining an indicator moving event, if an indicator moving event is determined, moving the housing and the indicator; (D) means for determining a game outcome; and (E) means for awarding a prize, if the game outcome is a prize awarding outcome, awarding a prize.

25. The gaming apparatus of claim 24, wherein the means for moving a housing and an indicator comprises: (a) a housing; (b) a housing positioning mechanism coupled to the housing; (c) an indicator coupled to the housing; and (d) an indicator positioning mechanism coupled to the indicator.

26. The gaming apparatus of claim 24, further comprising allowing a plurality of players to play the gaming apparatus.

27. The gaming apparatus of claim 26, wherein the prize is awarded to each player in proportion to a number of indicator positions which the respective player caused the indicator to be moved.

28. The gaming apparatus of claim 26, wherein the prize is divided equally between all of the players that had at least one indicator moving event.

29. The gaming apparatus of claim 26, wherein the prize is awarded to the player that moves the indicator to a prize awarding position.

30. The gaming apparatus of claim 26, further comprising rotating the housing such that each of the game players may view the indicator.

31. The gaming apparatus of claim 26, wherein if the indicator has reached an end of travel position, reversing the direction of the indicator.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED AND CO-PENDING APPLICATIONS

This patent application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/986,267 filed on Nov. 07, 2007. The contents of the foregoing application are herein incorporated by reference in entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to gaming devices providing physical moveable indicators. In particular, the invention relates to community games using physical moveable indicators.

BACKGROUND

Prior art gaming devices have advanced from basic slot machines to machines allowing interaction between players through the playing of community games. In general however, the physical appearance of the gaming device is relatively static, despite there being many changing lights and symbols. Community games provide enhanced player excitement by increasing interactivity between players. In a community game, multiple players wager on linked devices. Certain gaming outcomes trigger progress towards a community prize event in which a community prize is distributed amongst eligible players. However, the displays are relatively static with little physical movement provided to enhance the visual appeal of the games. In addition, where community game information is displayed along a line of gaming machines, players at the center will typically have a better view of the community game information than players at the end. One solution is to provide multiple displays of the community game information so that all players have an equal view of the community game information, but this solution decreases the “community” feel of the gaming station.

SUMMARY OF ONE EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

Advantages of One or More Embodiments of the Present Invention

The various embodiments of the present invention may, but do not necessarily, achieve one or more of the following advantages:

the ability to display community game information to multiple players;

provide a community game incorporating one or more moveable indicators;

provide an attractive moving display to indicate progress towards a bonus event;

provide a display that can move an indicator on a helical path;

provide a display that can rotate and move one or more indicators on a linear path to show a game outcome;

provide an attractive game display that changes in physical appearance as the game is played;

provide an attractive moving display to multiple players to indicate progress towards a community prize event;

provide increased excitement to a player by indicating that a bonus or community prize event may be imminent;

provide a sense of competition between players of a community game;

provide several means for distributing a community prize to eligible players;

provide increased incentive to play a community game;

provide an enhanced common view of community game information; and

provide a more visual game playing experience.

These and other advantages may be realized by reference to the remaining portions of the specification, claims, and abstract.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF ONE EMBODIMENT OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

In one embodiment, the present invention comprises a gaming system that includes at least one gaming device that is configured to allow a player to place a wager and to play a game. A display device is mounted in association with the gaming device. The display device includes a housing and a housing positioning mechanism that is coupled to the housing. An indicator is coupled to the housing and an indicator positioning mechanism is coupled to the indicator. At least one controller is in communication with the gaming device, the housing positioning mechanism and the indicator positioning mechanism. The controller is configured to detect an indicator moving event and to move the indicator in accordance with the indicator moving event.

In another embodiment, the present invention comprises a method of gaming. The method includes determining if an indicator moving event has occurred and if the indicator moving event has occurred, determining a number of indicator positions to move an indicator. The indicator is moved the number of indicator positions and it is determined if the indicator is in a prize awarding position. If the indicator is in the prize awarding position, a prize is awarded.

The above description sets forth, rather broadly, a summary of one embodiment of the present invention so that the detailed description that follows may be better understood and contributions of the present invention to the art may be better appreciated. Some of the embodiments of the present invention may not include all of the features or characteristics listed in the above summary. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described below and will form the subject matter of claims. In this respect, before explaining at least one preferred embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of the construction and to the arrangement of the components set forth in the following description or as illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is substantially a side view of one embodiment of the gaming apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is substantially a top view of the gaming apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3A is substantially a side cross-sectional view of a portion of FIG. 1 showing an internal view of the display;

FIG. 3B is substantially a top view of a mounting block;

FIG. 3C is substantially an alternative embodiment of an indicator positioning mechanism;

FIG. 3D is substantially a schematic diagram of the gaming apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3E is substantially a flowchart of one embodiment of a game method using the gaming apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3F is substantially a flowchart of another embodiment of a game method using the gaming apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is substantially a schematic view of a further embodiment of the gaming apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 5A is substantially a top view of the gaming apparatus of FIG. 4;

FIG. 5B is substantially a schematic diagram of the gaming apparatus of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is substantially an internal view of a further embodiment of a display in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 7 substantially depicts a processor and instruction set executable in the processor;

FIG. 8 is substantially a top schematic view of a further embodiment of the gaming apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is substantially a side cross-sectional view of the gaming apparatus of FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 is substantially a side view of yet another embodiment of a gaming apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is substantially a side cross-sectional view of the gaming apparatus of figure 10;

FIG. 12 is substantially a flowchart of a game method using the gaming apparatus of FIG. 10;

FIG. 13 is substantially a side view of an additional embodiment of a gaming apparatus of the present invention that uses a video display; and

FIG. 14 is substantially a side view of FIG. 13 showing one possible game display.

DESCRIPTION OF CERTAIN EMBODIMENTS OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

In the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of this application. The drawings show, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

In FIGS. 1 and 2 there is illustrated a gaming system or apparatus 10 in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. The gaming apparatus 10 has at least one primary or base gaming device 12 and a bonus gaming device, second game display or community game display 14.

While only one gaming device 12 is shown adjacent to second game display 14, several gaming devices 12 may be positioned all the way around second game display 14. Gaming devices 12 and second game display 14 may be operated in a relationship that enables a community game where several game players can play together in association with each other.

Gaming device 12 may be any of a large number of devices that are adapted to allow players to play a game. For example, game apparatus 12 may utilize reel displays (not shown), such as spinning reels or a video display 31, to display outcomes of the game. Means may also be provided for accepting wagers, such as a coin slot or card reader 30, and for awarding prizes, such as a coin dispenser 33. Buttons 32 are provided for activating gaming device 12 to begin a game. In at least one embodiment, gaming device 12 may be an S Plus model gaming device manufactured by International Game Technology in Reno, Nev.

Gaming device 10 may be controlled by an electronic controller 80 (see FIG. 3D) that utilizes a random number generator. The random number generator produces a random or pseudo random number for each game. The outcome of the game may be determined by comparing the random number to a table of outcomes stored in a memory and accessed by controller 80. A number of different tables of outcomes may be used and different tables may be used for different games. The tables can be designed so that different prizes have different probabilities of being awarded. Such design techniques are well known in gaming. Examples of such designs are shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,448,419, issued to Telnaes, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,456,465, issued to Durham. Controller 80 causes video display 31 to show the outcome of the game that corresponds to the outcome of the random number generator. It is recognized that gaming device 12 may operate in many other ways and still achieve the objects of the present invention.

Gaming device 12 may also be capable of producing a bonus activating event or an indicator moving event. These events may be many different types of events. For example, a bonus qualifying event may comprise displaying a particular symbol, such as a “bonus” symbol, or combination of symbols, such as three “7” symbols, on display 31. If the game being played is poker based, an indicator moving event may be the occurrence of a certain hand, such as a royal flush. Furthermore, an event may occur when a player accumulates a number of symbols or game outcomes over a number of separate game plays. For example, an indicator moving event may occur when the player receives an indicator moving symbol on display 31.

With reference now to FIGS. 1, 2, 3A and 3B, second game display 14 can have a hollow conical shaped shell or display housing 52. Housing 52 may have an apex 53, base 54, rigid wall 55, an inner surface 56, an outer surface 57, a cavity 58 and a rim 59. Housing 52 can rotate in a clockwise direction of rotation 38. Housing 52 may be formed from a wide variety of materials such as metal or plastic. In various embodiments, housing 52 may resemble an inverted cone, pyramid or a mountain.

Housing 52 can be mounted for rotation on a support structure or frame 16 by bearings 15. Alternatively, the housing 52 may be mounted on a turntable 25 that provides a base for the display that is rotatably mounted on the bearings 15.

A housing positioning system 71 can have an actuator 19 that is mounted to a cross member 16A of frame 16. A shaft 17 can be coupled between actuator 19 and turntable 25 or base 54. Actuator 19 can be motor such as an electric motor or a stepper motor that can rotate housing 52. Actuator 19 is in communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D) such that controller 80 can control the rotational position of housing 52.

The rotatable second display 14 provides a physical moveable indicator 20 that provides additional visual stimulation and excitement to a player of primary gaming device 12 as well as indicating additional gaming information as will be described in greater detail below. In one embodiment, moveable indicator 20 may be a vehicle such as a car or truck.

With specific reference to FIG. 3A, an indicator positioning system 70 is shown. Indicator positioning system 70 is also in communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D). Indicator positioning system 70 can position indicator 20 independently of the rotation of housing 52.

Indicator positioning system 70 can include an indicator rotation device 76, an indicator height device 77 and an indicator length device 78. Indicator positioning system 70 can position indicator 20 in any of 3 dimensions. Indicator rotation device 76 can move indicator 20 around the outer circumference of housing 52. Indicator height device 77 can move indicator 20 up and down between base 54 and apex 53. Indicator length device 78 can adjust the distance between indicator 20 and the central axis of rotation that corresponds with threaded rod 21.

Housing 52 can have a number of indicator positions 20A that are positioned around housing 52. Moveable indicator 20 can be stopped at any of indicator positions 20A. For example 25 different indicator positions can be set around helical path 26. Housing 52 can further have a number of bonus awarding positions 35A that contain symbols or indicia 35. When indicator 20 reaches one of the bonus awarding positions 35A, a bonus prize indicated by indicia 35 is awarded to the game player.

In an embodiment, indicia 35 can be changeable and can be displayed on a changeable meter such as a LED meter or video display that is mounted to housing 52.

Indicator rotation device 76 can have an actuator 60 such as an electric motor that is mounted to base 54 by brackets 63. Actuator 60 is in communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D) through an electrical cable 13. Actuator 60 is coupled to a coupler 62 through shaft 61. Rotation of shaft 61 causes rotation of coupler 62. A pair of round guide rods 64 and 65 is attached to coupler 62. Rod 64 has ends 64A and 64B. Rod 65 has ends 65A and 65B. Ends 64A and 65A are attached to coupler 62 and ends 64B and 65B extend toward apex 53.

A position sensor 95 can be mounted adjacent to an outer edge of base 54. The position sensor 95 can be in communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D). Position sensor 95 can detect the position of housing 52 and can provide an electrical signal with this information to controller 80. Position sensor 95 can be any suitable type of sensor such as optical, magnetic, inductive or resistive position sensors.

Rods 64 and 65 extend through mounting block 27. As seen in FIG. 3B, mounting block 27 has apertures 27A through which rods 64 and 65 pass.

Referring now to FIGS. 3A and 3B, indicator height device 77 can have a rotary actuator 90 that is mounted to coupler 62. A threaded rod or shaft 21 is attached to actuator 90 such that actuator 90 can rotate shaft 21. Shaft 21 has ends 21A and 21B. Actuator 90 can be in communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D) through an electrical cable 13. Thread shaft 21 is engaged with internal threads (not shown) of mounting block 27. Rotation of shaft 21 causes the mounting block 27 to be wound or rotated up and down the threaded shaft 21 between ends 21A and 21B.

An additional position sensor 97 can be mounted adjacent to threaded shaft 21. The position sensor 97 can be in communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D). Position sensor 97 can detect the position of mounting block 27 and can provide an electrical signal with this information to controller 80. Position sensor 97 can be any suitable type of sensor such as optical, magnetic, inductive or resistive position sensors.

Indicator length device 78 can have a linear actuator 92 that is mounted to mounting block 27. The moveable indicator 20 is mounted to a telescopic connection 28 having a number of extendable and retractable pieces 28a, 28b and 28c. Telescopic portion 28c extends through a slot 24 in wall 55 of the housing 52 to connect to the moveable indicator 20. Moveable indicator 20 rests against outer surface 57. Telescopic portion 28a is connected to actuator 92.

Actuator 92 can be a linear actuator that can extend and retract telescopic connected 28. Actuator 92 can be in electrical communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D) through electrical cable 13.

Another position sensor 96 can be mounted adjacent to shaft telescopic connection 28. The position sensor 96 can be in communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D). Position sensor 96 can detect the position of indicator 20 and can provide an electrical signal with this information to controller 80. Position sensor 96 can be any suitable type of sensor such as optical, magnetic, inductive or resistive position sensors.

The telescopic portions 28a, 28b, 28c may be spring biased to a retracted position using spring 72 shown mounted inside telescopic portion 28a. As the moveable indicator 20 climbs the housing 52, the telescopic connector 28 retracts, thereby maintaining the moveable indicator 20 in position against wall 55.

Several lights 94 such as light emitting diodes may be attached to moveable indicator 20 to bring further attention to moveable indicator 20. Lights 94 can be in communication with controller 80 (FIG. 3D).

While an electrical cable 13 is shown connecting actuators 19, 60, 90, 92, position sensors 95, 96 and 97 and lights 94 to controller 80, a wireless communication device may also be used to communicate between controller 80 and actuators 19, 60, 90, 92, position sensors 95, 96 and 97 and lights 94. Alternatively, a rotating ring (not shown) may be located between turntable 125 and housing 52 in order to supply power to actuators 19, 60, 90, 92, position sensors 95, 96 and 97 and lights 94. Data signals may then be wirelessly transmitted from controller 80 to actuators 19, 60, 90, 92, position sensors 95, 96 and 97 and lights 94.

Referring back to FIGS. 1 and 2, slot 24 in wall 55 defines a helical path 26 that moveable indicator 20 can travel along to change both the vertical and angular position of moveable indicator 20. Viewed from the outside, the moveable indicator 20 has the appearance of following the helical path 26 around the display housing 52. Additional indicia, graphics etc may be provided on the display housing 52 in order to enhance the visual effect of the moveable indicator 20 climbing or descending the display.

Turning now to FIG. 3D, gaming apparatus 10 comprises a controller 80 that is adapted to control the operation of the game apparatus. Controller 80 may be one or more micro-computers or processor boards. Controller 80 may facilitate communication between primary gaming device 12 and bonus gaming device 14 through an electrical cable 13. Controller 80 may include a random number generator 81. Controller 80 may include a random number generator 81. Random number generator 81 is capable of randomly generating a random number and providing the random number to controller 80. Controller 80 can determine the size of any prizes shown on second display device 14 and awarded.

Controller 80 can be in communication with coin slot 30, buttons 32 and display 31. Controller 80 can further be in communication with actuators 19, 60, 90 and 92, lights 94 and position sensors 95, 96 and 97.

Controller 80 is adapted to detect when a bonus qualifying event or an indicator moving event occurs in gaming device 12. For example, an indicator moving event may occur when a series of symbols or a special symbol is shown in display 31. In an embodiment, an indicator moving event may occur when three of the same symbols are shown on display 31. If the game shown on display 31 is poker based, the indicator moving event may be the occurrence of a certain hand such as a flush or a straight.

When controller 80 detects an indicator moving event, it may begin an indicator moving sequence by activating second display device 14.

Second display device 14 may indicate that a player has qualified for an indicator moving event and prompt the player to perform an action. In an embodiment, the player is prompted to start the indicator moving sequence by pressing a button (not shown).

Controller 80 performs a routine to determine the number of indicator positions 20A (FIG. 1) that indicator 20 (FIG. 1) is to be moved and any prizes that are to be awarded. In an embodiment, the number of indicator positions to be moved is randomly selected. Random number generator 81 generates a random number and supplies the random number to controller 80. Controller 80 compares the random number to a pay table similar to that described for game apparatus 12 or as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,823,874, issued to Adams. A simple pay table may appear as follows:

TABLE 1
Number of Positions
Random Numberto Move Indicator
0.00 to 0.2 1
0.21 to 0.402
0.41 to 0.603
0.61 to 0.804
0.81 to 1.005

For example, if the random number generator produced 0.3, indicator 20 would be moved two indicator positions. Controller 80 can track the position of indicator 20 using position sensors 95, 96 and 97 (FIG. 3A) and can determine if indicator 20 is in a bonus awarding position 35A. Controller 80 can further determine which bonus prizes are to be awarded as indicated by indicia 35 (FIG. 1).

With reference now to FIGS. 3A and 3D, after controller 80 determines the number of positions to move indicator 20, controller 80 causes housing positioning system 71 to rotate housing 52 and indicator positioning system 70 to rotate, raise, lower and extend indicator 20 to the desired position. If indicator 20 is in a bonus awarding position 35A, lights 94 may be illuminated or flashed on indicator 20 in order for a game player to clearly see what they have won.

Controller 80 may then cause any credits won to be displayed and if the actual prize is money, the amount of the prize may be added to the player's credit meter or dispensed.

Controller 80 is able to track the position of the moveable indicator 20 along the helical path 26. In one embodiment, the position of moveable indicator 20 can be calculated from the number of indicating moving events. In one embodiment, several position sensors may be deployed along path 26 in order to detect the position of moveable indicator 20.

In another embodiment, the position of moveable indicator 20 may be calculated and then verified by position sensors in order to avoid any discrepancies between the position of the moveable indicator as presented to the player and the position of the moveable indicator known by the gaming device.

A bonus award or prize may be awarded to the player when the moveable indicator reaches predetermined bonus awarding positions 35 (FIG. 1) that are located along helical path 26. In an embodiment, the bonus awarding positions may be at the end of the path, such as at the apex 53 of the display, or may be at intermediate points along the helical path 26, or may be at the bottom of the path.

Indicia 35 on housing 52 may be used to indicate a position that the indicator 20 needs to reach in order for the player to receive a bonus prize. The combination of the moveable indicator 20 and the rotating housing 52 has an advantage of providing the player with a sense that the awarding of the next bonus prize may be imminent, thereby maintaining the player's interest for a longer period of time.

In addition, colorful and attractive background graphics can be provided on housing 52. By rotating housing 52, an impression that the physical appearance of the display is constantly changing can be created which enhances the visual appeal of gaming device to the player.

In an embodiment, a bonus prize is awarded to the player when the moveable indicator 20 reaches the top of the housing 52. As the prize is being awarded to the player, the housing positioning system 71 reverses the direction of rotation of housing 52 and the indicator positioning system 70 causes the moveable indicator 20 to return to the starting position at the base of the display ready for commencement of the next game cycle.

In one embodiment, a first bonus prize is awarded to the player when the moveable indicator 20 reaches the top of the display housing 52, at which time the direction of rotation of the housing and movement of the indicator is reversed so that further indicator moving events cause the moveable indicator to descend the display.

When the moveable indicator 20 again reaches the starting position at the base of the display housing 52, a second bonus prize may be awarded to the player. Therefore, the first bonus prize may be considered as an intermediate prize. Visual indicia on the display may be used to create the impression of the necessity in reaching the top of the display as an intermediate goal to attaining the second bonus prize.

With reference now to FIG. 3C, an alternative embodiment of an indicator positioning system 900 is shown. Indicator positioning system 900 can have a circular channel 910 that is located in housing wall 55 and is parallel with slot 24. Channel 910 and slot 24 are co-axial with each other. A linear cable 912 is slidably retained in channel 910 for sliding movement. Cable 912 can slide back and forth in channel 910. Moveable indicator 20 is attached to cable 912 at one point by bracket 914. Cable 912 can be attached to a linear actuator 920. Linear actuator 920 can be in communication with controller 80. Linear actuator 920 can control the position of moveable indicator 20 by moving cable 912 within channel 910.

Game Methods

Turning now to FIG. 3E and with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, a flowchart illustrating one possible method of operation of gaming apparatus 10 is shown. The method, generally referred to as 500, begins by presenting a base or primary gaming device to a player and placing a wager at step 502. The player may play the base game at step 504. Decision 506 checks to see if a bonus qualifying or activating event has occurred. If the outcome from decision 506 is not a bonus qualifying outcome, method 500 displays the base game outcome and awards any base game prizes to which the player is entitled at step 508 and then returns to step 502.

If decision 506 determines that a bonus qualifying event has occurred, method 500 proceeds to step 510 where the bonus game outcome is determined. The bonus game outcome can include a losing outcome and a prize winning or prize awarding outcome. Other types of game outcomes may also be determined in step 510. At step 512, second or bonus display device 14 is activated. At step 514, housing 52 is rotated and moveable indicator 20 is moved. Moveable indicator 20 may move in a variety of ways. For example, moveable indicator 20 may move all the way up path 26 to the apex of housing 54 and then all the way down, then back up, and so on. Alternatively, moveable indicator 20 may move randomly or at more than one speed.

Next, method 500 proceeds to step 516 where the housing 52 and moveable indicator 20 are stopped. Moveable indicator 20 is stopped in a bonus prize awarding position 35A. At step 518, lights 94 (FIG. 3A) may be illuminated.

Any bonus prize the player has won is awarded at step 520. Method 500 then returns to step 508 where the base game outcome is displayed and awarded. Many other methods may be used to operate the present invention. For example, the order of the steps in FIG. 3E may be altered or interchanged. In one embodiment, the lights may be illuminated prior to stopping movement of the moveable indicator or housing.

With reference now to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3F, another method of operation of gaming apparatus 10 is shown is show in FIG. 3F. The method, generally referred to as 550, begins by presenting a base or primary gaming device to a player and placing a wager at step 502. The player may play the base game at step 504. Decision 552 checks to see if an indicator moving event has occurred. If the outcome from decision 552 is not an indicator moving event outcome, method 550 displays the base game outcome and awards any base game prizes to which the player is entitled at step 508 and then returns to step 502.

If decision 552 determines that an indicator moving event has occurred, method 550 proceeds to step 554 where the number of positions to move indicator 20 and the position that housing 52 is moved to are determined. Step 554 determines the bonus game outcome. At step 556, housing 52 is rotated and at step 558 moveable indicator 20 is moved. Movement of indicator 20 may include raising, lowering rotating, extending or retracting indicator 20 using indicator positioning mechanism 70 (FIG. 3A). At step 560, the rotation of housing 52 is stopped and at step 562 the movement of moveable indicator 20 is stopped.

Decision 564 then checks to see if indicator 20 is in a prize awarding position. If the indicator is not in a prize awarding position, method 550 displays the base game outcome and awards any base game prizes to which the player is entitled at step 508 and then returns to step 502.

If decision 564 determines that indicator 20 is in a prize awarding position, method 550 proceeds to step 566 where the prize or bonus prize indicated by indicia 35 is awarded to the player. If the prize is money, the prize may be added to the player's credit meter.

Method 550 then proceeds to decision 568 where it is determined if the moveable indicator 20 is at an end of travel position. The end of travel positions are when the moveable indicator reaches either apex 53 or base 54 along path 26. If the indicator is not at an end of travel position, method 550 displays the base game outcome and awards any base game prizes to which the player is entitled at step 508 and then returns to step 502.

If decision 568 determines that indicator 20 is at an end of travel position, method 550 proceeds to step 570 where the direction of travel of moveable indicator 20 is reversed. Method 550 then proceeds to step 508 where the base game outcome is displayed and awarded and then returns to step 502.

Many other methods may be used to operate the present invention. For example, the order of the steps in FIG. 3F may be altered or interchanged. In one embodiment, movement of the indicator may be stopped before the rotation of the housing is stopped. In another embodiment, rotation of the housing may be omitted.

Vertical Indicator Embodiment

A gaming system or apparatus 110 in accordance with a further embodiment of the invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 4, 5A, 5B and 6. The gaming apparatus 110 has a plurality of primary gaming devices 12A, 12B, 12C and 12D that are mounted around a bonus gaming device, second game display device or community game display 114. While four gaming devices 12A-D are shown, any number of gaming devices considered to be practical by the person skilled in the art may be used. Gaming devices 12A-D can be identical to gaming device 12 previously described in FIGS. 1-3F.

Community game display 114 can include a turntable 125 mounted onto a support structure 116 via bearings 115 which allow rotation of the turntable 125 relative to the support structure 116. A shaft 117 extends from the turntable 125 and engages an actuator 119. Actuator 119 can be a rotary electric motor or a stepper motor. Actuator 119 may be mounted to a cross-member 116A. Actuator 119 can be connected with an electrical cable 139 that is also connected to a central controller or server 140. A position sensor 197 (FIG. 6) can determine the position of housing 152 and provide an electrical signal with the position information of housing 152. Server 140 can provide an electrical signal that controls the rotation of actuator 119.

A housing or shell 152 can be disposed for rotary motion on turntable 125. Housing 152 can be shaped like a pyramid structure that has four walls 161, 162, 163 and 164. Other shapes may also be used for housing 152 such as square, pentagon or hexagonal. Housing 152 can further have an apex 153, base 154 and a cavity 158 (FIG. 6). Actuator 119 can rotate housing 152.

Community game display 114 can have an indicator positioning mechanism 177 that can move a moveable indicator 120. Moveable indicator 120 may be located on one wall 164. The moveable indicator 120 moves within a slot 124 that is provided in the wall 164. Slot 124 provides an opening into cavity 158.

A cross-sectional view of housing 152 is illustrated in FIG. 6. Moveable indicator 120 is provided external to wall 164 and is connected to bracket 129 that extends through slot 124 (FIG. 4). Indicator positioning mechanism 177 can have a bracket 129 that may be connected to a mounting block 127 that has an internal thread (not shown). Mounted block 127 is threaded onto a threaded rod 121. Threaded rod 121 has ends 121A and 121B. End 121B can be rotatably supported by wall 164 through a bearing 170. End 121A can be connected to a rotary actuator 150. Rotary actuator 150 may be supported by a bracket 172 that is attached to wall 164.

Actuator 150 can control the rotation of threaded rod 121 in response to signals received through an electrical cable 151. The location of bracket 129 in slot 124 prevents rotation of the moveable indicator 120 when the threaded rod rotates. Rotation of threaded rod 121 causes mounting block 127 to be wound along rod 121 and moveable indicator 120 to move along slot 124. A position sensor 195 can determine the position of indicator 120 and provide an electrical signal with the position information of indicator 120.

The slot 124 is depicted as a linear slot defining a linear path of movement for the moveable indicator 120. However the person skilled in the art will readily understand that other slot shapes may be used to define any suitable path, including non-linear paths, helical paths and the like.

Turning now to FIG. 5B, gaming apparatus 110 comprises controllers' 80A-D in each of gaming devices 12A-D that is adapted to control the operation of the gaming device. Gaming device 12A can have a controller 80A and gaming device 12B can have a controller 80B. Gaming device 12C can have a controller 80C and gaming device 12D can have a controller 80D. Controllers' 80A-D can be in communication with a central server or controller 140 through electrical cables 113A-D. Server 140 can have a memory 141 for storing software programs, instructions and game routines.

Server 140 is further in communication with community game display 114. Server 140 is in communication with actuator 119 through cable 139. Server 140 is in communication with actuator 150 through cable 151. Server 140 is in communication with housing position sensor 197 through cable 197A. Server 140 is in communication with indicator position sensor 195 through cable 195A.

Server 140 can determine the size of any prizes shown on second display device 114 and awarded. Controllers 80A-D are adapted to detect when an indicator moving event occurs in gaming devices 12A-D. For example, an indicator moving event may occur when a series of symbols or a special symbol is shown on display 31 (FIG. 2). In an embodiment, an indicator moving event may occur when three of the same symbols are shown on display 31. If the game shown on display 31 is poker based, the indicator moving event may be the occurrence of a certain hand such as a flush or a straight. When controller 80 detects an indicator moving event, it may send a signal to server 140. Alternatively, server 140 may detect or generate any indicator moving events. After server 140 has been informed that an indicator moving event has occurred, server 140 may begin an indicator moving sequence by activating community game display device 114.

Community game display device 114 may indicate that a player has qualified for an indicator moving event and prompt the player to perform an action. In an embodiment, the player is prompted to start the indicator moving sequence by pressing a button (not shown).

Server 140 performs a routine to determine the number of indicator positions 120A (FIG. 4) that indicator 120 (FIG. 4) is to be moved and any prizes that are to be awarded. In an embodiment, the number of indicator positions to move is randomly selected. Server 140 can generate a random number and compares the random number to a pay table similar to that described for game apparatus 12 of FIG. 1 or as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,823,874, issued to Adams. A simple pay table may appear as follows:

TABLE 1
Number of Positions
Random Numberto Move Indicator
0.00 to 0.2 1
0.21 to 0.402
0.41 to 0.603
0.61 to 0.804
0.81 to 1.005

For example, if the random number generator produced 0.3, indicator 120 would be moved two indicator positions. Server 120 can track the position of indicator 120 using position sensors 195 (FIG. 6) and can determine if indicator 120 is in a community prize awarding position 155A (FIG. 4). Server 160 can further determine which prizes are to be awarded as indicated by indicia 155 (FIG. 4).

With reference now to FIGS. 4, 5A and 5B, after server 140 determines the number of positions to move indicator 120 and determines the rotary position of housing 152, server 140 sends an electrical signal that causes actuator 119 to rotate housing 152 and actuator 150 to move indicator 120 to the desired position. Server 140 may require that several indicator moving events occur before indicator 120 reaches a prize awarding position 155A. For example, five indicator positions 120A may be located between each prize awarding position 155A and five indicator moving events may be required to be achieved before indicator 120 reaches a prize awarding position. Alternatively, server 140 may determine that fewer indicator moving events are required prior to reaching a prize awarding position.

Server 140 is able to track the position of the moveable indicator 120 and the position of housing 52. In one embodiment, the position of moveable indicator 120 can be calculated from the number of indicator moving events. In another embodiment, position sensor 195 may be used to detect the position of moveable indicator 120. In another embodiment, the position of moveable indicator 120 may be calculated and then verified by position sensor 195 in order to avoid any discrepancies between the position of the moveable indicator as presented to the player and the position of the moveable indicator known by the gaming device.

A community game prize may be awarded to one or more of the players when the moveable indicator 120 reaches one of predetermined bonus awarding positions 155A points on housing 152. In an embodiment, the bonus awarding positions 155A may be at the end of indicator travel or may be at intermediate points along the indicator travel.

Indicia 155 on housing 152 may be used to indicate a position that the indicator 120 needs to reach in order for the player to receive a prize. In an embodiment, indicator 120 may move to a prize awarding position and then housing 152 is rotated such that more than one game player at primary gaming devices can sense the excitement of possibly being awarded a community game prize. For example, moveable indicator 120 may move to a prize awarding position 155A when movable indicator is facing gaming device 12A. Housing 152 may then be rotated by gaming devices 12B and 12C and stop in front of gaming device 12D. Gaming device 12D may then be awarded a community game prize as indicator by indicia 155. In another embodiment, housing 152 may be rotated and then stopped in front of one of gaming devices 12A-D and then moveable indicator 120 is moved to a prize awarding position.

The combination of the moveable indicator 120 and the rotating housing 152 has an advantage of providing the player with a sense that the awarding of the next prize may be imminent, thereby maintaining the player's interest for a longer period of time.

In an embodiment, a prize is awarded to the player when the moveable indicator 120 reaches the top of the housing 152. After reaching the end of travel of the indicator, the indicator positioning mechanism 177 reverses such that moveable indicator 120 moves from the top of housing 152 towards the base. When moveable indicator 120 reaches the base of housing 152, the direction of travel of movable indicator 120 is again reversed.

In one embodiment, a first prize is awarded to the player when the moveable indicator 120 reaches the top of the housing 152, at which time the direction of rotation of the housing and movement of the indicator is reversed so that further indicator moving events cause the moveable indicator to descend along the housing.

When the moveable indicator 120 again reaches the bottom or base of the housing, a second prize may be awarded to the player. Therefore, the bonus prize may be considered as an intermediate prize. Visual indicia on the display may be used to create the impression of the necessity in reaching the top of the display as an intermediate goal to attaining the second prize.

In another embodiment, once a required number of indicator moving events have been completed, i.e. at specified positions of the moveable indicator, a prize may be awarded. The rotation of housing 152 may be for a continuous, period or when particular gaming outcomes are produced.

In one embodiment, the gaming apparatus 110 may provide a community climber game. The community climber game is provided under control of server 140 illustrated in more detail in FIG. 7 as including at least one processor 142 in operative association with at least one memory 141. The memory stores an instruction set that is executable on the processor 142 for controlling the playing of the community climber game. A method of playing a community game is described with reference to FIGS. 4 to 6 and to the flow chart 200 illustrated in FIG. 7 which is depicted as occurring within the processor 142. While an order is given to the steps in FIG. 7 and in the following description, the person skilled in the art will readily understand that in certain cases the order of the steps is arbitrary and the steps need not all be performed in the order described and illustrated.

In a community climber game, one or more advancement events are defined at step 201 such that each of the gaming devices 12A-D is able to generate an indicator advancement event. In addition, one or more community prize winning events are also defined at step 202. The community prize winning events may be dependent on a predetermined number of advancements or a degree of advancement of a moveable indicator. The person skilled in the art will readily understand that other ways of defining the community prize winning event are possible.

At step 203, players place wagers and play games on the respective gaming devices 12A-D under control of the processor 142 to produce game outcomes. The outcome of some of the games played, as determined by the processor 142, will yield advancement events at step 204 which advance the moveable indicator 120 a certain number of indicator positions 120A on the display device 114. When the moveable indicator reaches a predetermined point, e.g. once a required number of advancement events have been generated or when the moveable indicator reaches a prize awarding position 155A, the awarding of a community prize may be triggered at step 205.

In one embodiment, the community prize is awarded to the player at one of the gaming devices 112A-D that generated the final indicator moving event that advanced the moveable indicator 120 to a bonus awarding position 155A. In another embodiment, the community prize is awarded to each player that contributed to advancing the moveable indicator 120, that is, each player that generated an indicator moving or advancing event. In one embodiment, the community prize is awarded to each current player, e.g. each player that provided a wager within a predetermined time prior to the triggering of the bonus prize, as determined by the processor 142.

In another embodiment, gaming apparatus 110 may be played using the game method 550 previously described in conjunction with FIG. 3F.

Combinations of the above methods of awarding bonus or community game prizes may be used. For example, an intermediate bonus prize may be awarded when the moveable indicator reaches an intermediate prize position 155A (FIG. 4) on the display 114. The intermediate prize may be awarded to the player that advanced the moveable indicator 120 to the intermediate prize position. A final bonus prize, or a portion thereof, may also be awarded to each player when the moveable indicator 120 reaches a final position, e.g. at the top of housing 152 (FIG. 4).

Different schemes may be employed for dividing the community game prize amongst the players or winners at gaming devices 12A-D. This embodiment provides an advantage in creating a greater sense of interactivity between players by increasing competition between players to win the intermediate prizes while also creating a community environment by awarding the final prize to all players, or at least all contributing players.

Indicia, graphics and other symbols may be provided on the display 114 or housing 152 in order to enhance the visual stimulation to the players and/or to convey a theme to the players. For example, in one embodiment the climbing concept may be conveyed to players using a King Kong theme in which the display walls 161-164 (FIG. 5A) may be constructed and illustrated to depict the Empire State Building and the moveable indicator 120 may be depicted as the King Kong character from the well known feature film. By rotating the housing 152, each player is able to periodically view the moveable indicator 120, thereby building the player's excitement, in particular as the moveable indicator 120 approaches a bonus awarding position 155A.

In one embodiment, the degree of movement of the moveable indicator 120 may be dependent on the indicator moving generating event. For example, a first movement generating event may cause the moveable indicator 120 to advance by a single indicator position 120A. A second movement generating event, e.g. an event less probable than the first movement generating event, may cause the moveable indicator 120 to advance by multiple increments or indicator positions 120A, e.g. five increments. In this embodiment, the number of movement generating events required to trigger a community prize is not fixed or predetermined but will be dependent on the type of movement generating events that occur during the game cycle.

As described above, a prize may be distributed to players in a number of ways. In one embodiment, each player may receive a prize in proportion to the player's contribution to the advancement of the moveable indicator 120. For example, if a player at gaming device 12A had three indicator advancement events out of a total of ten events that were needed to advance the moveable indicator 120 to the top of housing 152, then that player may receive 30% of the community prize that is awarded. An advantage of this distribution method is that game players will compete with each other in an attempt to contribute as many advancements of the moveable indicator as possible.

In an alternative embodiment, the prize may be equally shared amongst all players who have contributed to the advancement of the moveable indicator 120 within a gaming cycle. An advantage of this embodiment is that as the moveable indicator approaches a bonus awarding position 155, game players who have not contributed an advancement event are encouraged to wager more intently in order to be included in the community prize distribution. In addition, there is an increased incentive for players to join late in the game cycle knowing they need only generate one advancement event in order to be entitled to their share of a community game prize.

In another embodiment, the game players at each of gaming devices 12A-D all receive the same prize or each player receives a minimum prize. An advantage of awarding a minimum prize or an equal prize is that players may be attracted to the game from other areas of the game playing area when a prize awarding event is imminent. In one embodiment, all players may receive a minimum prize but the player who contributed the highest number of indicator moving events may receive an additional prize.

In embodiments where a prize is distributed to all contributing players, server 140 may be adapted to handle cases where a player has contributed to an indicator moving event or to an advancement of the moveable indicator, and so is entitled to receive a portion of the community game prize, but the player has left the primary gaming device. In a simplest case, a new player at the gaming device may receive the prize distribution.

Alternatively, any portion of the prize that may have been given to the absent player is kept by the operator or distributed amongst the remaining players that are entitled to receive a prize. In some cases, any portion of the prize that may have been given to the absent player may be contributed to a progressive prize or used to seed future prizes. The person skilled in the art will recognize that combinations of these methods are also possible.

Multiple Vertical Indicator Embodiment

A further embodiment of the invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 8 and 9. Gaming apparatus 310 is similar to gaming apparatus 110 except that instead of only one indicator located on one wall of the housing, gaming apparatus 310 can have an indicator located on each wall of the housing. Gaming apparatus 310 can have a plurality of primary gaming devices 12A, 12B, 12C and 12D that are mounted around a bonus gaming device, second game display device or community game display 314.

Community game display 314 can include a housing 152 that can be rotated in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction by actuator 119 (FIG. 4) in the same manner as described for gaming apparatus 110.

Community game display 314 can have four moveable indicators 120A, 120B, 120C and 120D that are located on housing 152. Moveable indicator 120A is provided external to wall 161 and is connected to bracket 129A that extends through slot 124A. Indicator positioning mechanism 177A can have a bracket 129A that may be connected to a mounting block 127A that has an internal thread (not shown). Mounting block 127A is threaded onto a threaded rod 121A. Rotary actuator 150A may be connected to threaded rod 121A (FIG. 8). Actuator 150A is in electrical communication with server 140 (FIG. 5B) through electrical cable 151A. Actuator 150A can control the position of moveable indicator 120A along slot 124A on wall 164 in response to electrical signals received from server 140.

Wall 161 can have several indicator positions 120AC, several prize awarding positions 155AC and several indicia 155. Indicia 155 can indicate a community game prize to be awarded to a game player.

Moveable indicator 120B is provided external to wall 162 and is connected to bracket 129B (FIG. 8) that extends through slot 124B. Indicator positioning mechanism 177B can have a bracket 129B that may be connected to a mounting block 127B (not shown) that has an internal thread (not shown). Mounting block 127B (not shown) is threaded onto a threaded rod 121B (FIG. 8). Rotary actuator 150B may be connected to threaded rod 121B. Actuator 150B (not shown) is in electrical communication with server 140 (FIG. 5B) through electrical cable 151B (FIG. 9). Actuator 150B (not shown) can control the position of moveable indicator 120B along slot 124B on wall 162 in response to electrical signals received from server 140.

Wall 162 can have several indicator positions 120BC, several prize awarding positions 155BC and several indicia 155.

Moveable indicator 120C is provided external to wall 163 and is connected to bracket 129C that extends through slot 124C. Indicator positioning mechanism 177C can have a bracket 129C that may be connected to a mounting block 127C that has an internal thread (not shown). Mounting block 127C is threaded onto a threaded rod 121C. Rotary actuator 150C may be connected to threaded rod 121C. Actuator 150C is in electrical communication with server 140 (FIG. 5B) through electrical cable 151C (FIG. 9). Actuator 150C (FIG. 9) can control the position of moveable indicator 120C along slot 124C on wall 163 in response to electrical signals received from server 140.

Wall 163 can have several indicator positions 120CC, several prize awarding positions 155CC and several indicia 155.

Moveable indicator 120D is provided external to wall 164 and is connected to bracket 129D that extends through slot 124D. Indicator positioning mechanism 177D can have a bracket 129D that may be connected to a mounting block 127D (not shown) that has an internal thread (not shown). Mounting block 127D (not shown) is threaded onto a threaded rod 121D (FIG. 8). Rotary actuator 150D may be connected to threaded rod 121D. Actuator 150D is in electrical communication with server 140 (FIG. 5B) through electrical cable 151D. Actuator 150D can control the position of moveable indicator 120D along slot 124D on wall 164 in response to electrical signals received from server 140 (FIG. 5B).

Wall 164 can have several indicator positions 120DC, several prize awarding positions 155DC and several indicia 155.

Gaming apparatus 310 can be operated through the controller of server 140 in a similar manner to gaming apparatus 110 previously described. Position sensors as shown in gaming apparatus 110 can also be used with gaming apparatus 310.

In one embodiment, gaming apparatus 310 may be played using the game method 550 previously described in conjunction with FIG. 3F.

In one embodiment, multiple indicator moving events and multiple community and/or bonus prizes can be displayed by moveable indicators 120A, 120B, 120C and 120D indicating the progress towards the awarding of respective prizes. Housing 152 may be rotated or may not be rotated.

For example, a first bonus or community prize may be indicated by moveable indicators 120A and 120C while a second bonus or community prize may be indicated by moveable indicators 120B and 120D. Common indicators may receive the same control signal from server 140 (FIG. 5B) to ensure that the common indicators both indicate the same position.

With continued reference to FIGS. 8 and 9, a first gaming outcome at one of gaming devices 12A or 12C may cause movement of moveable indicators 120A and 120C while a second gaming outcome at one of gaming devices 12B or 12D may cause movement of the moveable indicators 120B and 120D. Rotation of the display 114 can provide players with alternating views of the two bonus prize indicators.

Alternatively, each gaming device 12A-D may cause movement of a respective moveable indicator 120A-D when an indicator moving event occurs in gaming devices 12A-D. Rotation of the display 114 can allow other players to see the position of other game player's moveable indicator.

The person skilled in the art will recognize that any number of moveable indicators can be provided as can any number of bonus or community prizes.

In one embodiment, game players may compete for a bonus or community prize in a gaming cycle with their positions relative to each other being indicated by respective moveable indicators 120A-D. The bonus or community prize may be awarded to the first player to achieve moving their respective moveable indicator to the top indicator position on housing 152.

When game players sense that one of the players is near one of the prize awarding positions 155AC-DC, the game players will be encouraged to play more intently with larger wagers more often in order to try and reach the top indicator position first.

In another embodiment, a single community game may be indicated by multiple moveable indicators. In this embodiment, each of the movable indicators 120A-D each receive the same control signal during an indicator moving event such that each moveable indicator 120A-D simultaneously indicates the same relative indicator position 120AC-DC or prize awarding position 155AC-155DC. An advantage of this embodiment is that each of walls 161-164 may be decorated with its own theme, thus providing multiple facets within a single game. The walls 161-164 may be replaceable allowing the community display device 114 to be easily refreshed. In this embodiment, it is not required that housing 152 be rotatable.

Video Indicator Embodiment

Turning now to FIGS. 10 and 11, another embodiment of a second, bonus or community game display device 414 is shown. Community game display device 414 is similar to game display 114 of FIGS. 4 and 5A except that physical moveable indicator 120 has been replaced with a moveable video display 440. Moveable video display 440 can be any suitable video display such as LCD, LED, plasma, electro-luminescent or CRT type displays. Moveable video display 440 is attached to bracket 129 that extend through slot 124 of wall 164. An electrical cable 441 allows moveable video display 440 to be in communication with server 140 (FIG. 5B) so that server 140 can control the video presentation shown on moveable video display 440. Moveable video display 440 can present an image or symbol 466 on moveable video display 440. In FIG. 10, image 466 is a left hand facing arrow.

The position of moveable video display 440 can be controlled by indicator positioning mechanism 177. Indicator positioning mechanism 177 is the same as previously described and allows server 140 to move moveable video display 440 to a desired position on wall 164 using actuator 150. Indicator positioning mechanism 177 can move and stop moveable video indicator 440 in a plurality of indicator positions 460 after an indicator moving event has occurred.

Several meters or displays 450 can be arranged on wall 164 in a plurality of prize awarding positions 462. Displays 450 can be any suitable type of changeable display such as LCD, LED, plasma, electro-luminescent or CRT type displays. Displays 450 can display or show indicia 450 such as prize amounts or multipliers. Displays 450 can be in communication with server 140 through electrical cables 451.

In an embodiment, server 140 may direct moveable video display 440 to move and stop at a prize awarding position 462. Server 140 may further cause one or more displays 450 to show indicia 464 that can be prizes or prize amounts. Server 140 may cause moveable video display 440 to show an arrow that points to the display 450 that indicates the game outcome or prize. For example, in FIG. 10, the combination of display 450 and moveable video display 440 are shown indicating a game outcome or prize of 20 credits. Moveable video display 440 displays an image 466 such as a left facing arrow. Moveable video display 440 can also display a right facing arrow in order to indicate prizes on the right side of slot 124. Other types of video presentations may also be presented on moveable video indicator 440 such as various entertaining video presentations and graphics. The moveable video indicator 440 may be incorporated into any of the embodiments described previously in FIGS. 1-9.

Game Method Using a Video Indicator

With reference now to FIGS. 10, 11 and 12, a method of operating a gaming apparatus using the community game display 414 (FIG. 10) is shown in FIG. 12. The method, generally referred to as 600, begins by presenting a base or primary gaming device 12A-D (FIGS. 4 and 5A) to a player and placing a wager at step 502. The player may play the base game at step 504. Decision 552 checks to see if an indicator moving event has occurred. If the outcome from decision 552 is not an indicator moving event outcome, method 600 displays the base game outcome and awards any base game prizes to which the player is entitled at step 508 and then returns to step 502.

If decision 552 determines that an indicator moving event has occurred, method 600 proceeds to step 554 where the number of positions to move video indicator 440 and the rotational position that housing 152 is moved are determined. At step 602, prize indicia 464 are displayed on displays 450. At step 604 moveable video indicator 440 is moved. Movement of video indicator 440 may include moving video indicator 440 up and down slot 124. At step 606, the movement of video indicator 440 is stopped.

Decision 608 then checks to see if moveable video indicator 440 is in a prize awarding position. If the indicator is not in a prize awarding position, method 600 displays the base game outcome and awards any base game prizes to which the player is entitled at step 508 and then returns to step 502.

If decision 608 determines that video indicator 440 is in a prize awarding position, method 600 proceeds to step 610 a video presentation is shown on video indicator 440. The video presentation can include displaying symbols 466.

Next, housing 152 is rotated at step 612 and stopped at step 614. Any prizes indicated by the combination of video indicator 440 and display 450 can be awarded to the game player at the gaming device that wall 164 is facing at step 616. If the prize is money, the prize may be added to the player's credit meter.

Method 600 then proceeds to decision 568 where it is determined if the moveable video indicator 440 is at an end of travel position. The end of travel positions are when the moveable indicator reaches the top or bottom of slot 124. If the indicator is not at an end of travel position, method 600 displays the base game outcome and awards any base game prizes to which the player is entitled at step 508 and then returns to step 502.

If decision 568 determines that video indicator 440 is at an end of travel position, method 600 proceeds to step 570 where the direction of travel of moveable video indicator 440 is reversed. Method 600 then proceeds to step 508 where the base game outcome is displayed and awarded and then returns to step 502.

Many other methods may be used to operate the present invention. For example, the order of the steps in FIG. 12 may be altered or interchanged. In one embodiment, the prize indicia may be shown on the displays before movement of the video indicator. In another embodiment, rotation of the housing may be omitted.

Alternative Video Indicator Embodiment

Turning now to FIGS. 13 and 14, another embodiment of a second, bonus or community game display 480 is shown. Community game display 480 is similar to game display 414 of FIGS. 4 and 5A except that displays 450 have been omitted.

Community game display 480 can have a slot 124 in wall 164 that can have the appearance of a ladder 482 with steps or rungs 484. Ladder 482 and rungs 484 can be painted printed or otherwise shown on wall 164. Movable video indicator 440 can show a video presentation of a person 486 that is climbing the ladder 482. In response to the occurrence of indicator moving events generated or detected in primary gaming devices 12A-D (FIGS. 4 and 5A), moveable video indicator 440 can be moved such that it appears that the person is climbing the ladder.

When moveable video indicator 440 reaches a top prize awarding position 488 shown with the indicia “WIN”, a prize 490 may be shown on moveable video indicator 440. The prize 490 may be awarded to the player that caused the indicator moving event that moved the moveable video indicator 440 to the prize awarding position 488. If the actual prize is money, the prize may be added to the player's credit meter.

A gaming apparatus using community game display 480 may be played using the same game method 600 previously described in FIG. 12 except that step 602 would be omitted.

CONCLUSION

Although the description above contains many specifications, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of some of the embodiments of this invention. Thus, the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents rather than by the examples given.