Friday, February 09, 2007

Character Advancement

The Canadian Blood Services is missing out on an untapped demographic (literally) by not pimping themselves to the high school and university geek-gaming crowd. I realised this earlier in the week while sitting in the comfy donor's chair for my 57th blood-letting, and later, when I had my free soup and cookies while reading a pamphlet that revealed, from a poll, that Canadians assume about 24% of the population are blood donors, when the real number is only 3.7%. Three point seven percent.

I tie this to the blood that's wastefully roiling about the circulatory systems of countless thousands of gaming geeks across the country because it was only a couple of weeks ago I got my silver donor card in the mail to replace my old bronze one. 50 donations versus 25. That's when it hit me: I just levelled up. Hell, 43 more times and I'll get my gold card for 100, baby!

....There's a sticker on the back of donor cards that lists the number of previous donations with room underneath to mark the date of the 10 most recent. When those ten are filled up: new sticker, new total. That's when I realised that giving blood is like gaming in real life.

Part of the appeal of geek gaming (Dungeons & Dragons, role playing video games) is the immersion in some other realm. Playing make believe. The other part of the appeal that doesn't get as much lip service is character advancement. That final member of the rabid herd of three-legged albino unicorns is finally slain, the experience points divvied up, and your quondam hanger-on of a party mage, having bided her time, has now been imbued with the ability to cast Fireball! Who's laughing now??

Apply that same thinking to giving blood, and for some, a satisfying sense of altruism looks a little sweeter when you know you have to earn a gold card. I seriously get a little tingle when I see the nurse write down the date of my donation every week or two. It's like experience points. I'm one step closer to a new sticker on the back of my card, and a smaller step closer to that gold card. Gamers know they have to start at Level One and are wired to work for little or no reward knowing the delayed gratification that comes with levelling up. They would make perfect blood donors.

An added incentive is knowing that they're in the top 4% of something. That's the 96th percentile, man! Do you know how many standard deviations away from the mean that is? Neither do I, off hand, but that sort of thing is significant to the type of person who'll go without sleep for most of a weekend to get that +5 longsword he knows is at the end of the quest.
[via Simian Farmer]

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