Thursday, August 9, 2007

Moliyo MMORPGs: Blood Sports?

There is apparently a worrying exchange being suggested in China this week: players of the MMORPG ‘Cabal’, owned by Moliyo, are being asked to donate half a litre of blood in exchange for accounts. True to the name ‘cabal’, meaning a group of secret plotters, approximately 120,000 gamers were recently caught hacking the game in an attempt to enhance their status and were subsequently blocked. Through a blood donation, this block would be undone and they could continue their quest. New players could also open accounts in this fashion. The company has justified this move in saying that it is seeking to illustrate the importance of civil behaviour, of public responsibility and the significance of social welfare.

Photo attribution: 'I Wear Pink With Pride', CC BY-NC 2.0 by Cayusa

Research (Frey & Jegen, 2000) surrounding the exchange of goods for the undertaking of philanthropic acts, such as blood donation, suggests that there is a ‘crowding out’ effect which occurs: counter-intuitively, motivation decreases for acts of public responsibility when something is offered in return, as though the bargain is tarnished by the suggestion of profit. Since 2002, the Red Cross in China has sought to adhere to a Voluntary Blood Donation Law, with branches in Tianjin, Jiangsu, Fujian, Gangxi, and Shandong giving awards, rather than cash, to outstanding individuals and units in recognition of their donations. The quest for blood has been an ongoing battle, however, given that there have been a series of scandals in relation to the contracting of AIDS through blood donation to Chinese hospitals. This has been attributed to inappropriate medical staff training leading to poor collection techniques. According to the US Embassy site:
‘Truly voluntary blood donation is unknown in China. Even where blood donation is ostensibly voluntary, in practice blood donation is expected by the work unit and often rewarded with two or three weeks of paid leave. Some people who earn money by giving blood are in poor health. These blood donors sometimes include drug addicts and prostitutes who may have STDs or other blood-borne diseases. Contaminated blood products, diseases transmitted to blood donors by dirty needles and other poor medical practices have spread the HIV virus and other illnesses.’

The Chinese Red Cross must therefore respond urgently to the suggestion that gamers are being induced to give blood. This follows in a tradition which speaks of coercion and unethical practice through incentivising social responsibilities. The only way to guarantee a steady supply of blood is to make the process safe, and to ensure that the benefits are clearly communicated independent of fiscal reward.

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