Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/25/census_game_wants_to_help_young_men_to_fill_forms/

UK.gov uses purple-panted-berk to get 'young men' to do census

XY gamers urged to fill in some lovely forms

By Jane Fae Ozimek

Posted in Government, 25th March 2011 13:26 GMT

Attempts by officials at the 2011 census to increase participation by the young male population in this weekend's UK headcount exercise – aka the Census – appear to have reached desperation point over the last couple of weeks, with the launch of Census-Man, the online game.

Those wishing to experience the census gaming experience for themselves should proceed to the online version plugged by self-styled viral game specialists Koko Digital. There they can assume the role of staring-eyed and clenched-jawed purple-caped crusader, Census-Man, assisting him in his efforts to ensure that as many census forms as possible are inserted into a post box before the game timer runs out.

census-man

For some reason, Census-Man does not post the actual questionnaires, but flies round and round a decidedly one-dimensional neighbourhood, snatching pensioners and other would-be census respondents from their homes, and dangling them all the way to the postbox – where they mysteriously vanish into thin air.

If this does not give the kids nightmares, then a further quirk of play, giving the impression that the aforementioned pensioners are being dashed into the ground and then dragged along the concrete en route to submitting their questionnaire certainly will.

Officials with the 2011 Census are unabashed. The game cost, they claim, just £10,500 to develop, and is targeted at young men. A spokesman told us: "In previous censuses we know that young men have been one population group that has been less engaged with the process. As one element in the marketing campaign Census Man was commissioned as a promotional game to help raise awareness of the census message with this group.

"We are pleased with the take-up of the game so far. In the past three weeks it has been played about 360,000 times."

What proportion of those 360,000 happen to fall within the target demographic is unclear. Also unclear is why a promotional mechanism designed to appeal to the indoor PC-game-playing tendency should encourage them to get out of the house and locate their nearest postbox – as opposed to clicking through to the online version of the census.

Meanwhile, in a statement that perhaps over-eggs the impact of this game, a press release from Koko Digital informs the public: "It is hoped the game, and its Facebook counterpart, will enable (sic) more people to file their answers before the March 27th deadline, and therefore avoid a fine".

The game is indeed, also available as a Facebook app. ®