Remember the two guys who invented a machine that sucked blood out of your arm when you lost at a video game? No? Well, I spoke to them about that whole thing.
Man, the internet really hates blood. You ever tried to sell blood on eBay? Tip: eBay gets really mad about that. Same goes for piss, jizz: all the bad juices. What's wrong with blood, internet? Bit too real for you? Not enough kilobytes?
Anyway, it's a lesson Kickstarter maniacs Taran Chadha and Jamie Umpherson recently learned, after they launched (and swiftly had closed) a Kickstarter for their gaming idea, Blood Sport. Here is how Blood Sport works: You take the Rumble Pak out the back of an Xbox controller and then link a wire between the rumble receptor and an actual blood machine. Then you jam a needle in the nearest blood-having human, challenge them to a game of Tekken and literally bring the pain. Blood gets sucked out of their body every time Eddy Gordo hits them with a Rodeo Spin. Blood banks get blood. Lightheaded joy is had. Everyone is a winner.
Maybe you're thinking: That is a dumb and appalling idea. And, in a way, you're right—but the plan was never for Blood Sport to be some sort of unsupervised, at-home blood-letting Oculus Rift for goths. Instead, Taran and Jamie were hoping to raise $220,000 in a sort of deliberately-doomed effort to spread awareness of the need for blood donations in their native Canada. And if they raised the final amount: double cool.
So it kind of sucks that Kickstarter closed the fundraiser down after just three days (and $3,000 in pledges) before Blood Sport could realize it's full potential. I spoke to Taran—and, it later turned out, Jamie—about their Kickstarter, why the Canadian Blood Services didn't want their blood, and what's next for Blood Sport.
VICE: So you're the guys who wanted to take blood out of people's bodies for being bad at video games.
Taran Chadha: Yep, that's us. The two main creators are Jamie and I, but then we also have a couple of our friends who've helped out.
What are your backgrounds?
We've both actually come from advertising, though my background originally is in mechanical engineering. I'm a mechanical engineering dropout, which is the reason I know how to fiddle with a lot of the blood-machine stuff. Jamie is a gamer, which is why he knows his way around the gaming stuff so well. I've been working in advertising for the past few years.
And that's sort of what Blood Sport was, right? Basically an awareness-raising commercial?
Yeah. To tell you the truth, a big part of this was more to raise awareness about the issue, then hopefully partner with a blood clinic and see more what they wanted to do. The tour thing was our big goal. We wanted to get it into the minds of everyone and then see what they thought and go from there. It was more about showing that this was feasible and that we're not just totally random guys off the street, walking in being like, "Hey, we've got a load of blood for you if you want it."
Did the machine you used in the video actually work?
Yeah, it was real. The funny thing is that it's so much easier to do than people realize. We didn't invent anything—we just connected things with wires. It's really easy to take blood.
And you took this working blood-cum-Xbox machine to the Canadian Blood Services, right? How did they like it?
They basically declined to participate in conversation. So they're not interested necessarily in partnering, but we've investigated a few other organizations globally. We've reached out to different organizations, but we haven't heard anything back yet, so at present we're kind of in limbo.
So, at the moment, the actual idea of Blood Sport isn't going to happen in the near future?
Yeah, it doesn't look like that. When ideas like this are brand-new, they sometimes take a few years to get going. That's not that uncommon. We did an idea called Shoot the Banker [a sort of webcam game where you control a paintball gun to shoot a guy dressed as a banker] in 2008, and it took two years before people even believed that it was real and started helping us more on the technology side of that. So this blood thing faces the same struggles.
Hence the Kickstarter. What's it like being on the back end of an extremely popular, very visible crowdfunding campaign?
I don't think we really had long enough to experience it. I think it was only two or three days before it got shut down. It was pretty short.
How did they get in touch about shutting the campaign down?
It was just an automated email! We'd heard through other people before we even got the email. There were lots of people on our Facebook wall being like, "Why has this ended?" I was like, "What?" The email was from the Kickstarter integrity team and it said, "You have been suspended for a breach of our policies," and then it gives you a long list of the policies without actually explaining which one you've breached. Then we contacted them by email and they didn't give us the reason exactly. I mean, obviously we have a few guesses as to why.
Yeah, you don't have to delve too deep to figure that one out. Were either of you guys the actual participants in the video? Were you the ones giving blood?
No, that was someone else. You do see Jamie in the video helping set up.
So you guys never actually tried it out yourselves?
No, we both did. That was our thing—we had to test it on ourselves before we tested it on others, which is always a bit of a scary moment. It's the same as the needle you get when you're donating blood; it's from an actual medical supply place, so it's no different. But still, there is that idea of, like, Oh no, what if we broke the machine when we were modifying it and accidentally cranked it up to 100 percent suction?
Is it quite a strange sensation having blood taken out of your body when you get hit by a red shell on Mario Kart, or whatever?
I think the funny thing is that you kind of forget about it once you get so immersed in the game because you get so focused on beating the other person. You don't always forget about it, but you're so focused on, OK, I've got to win this. It sharpens your gaming skills up because you really don't want to lose.
The only thing is that all the blood from those tests can't be donated because you can't just rock up to a blood bank with a load of blood. Obviously we had a friend supervising who had training, but the blood still had to go to waste.
What did you do with it? Just pour it down the sink or something?
Gross. What mad ideas do you have next?
We have a couple. There's one that's sort of a real life detective mystery—a friend of ours keeps losing things, so we're going to attach a GPS tracking device to them and see if we can catch the person stealing them and film it all. I've got a comic book on the go, too, which is totally random. Jamie's got a bunch of ads coming out soon too.
Jamie Umpherson [WHO IT TURNS OUT HAS BEEN ON THE LINE ALL ALONG]: Yeah, I've got some ad projects. I also help out with my girlfriend's clothing company and she does quite a lot of cool, forward-looking things, so stuff like that. But in the world of Blood Sport, I'd probably say that's going to be on the back burner for a while.
So no sperm donation equivalent?
Taran: Yeah, maybe in 2018. We're going to keep the idea of Blood Sport going and see what would happen. We would never pursue this independently without a blood organisation, because we just know that people can't do this at home by themselves. That would be the worst.
Taran and Jamie are super keen to take your blood, so are now trying to attack Blood Sport from the opposite angle, exploring partnering with actual video games companies to see if gaming and blood loss can finally be married together. Stay tuned.
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