This Drowning Simulator will Scare You into Wearing a Lifejacket

Thursday, 24 April 2014
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Getting people to wear lifejackets while on the water has always been a tough goal. Over the years we have seen all kinds of campaigns from boring government brochures to funny spoofs of old cop shows. Now things have taken a bit of darker turn with the new drowning simulator called, Sorte En Mer.

You need to try it but be prepared, it's pretty intense.

The simulator starts off with a video of you and a friend out sailing on a calm day then quickly turns into a disaster when you are knocked overboard and left watching your friend sail off into the horizon unable to control the sailboat. To keep your head above water you need to scroll your mouse wheel for as long as you can.

Drowning simulator capture

Are you able to stay afloat long enough until your buddy comes back? I couldn't.

Shock campaigns like this have been around for a long time and I’m sure you’ve seen posters with splashy photos of traffic accidents telling you to slow down, or reminders that you love your dog so don’t kill it by leaving it in a car on a hot day.

For a while now researchers have been looking into shock campaigns to see how effective they are. While there is an emotional reaction to seeing bloody car wreck photos, a study back in 2008 in the Netherlands showed that they had the opposite effect. In the study, some male subjects who saw the commercials judged driving fast to be less dangerous or trivialized the message that driving fast is dangerous.

I remember as a teenager our local high school used to arrange for a local wrecker to come and drop off a crashed up car to remind students not to drink and drive. Who knows how many students got the message but all I know is that a large group of us used to stand trying to figure out how to get in the crushed car so we could get photos of ourselves.

Another interesting study out of Belgium showed that campaigns based on fear tended have a short-lived effect on attitudes and opinions and that the public get used to the element of fear faster than a message based on a positive emotion.

So does that mean that this campaign won’t be effective in the long term? I don’t know. I’m not a behavioural scientist.

What does make this video unique (and thus possibility more effective) is that you need to interact with the video to keep the character alive. After my little index finger got tired of scrolling the mouse wheel and I drowned, the first thing I thought was, "wow, if I could only last 3 minutes and my finger was worn out, how could I swim longer than 5 in those waves?"

To me, it was a very different response compared to seeing a poster below put out by Life Saving Victoria.

Where's your child poster

Maybe that interaction element could be just the thing to drive home the message of Lifejacket usage while on the water.

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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