16 January 2012
As recently as last week I found myself shopping for toothpaste. As I was trying to overcome the frustrating sensations caused by my preferred toothpaste company once again changing their packaging, I began to carefully read the packages in hopes that some of the words from the box would help me remember which kind of toothpaste I normally get. I carefully noted that of the four types of my preferred brand of toothpaste that were available in my preferred supermarket, each type had one, and only one, special property that made it different from its siblings. I could choose the “original” formula (boring, but reliable), the teeth whitening formula (for those pearly whites I am supposed to be craving), an “extreme clean” formula to kill a few extra bacteria in my mouth (genocide in the mouth anyone?) and a sensitive formula for teeth that ache (my teeth know that there is no use whining so they do not).
As I was pondering these four choices it suddenly struck me how like video games buying toothpaste is. In many video games, especially shooter games, the player gets a choice, and usually only one, of a “power up” or “boost” with which to augment their character. Generally, the boosts are mutually exclusive (to have one means you cannot have another) and each has a unique, generally desirable, attribute. This is exactly how my preferred brand, and all the other brands for that matter, has expanded their offerings: they now give me added, unique and mutually exclusive boosts within their products.
Such it is that: if I want whitening, I can have it; if I want extreme cleaning, I can have it too; if I want no frills, I can have it no problem. I cannot, however, have extreme cleaning with whitening and certainly not whitening with sensitivity (come now, let us not be silly here). All this left me wondering why there was not an “ultimate formula” that included every boost available. I understand why I cannot have such in my video games (the game would no longer be challenging), but come on, this is toothpaste I am buying. I see no reason why there cannot be one tube “to rule them all.”