A StreetPassing Craze – A 3DS Story

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By Adam Shere

It’s hard to believe, but the 3DS is already turning 3 years old. After one of the rockiest starts and most lackluster receptions the industry has ever seen, the 3DS has gone on to become the must have gaming device to own with an impressive library of critically acclaimed 1st and 3rd party titles.

I remember when the 3DS was first announced back in 2010. I watched along with the rest of the world as the House of Mario detailed their newest handheld. There were some interesting terms being tossed around: Autostereoscopic, Augmented Reality, Play Coins, 3D Depth Slider, Pedometer, Motion and Gyro Sensors–there was a lot this little system could do. But I gotta be honest, when I first heard about the new feature called StreetPass I was, well, shall we say, underwhelmed. Here was the concept: carry your 3DS around with you in sleep mode and when you pass other 3DS owners doing the same, you exchange your Mii, general (and of course non-personal and non-offensive) information and game data. It was an intriguing concept, one that had already been successfully tried and proven to a lesser degree in DS games like Nintendog’s Bark Mode and Dragon Quest IX’s Tag Mode.

My first impression was, “Yeah….that’s never gonna happen”. Look, I live in the ‘burbs of SoCal. We don’t walk. We don’t take the train. We drive. Everywhere. Like to the 7-Eleven on the corner, a half a block from our house. Now if I lived in Tokyo, or say even Manhattan, it’d be a different story, but this is just NOT going to be a relevant feature for me. Or so I thought.

I purchased my 3DS on launch day and after about a month, I really wanted to experience how this whole StreetPass thing worked. I headed off to a busy retail district with my 3DS in tow and actually parked my car (gasp!), heading out on foot in my quest. My first stop? Best Buy. Look, before the price drop no one was buying these things, so I had no shame in heading for a demo unit. And then….success. That pulsating green light. That little Mii bouncing up to my plaza gate. Find Mii and Puzzle Panels. I was hooked. I needed more StreetPass tags and I needed them now.

I had heard about these community StreetPass groups popping up all over the world, where 3DS owners were getting together in pre-determined public places to tag each other. After a quick Google search, I found one in my area meeting in a few days and decided to check it out. It was just a couple dozen people hanging out (including the only other people who were in line with me to buy their 3DS on launch day), playing games and chatting. But one thing was very clear. Somehow, unknowingly and unintentionally, Nintendo had stumbled onto something truly fascinating. It was as much a sociological study as it was a gaming sensation. What Nintendo had created to be a singular interaction with strangers was turning into a social environment where people of all backgrounds, races, beliefs and ages were meeting together in a friendly and comfortable setting and sharing common interests. Turns out people ACTUALLY like playing games together face to face, rather than just with an impersonal online ID and faceless voice. Go figure.

Since that first event I attended, I eventually started running the group in my area until it grew large enough to welcome two other friends on to help manage our group and monthly events that had grown from 12 people to upwards of 150-250 people. If you’re in the Southern California area, check out StreetPass OC, StreetPass LA and StreetPass San Diego. If you’re not in SoCal try to find a StreetPass group in your area and if there isn’t one…..start it!

But StreetPassing is equally enjoyable when you’re out by yourself and notice that little green light at the corner of your 3DS. More than once I’ve seen it start blinking and instantly look around to see if I can guess who my fellow geek is. I’ve gotten StreetPasses while at a stop light and while going 65 MPH on the freeway (don’t forget we always drive in Southern California). I’ve gotten tags while I’m in my house from people walking by (which is both exciting and somewhat unnerving). I’ve started passing complete strangers multiple times over a period of months and sometimes tag friends, even when I didn’t see them. And even though I’ve racked up nearly 7,000 StreetPass tags, I still get happy every time I get another. It’s like one of my friends said, “StreetPassing is like drugs; you get one and you just want more!”. A fairly accurate assessment, though I doubt we’ll see Nintendo of America marketing it as such anytime soon.

After 3 years of being on the market, it’s really amazing to me how so many 3DS owners still don’t know about or understand what StreetPass is or how it works. If you’re one of those people, I encourage you to try it out for yourself. Start carrying your 3DS around with you wherever you go. Take it to malls, airports, amusement parks, conventions, church. (Hey, don’t judge. I leave mine on in the trunk and usually have at least one every Sunday.) There are RPGs and puzzle panels included for free to get you started, and if you want to jump in over your head, download the 4 newest StreetPass games that range from gardening sims, to shooters, to puzzles, to Rock-Paper-Scissors (in a conquer the world strategy based way, of course) for a few bucks each.

So the 3DS has achieved quite a lot in just 3 years and not just in terms of incredible software, which there has been plenty of. 3 years ago I could’ve never imagined all the amazing people I would meet and wonderful memories I would make just because of this little feature called StreetPass. Turns out StreetPass is pretty awesome after all. I can’t think of another time I was so happy to have been mistaken.

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