24,132 steps, 11 Kotaku readers, seven train journeys, four JB Hifis, three EBs, three video game arcades, two LAN centres, one trip to Sydney Airport and so much more. All in the name of a single, arguably pointless goal – 50 Street Pass hits in one single day. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll shake your head in a condescending manner. This is the story of one man, his 3DS, and The Last Train To Bombay.
A MOMENT OF TRUTH George St. 6.45pm. “We have a reservation at 9pm. Don’t forget! I love you! Have fun :)” read the text message. My wife didn’t understand – I didn’t expect her to. How could she? The task ahead of me was unexplainable, insurmountable - pathologically stupid. 50 Street Pass hits in one day? Impossible. I stood despairing on George Street, 6.45pm, rain dribbling down my forehead. My legs ached. My phone throbbed with a single smidgen of battery life. I was demoralised. A broken man. How did I get to this point? What was the rationale behind this insanity? What was the bloody point of it all...
Street Pass. Street Pass. Street Pass. The words spangled through my frontal lobe like some forgotten nightmare – a primal, ungodly memory buried deep in my subconscious. I had convinced myself this excursion would be worthwhile, fun even.
But it hadn’t been. It wasn’t.
After receiving my 3DS, and discovering Street Pass, I’d noticed some subtle lifestyle changes - morning routines altered, travel paths changed. Each time I went to a train station, I’d walk up and down the platform, dangerously close to large groups of commuters. I’d stand next to escalators, attempting to make e-contact with the most people in the most concentrated fashion.
“I'm starting to do some pretty weird things to get Street Pass hits,” I tweeted.
“Can we get a diary and photos of them please :)” asked someone in response.
And that’s how this crazy endeavour began.
IF YOU SEE ME WALKING DOWN THE STREET But first, some Cliff notes. Street Pass occurs when two 3DSs, in close proximity to one another, automatically exchange data. Said data is usually transferred in the form of shared Miis, which can then be used in a couple of mini games – one a sub-RPG, the other a series of dull picture puzzles.
When the 3DS was first announced it was a concept I barely understood - let alone cared about – until I received my first Street Pass hit. Then... everything changed. The bizarre shared experience, the fuzzy feeling that comes with finding common ground with a complete stranger was almost inspiring, compelling. Instantly I wanted more. I began carrying my 3DS everywhere I went, on the off chance that I could potentially receive more Street Pass hits.
But that was just the beginning. Today I had woken up at 8.30am on a Saturday morning. I’d given myself 12 hours – just 12 hours - to receive 50 Street Pass hits.
It was going to be a long day.
IT NEVER RAINS BUT IT POURS Parramatta Westfield. 9.15am This was my local Westfield. At 9.15am on a Saturday morning. It’s difficult to see properly through the veil of my crappy iPhone 3 lens, but it was raining. A lot.
I had prepared wisely. My major worry was that the less-than-stellar 3DS battery wouldn’t hold out for an entire day so, in addition to charging the previous night, I also turned off the 3D effect, and reduced the brightness to the absolute lowest setting. I silently made a solemn vow to not play the 3DS at any point in order to save battery life - a difficult decision considering the amount of time I planned to spend on public transport.
Regardless, my first stop was Parramatta Westfield. A combination of terrible weather and the peculiar time of day meant that very few people had started shopping yet, but in order to squeeze in the numerous destinations I had in mind, sacrifices had to be made.
It was on these hallowed grounds that my journey began - my local JB Hi-Fi.
The JB in question was the first spot in a convenient little circle trot I had designed for myself. But sadly, despite patiently traipsing through the entire store, there were no hits to be had. The store was completely dead.
In my local Westfield the JB is right next to Electronics Boutique. So I rushed there amidst dreams of adolescent hordes, huddled around the handheld section like frothing trolls.
Tragedy. The store was empty. I don’t know what I was expecting at 9.30 in the morning. I started to chat to the store clerk – turns out he had a 3DS in the back with Street Pass turned on.
First hit GET!
I rushed out. I had two more places to hit up and not much time to do so - tight schedule. The next stop was obvious: GAME.
Once inside my local GAME I got chatting to the staff – turns out two of the three staff members had 3DSs. A thought occurred to me – what if I just abandoned my quest to raid the entire city of Sydney. What if I just hung around video game stores all day and let the hits come to me.
“We get roughly five Street Pass hits a day in the store,” claimed one staff member. Shattering that plan quick smart. “I usually get an extra two or three on the way to the food court.”
That settled it. I would need a lot more than five hits if I was to complete my task. Ten times that number to be precise. I needed to go somewhere different. A place where thousands of people, in desperate need of portable entertainment, congregated into one tight area. I needed to find my 3DS Valhalla.
“Why not go to the airport?” Another GAME staff member asked.
Why not indeed.
TRAINING DAY Parramatta Train Station, 10.01am After a quick run through the Food Court, and a blast through Game Traders, I headed towards Parramatta Train Station. At this point it’s probably worth going into detail on my ‘train technique’, designed to maximise each journey’s Street Pass potential to the fullest.
My technique is relatively simple, and involves covering the most ground in the shortest time possible. On the platform, whilst waiting for the train, it’s important to be continually pounding the concrete, getting uncomfortably close to as many people as possible. It’s impossible to tell who has a 3DS and who doesn’t - it’s important not to resort to stereotypes.
When the train arrives, try and get into either the first or the last carriage. Now the real fun begins.
My trick is to basically walk through each and every single carriage, bottom floor first. It’s easier if the train is new and features the doors pictured above. Eventually you’ll get to a dead end. When this happens I head back through the carriages, this time going upstairs. As soon as the train stops, I exit and rush up the platform, trying to make it into a new carriage, so I can repeat the trick.
During my Saturday I went on seven train journeys, and I used this technique every single time. Even when I was on the old school trains, even when I was explicitly asked not to.
Disclaimer: do not try this at home/on the train. This is not James Bond, this is not Mission Impossible. This is the end result of a stupid idea taken way too far, and I’m a complete and utter idiot.
TWO FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST Sydney Domestic Airport, 10.55 In two minutes of down time, I quickly checked my 3DS. The 3DS can only hold ten new Street Pass hits at any one time, so it was of extreme importance that I check my 3DS frequently in order to clear out my most recent hits, in preparation for new additions.
Or so I thought.
Just before arriving at Sydney Domestic Airport, I opened my bag. A familiar reassuring green glow awaited me. The anticipation was tangible. Surely I had five hits at least, three from my EB and GAME excursion, and two randoms from my thorough public transport expeditions.
I had two hits. Total. Two solitary Street Pass hits. How was this even possible?
Unabated I continued, steeling my gaze. Speed walking. This was the airport for goodness sake. I’ve never – ever – entered an airport without a Nintendo handheld stowed away in my carry-on luggage. Surely this would be an unprecedented Street Pass goldmine.
I stuck with the crowds. During my pre-planning I asked Lifehacker Editor and mega-frequent-flyer Angus Kidman which Terminal would be best. Terminal 3 is for overseas travel, obviously, but I wouldn’t be able to get beyond the gates – so it would have to be a domestic effort. Angus claimed that, before lunch at least, the Virgin Blue/Jetstar terminal would be my most secure bet. So I headed there – with gusto – powering through every step.
I had very little time, having scheduled a Kotaku meet-up at 12 o’ clock, and I had to cover as much ground as possible in 30 minutes if I was to make it in time. Wandering around check-in was completely pointless. I decided if I was to make the most of this trip, I’d have to head in to the boarding lounge.
The queue was long, and therein lay the dilemma because, by that virtue, I was guaranteed vast, dense crowds of 3DS contact points both in the queue and in the various gates once I finally got past security. I made the executive decision to spend 10 mins queuing before smashing through every gate in the terminal.
Roadblock. The over-zealous customs guy selected me for a random bag search! WHY!? Why did I do? Too much eye contact on the way through? Too little?
Turns out I had left a can of deodorant in my bag as it went through the scanner. Precious minutes lost as a result of that mistake.
But I was in. Once more into the Street Pass breach my friends. Once more.
It was at this point that I expressly started wondering – what was the wizardry behind these Street Pass shenanigans. Just how close did I have to get before it kicked in, and for how long? It was unfortunate said paranoia began to manifest itself the minute I spotted a group of young children huddled around handheld devices, but I assure you it was pure coincidence.
But try telling that to the parent giving me the stink-eye when I began to hover a little too close to the poor kids huddled on the airport floor on gate 37 – they were hearing none of it. I rushed off in the nick of time, just before the cries of "mummy, who’s that weird ginger man?" began to arise amidst the crowd.
To the food court!
I tried to make two full runs of this food court, mainly because I knew that it would be one place in the Terminal that was constantly in flux – new people entering, others heading to their gate after scoffing down Maccas. I wandered speedily between the tables, feigning as though looking for a seat. I did this three times before time started getting ahead of me.
It was 11.40. Time to head to the Kotaku meet-up.
And then, as I rushed towards the train station a horrible thought possessed me – I had forgotten to clear out my Street Pass hits. I had just walked from one end of the terminal to the other, with three trips to the food court in between, surely I would have gathered more than ten hits in that time.
Frantically I opened my bag, sure enough that green glow awaited me. Opening my 3DS I headed straight to the Mii plaza – how many had I picked up in my time at the airport? The grand total was in.
Two more hits. A measely two hits.
A mild feeling of nausea hit me directly in the pit of my bowels. This was going to be tougher than I thought.
A lot tougher.
Click here for part 2 of this epic Street Pass saga.