At PAX East this year the folks behind Cards Against Humanity ran a prank that I, as a true blue porridge connoisseur, appreciated: they created PWNMEAL, porridge for gamers. It was all a massive prank/marketing stunt for Cards Against Humanity, but it was so expertly done that it was difficult to separate fact from fiction. Sure, this was marketing, but it was also great satire. Now the brains behind PWNMEAL has explained how it all went down.
Every year at PAX East the Cards Against Humanity team give away free cards to all attendees, but this time they wanted to do something different. So, in an attempt to take the everloving piss out of foodstuffs cynically marketed to 'gamers', they created PWNMEAL and put the cards inside the package.
We knew from the beginning that we wanted everyone at PAX to get a packet of extreme instant oatmeal that we’d design to be as over-the-top as possible. The idea really came together once we figured out that we should put the Cards Against Humanity “PAX Pack” cards inside the packet of oatmeal as a surprise; we thought that was the best punchline possible to the joke of the oatmeal, and also a truly surprising and delightful way for attendees to get the PAX Pack that kind of recaptured the excitement of the first time people were surprised to find free cards in their swag bag.
There were a few pieces of the oatmeal opening experience that became really important to us.
First, the joke just wouldn’t have been as funny if it was some kind of dumb viral marketing for Cards Against Humanity; we wanted to really create confusion as to what exactly PWNMEAL was. My dream to create the illusion of an extreme oatmeal brand so convincingly that people would throw their packets out, and then go digging in the trash for them later when they realized that there were Cards Against Humanity cards inside.
Second, we wanted to heighten the surprise of finding the cards in the oatmeal as much as possible, which meant we had to really sell the idea of an extreme gaming oatmeal. We didn’t want anyone to know that PWNMEAL was associated with Cards Against Humanity until they opened it up. Third, I wanted the cards to come loose in the oatmeal, covered in oat dust - I didn’t want them in a foil pack or any packaging. It was just funnier that way.
Finally, we had to get these packets into the U.S. with FDA approval, and they had to fit into the convention center’s strict rules that ban giving away food. This was a big design challenge that we solved by shipping empty packets to the U.S. and then filling them with less than once ounce each of good old domestic U.S.A. oatmeal. In total, we ordered three tons of quick rolled oats and created about 150,000 packets of instant oatmeal.
The Tumblr post goes into way more detail on the process of how the whole PWNMEAL concept was created. It's a great, often hilarious read.
But there's a weird part of me that's really disappointed that PWNMEAL doesn't exist. As anyone who follows me on any type of social media knows, I love porridge. I love porridge to the point where I wrote a full blown article in Lifehacker about how it changed my life. I was really looking forward to trying this gamer porridge!
Pwnmeal Extreme Gaming Oatmeal [Maxistentialism]