it's a me, mario

overview

when: 01.12.2009
where: martin place, sydney
tools: mX, google maps, (some of the participants)
treasure found: no (!)

details

Only days after returning to my wiki after months of sporadic activity, the mX obligingly provided the clues to a new treasure hunt. To be fair, it wasn't much of a treasure hunt to begin with, and as it panned out, it was more stakeout than hunt in the end. However, despite your undoubted horror at the fact that no treasure was found (there goes that perfect record), I assure you that it was far from an entirely fruitless hunt since it ended with ramen, IT Crowd Season One and 4.8% per annum.

But to back up a little bit, some information about this little adventure. Long story short, Nintendo has just released a new Mario game for the Wii, and to promote it some clever people decided to orchestrate a little treasure hunt in the Sydney CBD. More like, treasure-locater, since all you had to do was piece together three clues to figure out where a gigantic (only about 1m in diameter in reality) gold1 coin would make its appearance the next day.

Here are the clues, if you want to try to figure it out yourself.

It's fairly obvious (at least to a Sydneysider) where the clues lead. In fact, with #2 alone you could get well enough along to be in the running. So for this hunt, along with a good friend and hunting associate Joe2, it was simply a matter of heading to the location so glaringly pinpointed for all of the mX readers to see. If you looked at the clues, you would have seen that the exact conditions said specifically: "… the first 10 people after 12:30pm" - which was always going to be an iffy concept. The clues were released the previous afternoon, and you needed to bring the mX with you to be in contention, so of course most people would turn up early. It's actually surprising that the planners of the promotion didn't take this into consideration.

I passed through Martin Place around 10am or so, and did a bit of a scope out. The area where the coin was expected to be was mostly deserted, with people walking through and a few people sitting on benches here and there. I noticed a few suspicious looking characters (suspicious only in the sense of being potential rivals), but otherwise nothing was really going on. I noticed a Westpac bank at the top of Philip St, and since I'd been meaning to take my student card in for ages to update my account, I decided now was a good enough time to do it. The awesome bank assistant in the process upgraded my savings account from an outdated one (0.5% p.a.) to a much better one (4.8% p.a.). That in itself was a nice little achievement. Joe also got a red lollipop out of this small deviation, for the record.

So next, we took up a prime position near the Channel Seven windows, and surveyed the area as well as the opposition. For the most part, it was quite clear to us who else had read the mX the previous day. A few were more noob than others, and even went so far as to flash their copies of the mX or the ripped out page. Some paced the area looking suspicious. In general the giveaway sign was the fact that there were quite a few people sitting for no apparent reason in the area, their eyes too frequently fixed in the direction of Channel Seven. There was an undeniably high Asian demographic present, perhaps even 80% of the people who gathered around the time we got there. It evened out more as 12:30pm drew closer. Below is a snapshot of the area around 11:30am, and there are a few loiterers in there, but for their privacy I won't point them out.

It should be noted that while of course we were smugly surveying and accurately picking out the others, we were under surveillance ourselves and the loiterers who chose to combine powers did point in our direction a few times. I'm a little bit disappointed but not terribly surprised that we stood out so easily, and will definitely take that into account for future hunts. It was interesting to see how people chose to ally themselves together, with a few select individuals standing out in terms of the alliance formation. I said to Joe at the time that this would be their downfall, because logically the more people you involve in a hunt (obviously one of greater proportions than this particular example), the more you put yourself and them at risk because the bad guy is always going to get the information from someone. Obviously that's not quite relevant here, but it was, in any case, one reason why I refrain from such associating. You have to choose your allies wisely, but not freely.

We passed the next hour and a half by catching up, since Joe actually defected from physics a fair while ago and so doesn't frequent the tearoom very often. I was fairly concerned by the growing number of people who were clearly gathering for a reason (and flashing their mXs with no shame), but Joe shrugged it off and said it was just more people for him to beat. We talked a little bit about strategic placing, but since we only had one mX between us, it wouldn't have really mattered. I suspected the coin would come from the Channel Seven foyer or something, since the clues led there and it seemed convenient. But we figured, looking at the other people gathered, that we could probably outrun most of them decently.

Well, we got a big surprise at 12pm when a flash of big round yellow appeared up the Martin Place Station stairs. Suddenly, it was time to dash towards it, and dash we did. I think we covered good ground, and managed to get into the inner circle of the coin grabbers, flocking around this obtrusive wooden coin being held by a rather startled looking guy in a beret. I personally thought he looked like he was going for a bit of the Mario look, but as things rolled, it turned out he was the artist who made the coin and had no idea why he was surrounded by hungry (seriously, hungry) looking people. I stepped back a bit to try and get a photo of the situation, but it was a little bit of a fail.

He was thoroughly confused, as was everyone else since it clearly wasn't 12:30pm and he didn't seem to know much. But no one was willing to let go of the coin, not even when a Wii representative appeared and said to everyone that they'd come back in 15 minutes. In fact, some people (stripy-shirted-guy comes to mind, he hesitated none at all in crushing whoever was between him and the coin) squeezed even closer in some desperate bid to get to the coin. I guess it was at that point that we realised it wasn't as well organised as it perhaps should have been, and that being in the first 10 people there, and the first 20 people to the coin, probably wasn't going to matter much. Kind of lame, right?

They didn't go away, but moved to the side of Martin Place and yelled for everyone to form a line. That was a stupid, stupid idea, because it caused a big mob rush in which poor Joe somehow hit his shin on a bench (he claims it was flash step) and ended up with a nasty wound. The photo doesn't quite do it justice because his thumb is covering the worst, which seriously looked a little too much like bone for my liking…

Anyway from here on it was quite a messy affair. The Wii representatives, whoever they were, had no idea how to handle it and I think they were considering doing a massive draw from a hat which, given the circumstances, probably would have been the fairest way to handle it. They paid a fair bit of attention to someone we'd noticed from the very beginning, a guy who pointed out people he recognised as being the first to arrive on the scene. It seemed they were going to take his opinion on the top 20 for a while. To my surprise, he did point at me and Joe, which was surprising mainly because we had been distant from the allying that had taken place. This made me reconsider my thoughts on alliances, which I'll mention later. Someone commented behind us that it shouldn't matter when people got there, because that wasn't a condition of the hunt. Fair enough, that's a decent point. But if it was first to the coin, they had no way of telling that and of course everyone was going to claim it was them.

Yuck. Really showed a nasty side of people I think.

We waited around for a while to see what they would do, but in the end they just told everyone to form a line (single, but it never got past triple in width) and took the names of the 20 closest people. That was definitely a strange decision since that didn't represent at all the people who were there first, at the coin or at the plaza, it was just the people who pushed (and bullied) their way to the front. We had by then kind of lost interest, and I guess one of the saddest things about the outcome was that I noticed very few of the people either at the coin or at Martin Place (the ones we had scoped out) had made it to the top 20. Only the guy I mentioned above, who I think rather deserved it really since he said he'd been there since 8am, and seemed nice enough. Unlike stripey-shirted-guy, who also made it to the top 20. Bleh.

So we didn't get a game or any money. We got more than a few laughs, watching it all take place. I am quite sure that there were a few people joining the end of the long line without any idea what they were lining up for. But on the other side, it was a little bit scary to see people like stripey-shirted-guy, and also a couple of people near the front who seemed close to getting into a fight, all over a game worth $79 or $50 cash. It's not about survival, it's not about needing it to live. It was materialism, and it was pretty damn ugly. I'm not excluding myself from it since I did run to the coin and I did line up, but there came a point where you just stop and think, "What the hell, is this really worth it?" I think Nintendo is just lucky a fight didn't break out, or there might really be a chalk outline on Martin Place.

We talked briefly to that guy (why don't I have a better descriptor?) and also to another person we'd seen there very early. The other guy didn't end up getting it, but was hanging around to see what played out. I think by then though it was clear that they had their top 20 and they were sticking to it. Shame about that. We left, but it wasn't that disappointing. It was certainly an experience, to say the least, and it wasn't our lack of skills or speed which prevented us from winning. It was fun, although I do wish Joe hadn't gotten hurt in the process! I'll kill him if it turns out to be serious, because flash stepping is not something you should do around metal benches.

All that adventure built up an appetite, so we grabbed lunch at the delicious Ichiban Boshi, and wandered around the city. IT Crowd was on sale at JB Hi Fi for $12.98, quite a score. There was even some Engrish which Joe found amusing on a Dragonball Z RPG.

Yes, I know, we didn't get treasure. But like I said, it was an adventure. It's a tiny blemish (33%) on what was an otherwise 100% treasure record, but that's not something we could exert much control over. I do realise now that it's foolish to completely discount random alliances, because those of us who got there earliest did seem to have some sort of strange connection, however spoken or unspoken. I feel it is still a balance, because a real treasure hunter should know better than to trust everyone. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't trust anyone. The balance just has to be found, somehow. And there are some crazy people out there. I knew that already, but it doesn't take much to see it first hand.

I'm glad at least to have been there, because it certainly was amusing and definitely worthwhile for being on the path to becoming a real treasure hunter. There is luck there, certainly. There is a degree of force, which I'm not quite a fan of. But when you step back from today and look at it, it's clear that it's not enough to be clever, it's not enough to be fast, it's not enough to plan. You need to be cleverer and faster than everyone (perhaps not individually, but you and your allies together), and essentially, you need to be first. I won't forget that.

Part Two of the Mario Wii series continues tomorrow. I saw the clues in today's mX, and I'm pretty sure I know where it will be. But I have the feeling that this time, I'll sit it out. One Mario lesson is more than enough, and I think I'll be far more productive continuing my main treasure hunt for those elusive supernova remnants.

NOTE (05/03/2010): Mario may have been hunted here, but not everyone is a fan - see here :D

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