I passed 1000 StreetPasses at EGX last night. My lucky thousandth was Callum from the United Kingdom, who was wearing a pipe hat and was in the midst of playing Pokemon Omega Ruby. And it was at that moment that I realized how impressive it is that I still care about this service.
Granted, in some ways it's more force of habit than anything. When I'm at events, I drag along my Nintendo 3DS, periodically checking and clearing out new StreetPasses as they come in. Having long since finished Find Mii, the only game I still play is Puzzle Swap, which is pushed along by my obsessive need to fill in all of the panels. Mostly, it's something I do because I've done it ever since receiving my first Nintendo 3DS back in 2011.
StreetPassing was an interesting novelty then. Social media was very much entrenched by 2011, but it was still a relatively new phenomenon for video games. It took the Wii's Mii Parade and turned it into an everyday activity that encouraged you to take your Nintendo 3DS wherever you went. In that respect, it was rather brilliant in boosting the 3DS's profile and ensuring that it didn't get consigned to the closet between games.
With that said, collecting StreetPasses proved more challenging for Americans than for people in smaller countries like Japan. It took ages for the Nintendo 3DS to become prevalent enough that I could reliably get Street Passes in San Francisco - a dense city with strong public transit that is well-suited for grabbing StreetPasses. Americans living in less populated areas had no chance.
As usual, Americans have found ways to compensate for the disadvantage of living in such a sprawling country. StreetPass meetups have become a fixture for many American fans, giving them an opportunity to collect passes and play games in a group setting. Nintendo, too, has found ways to compensate by introducing Nintendo Zones - wi-fi hotspots that made it possible to download StreetPass data, which Nintendo fans quickly began using for their own purposes.
To keep the service from going stale, Nintendo has also expanded its capabilities. New games have been introduced over the years, with Warrior's Way proving particularly popular. Games like Mario Kart 7 would also let you exchange ghost data, share scores, or in the case of Fire Emblem: Awakening, allow you to hire your friends and put them on your team. There are even in-game achievements that encourage you to meet people from other countries and try to earn personal messages.
There's no question that StreetPassing is a well-designed service and a big part of the identity of the Nintendo 3DS. It has to be to keep me gathering StreetPasses nearly five years after the system's launch.
What Keeps You StreetPassing?
There's something to be said for the feeling of being connected. In the social media era, people like to share everything, even if it's something as simple as a digital avatar or what game they happen to be playing. For gamers, it's also a sort of secret handshake that lets you know that you're in good company. Oh, another Pokémon fan is here.
The games, for the most part, have long since ceased to be of interest to me. Even Warrior's Way proved too shallow for the hassle of downloading ten Miis and taking them into a game of rock-paper-scissors largely determined by army count. The best StreetPass game is still Find Mii - a simple but cute RPG with a fun sense of humor and a secret, unlockable sequel. It's the StreetPass game that does the best job of making you excited to take a new batch of Miis into the dungeon, confident that you now finally have the power to take down whatever monster happens to be blocking your way.
As I said before, I still StreetPass because it's something else to do at events like EGX, PAX, and E3, because I'm naturally curious about other people, and because I swear to god I'm going to finish every single image in Puzzle Swap if it kills me.
Which leads me to ask: Do you still care about StreetPassing? Is there any particular StreetPass game you still like? I'm curious to know. And if you happen to be at EGX, keep an eye out for me. I'm your best chance to add the U.S. to your StreetPass Map.