Interview: StreetPass Liverpool's Anthony Boyd On Bringing Gamers Together
Posted by Robert Hughes
Green light means go
There are few things more deceptively simple than Nintendo’s StreetPass function, which rewards players for travelling with their systems with virtual currency to spend on unlockable content and encourages them to take their portable out into the wild at every available opportunity. From Nintendo’s position, the advantages are obvious; pushing customers to bring their 3DS or 2DS out in public increases the likelihood they will use the system, which in turn increases the likelihood they will be seen using the system, creating buzz and visibility for the handhelds. But for gamers, the glow of that green light is more than a simple marketing strategy – it’s a beacon, a luminous symbol of community and togetherness.
StreetPass groups have sprouted up all over the UK and the world at large, bringing together like-minded individuals who seek to increase the number of their StreetPass hits whilst discussing all things Nintendo. Many groups have even blossomed past their initial purpose and have begun to incorporate games that do not use the feature as an integral component — titles like Mario Kart and Monster Hunter — bringing together groups of avid Nintendo enthusiasts for collusion and competition alike.
Several StreetPass groups in the UK hosted a Mario Kart 8 tournament recently to celebrate the launch of the Wii U racer, encouraging local players to compete in regional heats, with the winners of each battling it out online for both a glitzy trophy and the honour of being crowned the nation’s finest. One such group was StreetPass Liverpool, hosting their own racing competition in the cosy retro paradise of local gaming café A & J’s. A plethora of potential competitors crowded to enlist — far more than there were available slots, sadly — running the gamut of gaming experience from Mario Kart masters (such as Liverpool victor Robert Burns, who carried the regional trophy away with a commanding lead), to karting novices who sheepishly enquired "how to make it go" before the first race began. But that’s the beauty of StreetPass groups, the welcoming atmosphere; when the only necessary quality to join is an interest in video games, even the most inexperienced or uncompetitive gamer can find a place here.
We attended the event and got the chance to pitch a few questions to StreetPass Liverpool’s founder, Anthony Boyd, to get an understanding of both the purpose of StreetPass groups and the challenges they face.
Nintendo Life: What inspired you to found Liverpool’s StreetPass group?
Anthony Boyd: I had wanted to start something up for a few years. I think it was ‘Bark Mode’ on the original Nintendogs — I'd leave it on all day and never get any hits. Anyway, when Monster Hunter 3 came out I received an email from Nintendo and on the bottom it mentioned an event in Manchester. I went along and got chatting to the organiser, James Bowden. I told him I’d love to do the same in Liverpool, and he pointed out Jonathan Town — UK Community and Social Media Manager for Nintendo — who was attending the event. We had a chat about gaming (and Lego, amongst other things!) and Jonathan basically told me to go for it and he would do his best to support it. He continues to support not just my group, but many up and down the UK.
What are the greatest challenges you face in organising events for the group?
Anthony Boyd: Time. It's always time. It's a hobby. I still have to hold down a job and support my family. I'd love to do more events, more frequently. Other than not having enough time, everything else is straight-forward now. I have a great team who help. I'm lucky to have some great local venues and support on social media from many sources. Mind you, it all took a long time to build up, and it's still growing.
Are there any games you've yet to organise an event around that you would like to see tackled? Any games on the horizon you're looking forward to organising meetings for?
Anthony Boyd: I don't think there are any other current games that I would like to do a dedicated event for. We have covered the big multiplayer releases. I like to focus on friendly competition; it brings people together and helps keep things exciting. Though we do plan on having themed events with a good mix of games, we are keeping these themes under wraps for now.
As far as upcoming releases go, I can't wait to do a big Smash Bros. event…maybe two, one for each of the formats as the release dates are separate. And of course, Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire — that event in particular will be massive.
How cooperative and supportive have Nintendo been in the overall organisational process?
Anthony Boyd: As I mentioned before, Nintendo have been there from the start. Anyone who runs a group or is involved is a volunteer. We do it for the love of it. Nintendo know this, and they’re no doubt aware of the benefits of supporting such initiatives. They are amazing — if they can help, they do, and Jonathan Town especially has been instrumental in StreetPass Liverpool's continued success.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for those looking to organise their own StreetPass groups?
Anthony Boyd: Start with a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Make sure to register your group on StreetPass UK — it's great for supporting new groups. I'd suggest keeping early events as local as possible — get an event booked as soon as you can, so you have a focus point. Even if it's five people meeting for coffee and just getting StreetPass hits, it's a beautiful thing. But if you have any gaming cafés or the like in the area, they should be happy to have you. Just give them a call and tell them what you would like to do. Then it’s just a case of taking to social media and getting the word out.
For all those not affiliated with a group, consider this a call to arms. A list of all recognised StreetPass groups in the United Kingdom can be found at StreetPass UK, all of whom will welcome new members with open arms, and if there isn't one nearby, why not take the initiative and start your own? Gaming has become an increasingly solitary experience, with online features doing little to encourage a sense of togetherness – it’s hard to feel close to people who are so far away, after all. That’s why StreetPass groups exist, and why they’re so valuable – they’re an organised effort to gather diverse groups of Nintendo enthusiasts of all skill levels and from all walks of life, to get together and do what they do best. If you find yourself constantly surprised by the number of StreetPass hits you get each day, wondering where these people have been hiding, it’s time to step out to an event and take a look.
Do you attend any StreetPass group events in the UK or elsewhere in the world? Do you feel your area is adequately represented, or have you ever tried to organise your own meets? Let us know in the comments!