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Alone in the StreetPass Crowd

Kyle Orland | 1 Aug 2011 13:00
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This initial experience captures one of the main problems with the StreetPass system: The unavoidable feeling that all it's good for is gathering missed connections. In sleep mode, the system had no way of notifying me that there was a kindred spirit nearby, digitally looking for others like it. Even if I had happened to be playing Street Fighter IV in that cab line, I wouldn't have known James - who was standing three feet away - was up for a friendly match unless I had hopped on over to the Home menu and then the StreetPass Mii Plaza (or if James had piped up and said something, of course). Instead, I only learned that I had met my first fellow 3DS owner well after I had actually met him!

Collecting Miis from strangers in StreetPass Mii Plaza felt a bit like collecting elegant porcelain dolls fashioned after the people you pass in the park, and then pretending those dolls are your friends.

You might think the 3DS could store James' system details, so that I could reach out to him through the magic of the internet at a later time ("I couldn't help but notice your goofy grin in the cab line, but I never imagined that grin might be for me and my 3DS. Up for a quick match?"). Unfortunately, Mii Plaza provides no mechanism for this. In fact, the only way I could communicate further with Jason at all would be if I ran into him a second time, at which point I could set a personalized message to be sent the third time we passed each other (despite using StreetPass amongst the closed group of E3 attendees all week, I never got to try out this feature).

Some StreetPass users I ran into tried to get around this limitation by including e-mail addresses or personal web URLs in the "personal message" that Miis share upon meeting, but since that information isn't stored permanently in the Mii Plaza, you'd better have a pad of paper handy if you want to make use of it.

I can understand Nintendo's reluctance to let this kind of follow-up communication happen easily - it would only take one pedophile making illicit contact through a 3DS StreetPass encounter to create headlines that could cause billions of dollars in PR damage. Still, without the option for further follow-up, collecting Miis from strangers in StreetPass Mii Plaza felt a bit like collecting elegant porcelain dolls fashioned after the people you pass in the park, and then pretending those dolls are your friends.

And that's for complete strangers. The StreetPass experience is even weirder when interacting with people you know. Throughout E3, I found it exceedingly odd to open my system and find an online acquaintance or former colleague staring back up at me, making me realize that I must have been within ten feet of them without actually picking them out of the crowd. Odder still was the sensation of meeting someone in person for the first time, and then hours later finding out we had exchanged Miis without either of us consciously thinking about it (not to mention the oddness of learning my new acquaintance's dream is "to get fit!"). And then there is the case of the Mii I acquired named Yuji Naka, which made me wonder if I had walked by the legendary Sega game designer or just a fan of his work.

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