SXSW Interactive 2014 Day 1: In Search of Rainbow Road

A column article by: Shaun Spalding, Andrew Tan

Shaun:  Let's talk about how disappointing the "Mario Kart Reimagined" event was.

Andrew: We went to a couple panels but what we thought would be the highlight of our day was the Mario Kart event put on by Pennzoil.The event centered around using a real go kart track to simulate a real life Mario Kart experience. As press, we did get preferential treatment and got to skip what looked to be a line that took several hours to get through. I'm not entirely sure it was worth our wait, which ended up being around an hour and I highly doubt it was worth it for the folks who had to wait several hours for three laps around the track.

Shaun:  At first, we stood in the line for people with regular badges that apparently wasn't moving at all. Then we realized it didn't move at all because press could get in right away and they could only do one race for 4 people per 20 minutes.  We made a friend in the non-press line who was still standing there in the same spot after we got the press badges, watched the video, did the race, and then left. For me, it wasn't worth it and I got to skip the line. I feel bad for anyone there for hours

But let's talk about the actual experience.

Mario Kart Pennzoil

Andrew:  Yeah, so part of the core fun of the experience was that it was supposed to have real life approximation of obstacles and boosters. A series of 5 blue icons were designed to give a speed boost while turtle shells slowed the car down. Which is fantastic in concept but in practice was fairly erratic for me. I'd hit the boosters and experience a boost a minute later and the kart itself would randomly slow down in the last lap.

Shaun:  It's clear that everybody was trying so hard to make the experience work and be fun, but there were so many technical difficulties (a Go Pro camera actually fell off the cart and hit CB's Nick Hanover in the head)

Andrew: At least from a safety perspective, it was a good idea since all our cars stopped when something had gone wrong.

Shaun:  In theory, go-karts are great, and adding "speed boost" icons to the track only makes it better. But it didn't feel like Mario Kart at all. It didn't even feel like go-karting at all because there were so many technical complications added to it that they couldn't get that to work

And I think, even if it did work, it just felt like a small go-kart track that a person in Mario costume was standing in front of than anything that was remotely related to Mario Kart

Andrew:  Yeah, while the experience wasn't worth the wait, I hope it'll improve over the next few days to merit the very long and slow lines. Anyway, what was your best of SXSW day one?

Dan Harmon

Shaun:  The Samsung Blogger Lounge was cool. They turned what someone told me was a steakhouse into some futuristic techno-lounge. What's Trending, the Youtube show, is doing a live recording there. It doesn't seem like it's meant for a live audience because sound isn't very good except for anybody right behind the cameras near the stage, but I think it's cool that the guests on the show like Dan Harmon were nice enough to hang out and mingle.

Shaun:  So between the open bar, the great food, the cool furniture, and good crowd, I'd say people should go check it out. Finally, Samsung is paying me back with free drinks for all of the phones I've bought from them

What about you, what was your favorite thing?

Andrew:  Mine was actually the same, for pretty much the same reasons. It was great to get to meet Harmon and Erin McGathy, who runs the fantastic This Feels Terrible podcast, along with just eating loads of beef brisket and booze to make up for the year I lived with the horrible Samsung Epic 4G. Since this is our first year at SXSW I suspect a lot of our favorite moments will circulate around the words "free food" and "open bar."


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