Geeky as I am, I draw the line at anime. So I've never attended SakuraCon, Seattle's annual expo dedicated to the world of Japanese cartoons. But this weekend, a friend had an extra pass, so I figured, why not?

The expo, held over three days at the downtown Convention Center, was as steeped in otaku-friendly fare as I'd expected—manga (Japanese comic books), elaborate costumes, video games, toys, crazy-lookin' robots, a dude dressed as a piece of toast, etc.


...and, of course, this guy. He is dressed as the character he's controlling right there. DEH-DIH-KAY-SHUN.

As I expected, it wasn't my bag, not just because I'm not an anime die-hard but because the expo skews so young. Every conversation I heard sounded like an teenage giggle party. Comparatively, neither the Penny Arcade Expo nor the Emerald City Comic Con feel so age-restrictive.

Still, I enjoyed the Con, and while there, I noticed a strange, Nintendo-fueled phenomenon. The company released a "remastered" Pokemon video game last month. To encourage fans to re-buy the old game, Nintendo put a small, palm-sized gizmo called a "PokeWalker" inside the box. When you're not playing the main Pokemon game, you can wirelessly zap one of your game critters into the gizmo—a glorified pedometer with a screen. It tells you to walk, walk, walk; the more you walk around, the more points you get in the game once you load it back up.

Is this a stupid, silly, and entirely ineffectual way to convince Pokemon-loving children to exercise? You bet. Kids are bound to figure out that you can get those points by sitting still and shaking the PokeWalker with a constant wrist motion. If anything, Nintendo isn't fueling a youth-walker fad, but training our next generation of masturbators.

I learned about another PokeWalker feature at SakuraCon: sharing between friends. When two people link their walkers together, the game hands out extra points and rare bonuses. Dozens of SakuraCon attendees clipped PokeWalkers to their shirts like dork ID badges, creating little crowds in every hallway to zap their critters back and forth. Official employees and booth workers hung PokeWalkers next to their cash registers to attract crowds. You could barely walk 50 feet without seeing a PokeWalker, and Nintendo didn't have anything to do with SakuraCon: no booths, no promotions, no presence. Fully viral.

While watching this unfold, I thought to myself, "If only there were other devices that thousands of people own in Seattle--ones that wirelessly connect to each other—and an app that tapped into that." A few recent iPhone successes go halfway there with GPS-based interactions, but on something like FourSquare, the results are passive—you "check in" at a location, accrue points, see your name on a list of other users, and sometimes get coupons as a result.

Mark my words: Apps that "zap" between two cell phones will be the next wave. That none exist already is ludicrous; iPhones and Droids are already Bluetooth-enabled to allow that kind of giddy, two-player interaction. Nintendo's accidental social experiment this weekend was a success; it's up to phone developers to learn from those results and release a mega-smash game or app of their own.
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