How I Won An Xbox One X By Hiding In A Corner Of Central Park

Two morons with nothing better to do.
Two morons with nothing better to do. Doritos + Mountain Dew

On a brisk Wednesday morning, tucked away in a corner of Central Park, Doritos and Mountain Dew set-up a test run for a new marketing gimmick: the “Drop Zone.” Located in random cities across the United States, players compete in a virtual capture the flag experience to win an Xbox One X. For their first playthrough, media specialists invited select media partners to participate as guinea pigs in order to get the bumps out of Drop Zone before the app is let loose on the general public.

The premise of the game was simple: for a half-hour, five Xbox One X consoles were randomly “dropped” in a corner of the park for players to pick up in the app. Once you have it, other players can take it from you if they are in close enough proximity. There are power-ups, like a shield that protects your box or a range amplifier. If you still have the console when the timer runs out, then you’ve won an Xbox One X console; an expensive 4K gaming behemoth will arrive in the mail.

My buddy Mike and I arrived at the Naumburg Bandshell, a small stage created in a past era of New York when they thought a Roman aesthetic meant class. We were prepared to win what the PR reps that checked us in called “the world’s most powerful console.” The reps were also giving away free Doritos and Mountain Dew, but had run out of the beverage before the event started. One rep told me that they didn’t bring enough and had bought out the closest bodega of everything they had, which was just three 3-liter bottles.

Joel McHale, star of Community and overall nice guy, was the host of the whole initiative and was under a contractual obligation to talk to reporters. Like the hard-hitting reporter I am, we talked about dogs, his time hosting The Soup and how living in a tiny shoebox apartment can make you lose your soul.

“You can find your soul today in Doritos Drop Zone augmented reality game,” McHale said with only a hint of irony. “It’s an augmented reality capture the flag game. You use these offensive and defensive power-ups to claim it, but I can walk up and take it from you, so you have to run away or hide to keep it.”

The starting line.
The starting line. Every 60 Seconds

The app initially told everyone competing at the event that “they had already won,” so the game was postponed for 15 minutes. When the game began, the app kept crashing on my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and glitching out on Mike’s iPhone 7. Every few minutes, I’d have to walk up to one of The PR lackeys sent to run the event, who were freezing even though it was only 50 degrees out. “We’re all pretty used to Los Angeles weather,” one PR rep told me while forcefully restarting my app and trying not to shiver at the same time. McHale, who MC’d the event, walked up to us and asked how we’re doing. “It’s crashed again,” I say into the microphone, forcing him to move onto someone more brand friendly.

For the first game, Mike and I stayed together in order to pass the console between us to avoid it from being taken. However, because both our apps acted wonky, we lost the one console we managed to pick up.

Even though a second-game was starting soon, Mike and I were ready to leave. The cold air and frustration were taking it’s toll. Somehow, either from sheer will or the smoke break we took, we managed to build up enough energy to try again. All of the players who took the game seriously had won in the first round and left a chance at victory for the vultures out there with empty stomachs.

For game number two, we had a different strategy. In order to compete, players had to stay inside the “virtual geofence,” which included a long strip of benches to the south. When the timer started, Mike managed to get a console and nonchalantly took a stroll down the path. Making sure not to walk slowly as to not arouse suspicion, we stared at the gorgeous paintings from the artists hocking their wares. Hiding behind a decoupage zebra, we waited for our soon to be ill-gotten booty.

It's safer in the south.
It's safer in the south. Every 60 Seconds

At around the 3-minute mark, Mike split to find his own console, leaving me alone and terrified. Every person that walked by with a phone could be an enemy playing the game and I wouldn’t notice until it was too late. Minutes turned to seconds and my brow started to sweat. Someone could easily swoop by and take the Xbox One X as their own, enjoying a console that serves no real purpose unless it's plugged into a 4K TV.

Then the timer ran out, and my console was still there. Somehow, either through sheer dumb luck or laziness of the other participants, I had managed to hold onto a $500 piece of machinery. Walking back, I saw Mike screaming for joy, he managed to find one of them as well. Stoned off our asses, we hopped down the aisle like Dorothy and the Tin Man in the Wizard Of Oz, ready to collect our prize. Mchale didn’t interview us, he just wanted to get out of there and I didn’t want to keep him.

Other then the app crashes, the experience was really fun and I was impressed for what they did on a small marketing budget. Neither of us have gotten our Xbox One Xs yet, but it will be a fine addition to my collection.

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