Not so long ago, in a city far, far away (unless you live in the Pacific Northwest), we performed our third PAX Prank at the annual Penny Arcade Exposition Prime. The following is an account of the experience by this year’s fearless leader, one BurntToast.
A podcast with some extra info is to follow shortly.
Hit the jump to find out more
PAX Prank 2010: Salmon Security, An Unraveling
A wise man once said to me, “Toast, go big or go home.” With that in mind we set out to create the biggest and baddest prank yet.
During a random IRC session a few of us started brainstorming ideas of possible pranks to pull at this year’s prime. All the credit this year goes to MoeFwacky, the PAX Forum Moderator, who suggested the idea of a faux security force. From there the idea took off. We would be transformed into a professional security force with the sole goal of protecting our client (“the package”) from whatever threats crossed their path. One such high profile threat we devised was the elusive Team Osprey, another “security firm” and our nemesis. I hesitate to say it but perhaps they were a better squad then us; less rookie mistakes, less CMIAs (clientele missing in action). The inside word is Team Osprey consisted of one person, but that is still TBD.
Over the following months the prank was developed, people were recruited, celebrities were contacted, many many meetings were held as the plot continued to thicken. Due to the scale of the prank getting it off the ground took a tremendous all around effort.
At this time I would like to thank every individual who helped make this prank possible. Those who donated their time (brainstorming, prop/logo design, involvement, etc) and money really made this a special community event. Their help and support was much appreciated. I would also like to give special thanks to Khoo and Penny Arcade. The logistics of this prank was an eye sore when you consider the potential crowding and fire codes. With the trust and assistance of Khoo we were able to make it successful and safe for the entire community.
Below is the public summary of the prank:
This year’s PAX Prank is unlike any other. This year the Prank isn’t on the people we are participating with, but the people who will have no clue what is going on. Posing as guards from Salmon Security Services (SSS), we will be making random people’s day by making them feel like celebrities. We will escort them to a place of their choosing and along their path they will be\ accosted by many fans aching for an autograph or a picture with their favorite celebrity.
Also important to the prank were a few props involved that you may have never noticed. First there was our lovely twitter account with escort details and other hilarious blurbs. For people escorted, an mp3 as well as a video with said audio was created describing our contractual obligations. Finally a Wanted Poster was created for Team Osprey. It included an email address as well as a real phone number with a quirky voicemail message. By the time you read this the number may no longer exist, but included here is the sample voicemail message (sorry about the quality). After a day and a half of minor advertizing, ZHH revealed that he had received over 200 voicemail messages on that number! With the inclusion of so many “realistic” props, we jokingly considered turning Salmon Security into a legitimate security firm. We even had redundancy scenarios in place if there was a break down in our comm. channels.
There was so much goodness involved during our escorts that I can’t contain it all here. Rather I will give a few excerpts before launching into a discussion of our major pranks. One such moment was from our first run of an escort of Nick the rugby star. As the escort team surrounded his location a brief discussion similar to this took place:
Nick: “Should I wear my sun glasses?”
Me: “You are a person of importance.”
Nick: “Hell yeah! ::Lowers shades::
Me: “Roll out!”
We patrolled up the escalators to the 4th floor. Noticing a person of his stature, coolly surrounded by Salmon personal, the Green coats made way for our convoy. Later that weekend we heard from some of the convention staff who thought the idea was hilarious and offered to do as much as they could to make it appear realistic to any onlookers. We strolled down to gather an untapped swag bag and finished the escort by the entrance of the Expo hall
Another escort that day began near top of the main escalators close to the expo hall. The client this time was Kyle. He was already clad in a suit of Intel buttons but required further protection from those who sought him harm. Kyle mission’s was to meet up with friends in the Rock Band area and lay down some heavy metal. The location was triangulated, Eagle’s Nest was contacted with our package details, F15’s were scrambled, and we swam out. The paparazzi were in full force as they attempted to snap shots of our client from the middle stairs, but with a little stiff arming we kept them at bay. As we approached the landing, the current band paused at Kyle’s awesome entourage. After a period of stabilization we approached his surprised friends sitting at a table. Kyle provided an amazing review and high fives were ushered all around. Another mission completed, and another safe customer. The Salmon guarantee was in shape.
The last escort of the day was two ladies named Shannon (really what’s the chance that out of everyone we pick out they’re both named Shannon?). Although they were only going to the expo hall, a few yards to our right, they decided they’d rather go on a “romp” with us. And romp we did. The security forces managed to get lost and trekked around 4th floor roundabout not once but twice. Lesson learned: next time don’t leave the map in the hands of a rookie. We finally attempted to take the back route to BYOC, but an Enforcer informed us that the area was closed due to signs of Team Osprey so we promptly turned back and navigated to their final destination. It bears me much pain and regret to say at this point while returning we discovered we had lost a valuable member of Salmon Security, JonnyNero Action Hero had been captured by Team Osprey and was nowhere to be found. His valiant efforts saved these two ladies on this fine night.
Note: We found him beached later that night after he managed to escape the beak of our enemies.
We ended the day knowing that our services would be just as appreciated come Saturday.
You ever rise with the fishes? Me neither, yet Saturday was a special day for Salmon Security. Our first mission was to escort two female cosplayers. One of them was dressed like Taokaka from Blazblue, a truly epic costume. Not only did we have to contend with the “Black Beast,” the news reporters and flash photographers came out of the woodwork. Even a crazy fan, Peetsnack, came begging for an autograph. Unfortunately for him, cat-girls can’t write with paws. A couple guards inspected the swag bags and produced quality goods for our escorts before safely dropping them at the eastern expo hall entrance. We all had an exciting time and were privileged with hugs from a pawed costume.
The final “normal” escort was of the band Bamjaw. This Midwestern group wanted a taste of what the PAX PC freeplay area had to offer. They needed a glimpse of our Northwestern hospitality and we delivered. As we headed up the 5th floor escalator a stumbling JonnyNero/fan nearly tripped over himself going down on the other side as he recognized his childhood idols. Our secretary diverted his questions about their next available tour while juggling several phones regarding payoffs and financial discrepancies. At the lan area drop off point, they became another satisfied customer who also requested a group photo for their next rock album. I think it might be called Pretty in Salmon or It Ain’t Easy being Lightish Red. An onlooker attempted to smuggle a stuffed frog in the photo, which may have in fact have been a bomb.
One of our most memorable pranks involved Wil Wheaton’s Panel. Late Friday we got word that Wil was interested in helping out with the prank and wanted to meet with us the next day. So we met up and discussed the prank. At first we thought that he would want the role of a fan as it required less of a commitment and would hopefully be easy on his already booked schedule. Wil Wheaton insisted on being a guard and rolling with the security forces. To this we gladly and enthusiastically said yes!
The plan was to grab someone from the line to his panel and bring them to Bandland. From there the security forces along with Wil would parade around the convention center before escorting the individuals past the lines outside his panel and through the doors to VIP seating.
Unfortunately Wil’s tight schedule forced a late minute cancelation, but with impeccable timing to my right stood Graham and James from LoadingReadyRun who were there to offer some assistance. We suited them up as security guards and began the escort. It was awesome and a thing of wonder as we trekked along surrounded by a massive crowd of people. We were successful in our mission of delivering our clients to their VIP seats (while making sure to check for bombs of course) without having to wait in any pesky lines. In all of the pranks the audiences’ reaction was so pure and this was no exception. Some were genuinely confused, others had their theories (social experiment to see how many people would follow us? Recording a movie?), and many stood in awe taking photos of the unknown celebrity passing by. Thanks to the LRR for jumping in and swimming with the salmon and thanks to Wil Wheaton for his motivation and letting us proceed with the prank even when he could no longer take part.
Our final prank took place during the last Q&A. Days prior we had an opportunity to discuss an inside role with Gabe and Tycho. The plan was we would randomly find someone who was going to ask a question during the Q&A and ask them if they were up for being escorted to their question. We would then pass on their information to Gabe and Tycho so that they could pretend as though they knew the individual and would treat them as a star. We had a camera crew and fans planted depending on the flow of the Q&A and available time. Tony went amongst the crowd trying to find the right person, and came back with someone with a great question but an extremely difficult name: Krupal Desai. Thankfully he handed us a business card, which was passed along to our PA leading colleagues. As the client and secretary waited in line, everything seemed intact and inconspicuous. When it was finally time for them to approach the mic, our security forces converged on the location; 2 guards from the front entrance and 2 guards from the rear. Tensions were high and all eyes were on us but the protection detail went swimmingly with special thanks to Gabe and Tycho, who played things off so well that we had many in the theater convinced of Krupa’s certain celebrity status. We got word from some insider Enforcers that many people were Googling our client to find out who he was and what he had done. We would like to give much appreciation and kudos to Krupal, who gave a heartfelt recollection of how Child’s Play had influenced his life. After we left the theater high-fives were exchanged and a general relief was felt that not only were we done, but we kicked some Osprey ass!
Or so we though… After gifting G&T a pair of security shirts during their last signing, a few of us stood relaxing outside the expo hall. We were suddenly approached by a friend who was a part of the Child’s Play Cookie Brigade; a group that collects donations to Child’s Play in exchange for cookies. She said something to the likes of, “Are you guys ready to escort us on stage to give G&T the donated money before the Omegathon?” To this we assumed she was kidding. As we repeatedly questioned whether or not this was an elaborate joke, we realized that everyone except for ourselves was expecting it to occur. We rushed into action to be ready for the escort. Unfortunately things did not go as planned and there was no time for the Cookie Brigade to approach the stage, but a good time was had by all including quality Omegathon viewing.
All in all, this prank was a success. We had fun and we hope those who had a glimpse enjoyed themselves. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who helped make this year’s prank possible. We’ll see what’s in the bag for next year.
For a video recount of every prank, as well as a few sweet trailers, go check out TimeCruiserMike’s YouTube channel. Also, you may want to subscribe to it, as our annual PAX in review podcast (which you can find at rapodcast.net this year) was filmed and is currently being edited! Also, Toast enjoyed leading the prank last year, so he decided to become a masochist and do it again…this time for the Penny Arcade Exposition East! If you would like to help out, or have any suggestions as to what we should do, check out his post in the PAX forums.