Max Temkin and the rest of the folks behind Cards Against Humanity are exactly the kind of people who'll buy 3 tons of oatmeal for a prank.
When attendees at PAX East opened up their swag bags this year, an odd little package was there to greet them. PWNMEAL Extreme Gaming Oatmeal, in four game-ified flavors, was all over the event, complete with posters and a launch video. Inside each sample of the gamer gruel hid the 2014 Cards Against HumanityPAX Pack, a set of new CAH cards that has become a tradition for the convention. CAH has been exhibiting at PAX East with Kickstarter for three years, and PWNMEAL was a way to shake up the expectation for the PAX Packs. The extreme oatmeal brand (complete with a Twitter account and a website) was created just for the event. Cards Against Humanity distributed sixty thousand packets of PWNMEAL to PAX attendees.
The logistics of the prank are fascinating, and Cards Against Humanity creator Max Temkin lays out the behind-the-scenes details on his blog. Temkin wanted to really sell the idea that PWNMEAL was real, and that meant packaging the cards with real oatmeal. Temkin ordered 3 tons of quick rolled oats, which needed to be sourced from within the United States in order to avoid FDA import concerns.
The idea for the gaming oatmeal came from a Twitter conversation between Temkin, Cards Against Humanity events manager Trin Garritano, and cartoonist Kris Straub. In the middle of the 12 Days of Holiday Bullshit promotion, Temkin started work on what would become PWNMEAL. Temkin, Straub, and author Mikey Neumann (who joins Straub for the Chainsawsuit podcast) worked together on the cards. Straub also designed the PWNMEAL mascot, an angry-looking cyborg.
Long before the event, Garritano, CAH community manager Jenn Bane, and CAH experience manager Claire Friedman of Cards Against Humanity began developing PWNMEAL's Twitter personality. Friedman says, "The voice of @pwnmeal is one of a 23 year-old male who just got hired as a social media associate and is extremely dedicated to the Brand. @pwnmeal only follows a few rules: all caps all the time, hashtag whatever possible, and everything is extreme. The less a hashtag makes sense, the better it is. "
GET THE FIBER YOU NEED TO TAKE ON TEN OR MORE MEN AT THE SAME TIME. ATTACK A PACK OF PWNMEAL TODAY. !!!INGEST THE FURY!!!— Pwnmeal XGO (@pwnmeal) February 19, 2014
With only a month left before the convention, the company that runs the event (ReedPop exhibitions) granted Temkin's request for a free 30-second spot every twenty minutes on the giant screens throughout the convention center. CAH worked with Digital Kitchen to produce the commercial on short notice, basing the look on a Calvin Klein perfume ad and starring local CrossFit trainers. Other last minute touches included PWNMEAL posters, printed the night before the event and brought in without permission from the convention center, and the PWNMEAL website, written in a hotel lobby that same night by Temkin, Straub, and Neumann, with Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann and Patrick Klepek.
The stunt was a success, with fans discovering the joke and even playing into the prank. Some fans even made unboxing videos of the oatmeal packages. The surge in activity led to the temporary suspension of the PWNMEAL Twitter account. On the final day of the convention, PWNMEAL announced on Twitter that its extreme oatmeal was going out of business, and the "official porridge of e-sports" was no more.
Cards Against Humanity, the "party game for horrible people", and its four expansions are available through the Cards Against Humanity website. As always, you can also print out and make your own copy of the game directly from the website.
Source: Max Temkin