The Phoenix Reporter & Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Gaming urinals promotion prompts a stream of consciousness


By Mike Morsch

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

This may be the most brilliantly stupid idea I’ve ever heard: Coca Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, has installed a “Urinal Gaming System” in its men’s room, the first sports venue in the world to offer such a thing to its fans.
It’s being billed as a “hands free urinal game controller.” Here’s how it works: Guys drink a lot of beer and then go to the men’s room. As one approaches the urinal, a video console goes into gaming mode, using a patented technology that detects the user’s presence and “stream.” (And why wouldn’t someone patent this? We wouldn’t want the Chinese to get ahold of this technology.)
Algorithms — the first time the words “algorithms” and “urinal” have ever been used in the same sentence — allow the users to “engage” with the screen by aiming in different directions to test their “agility” and “knowledge.”
I don’t know about the rest of you gents, but every time I go into a men’s room at a ballpark, my primary goal is not to test my “agility” and “knowledge.”
Of course, the Ironpigs made a big “splash” last week with the announcement of this new “unparalleled entertainment experience” for their fans. All the media outlets went gaga over this because when one thinks about the Opening Day of baseball season, one thinks of urinals.
I must have heard from a couple of dozen friends who wanted to know if I had seen this news item and if I planned on writing about it. I guess my friends know “Mike’s wheelhouse” when they see it.
Here’s how newsworthy this is: Baseball fanatics will travel to Chicago to see historic Wrigley Field. They will travel to Boston to see historic Fenway Park. They will travel to Cooperstown, N.Y., to see the historic Baseball Hall of Fame. They will travel to Iowa to see the historic Field of Dreams.
And now they will travel to Allentown, Pa., to take a historic leak.
Stoo and Pid. And brilliant.
But that’s not all. According to the Ironpigs’ press release, “The games are 100 percent intuitive and custom-built to provide a unique user interface along with an easy and seamless experience.”
In all the years that I’ve used men’s rooms in all the ballparks I’ve visited, I have never once gone in looking to “interface” nor have I ever expected a “seamless experience.” The highest aspiration I’ve ever had at a ballpark men’s room was to come out with dry shoelaces.
There are apparently a number of games the guys will be able to try while they are standing at the urinal. One of the more fun-sounding ones has to with alpine skiing, which allows users to speed their way through snowy mountains on a snowmobile while attempting to hit cartoon penguins.
(They’ve missed an opportunity here, I think, by not having a game that involves racehorses, because that’s how bad guys have to go sometimes after several beers.)
Upon completion of one’s “business” — which published research suggests takes an average of 55 seconds according to the Ironpigs’ press release — the urinal gamer will receive a score and a code to enter, which allows the user to check his position on the “leader board” and go to a website to see how the rest of the competition stacks up for the evening. High scores will then be posted in real time across various video boards displayed throughout the stadium.
I’ve always wanted to see my name in lights on the scoreboard at a ballpark for being the most proficient urinal user of the evening.
Honest to Pete has anything ever been so stupidly brilliant? I really think the Ironpigs ought to take it a step further — can there possibly be a step further with this? — and have actors portraying The Three Stooges standing outside the men’s rooms giving out complimentary eye pokes to those who failed to score at a certain level.
The gaming system was developed by the United Kingdom-based Captive Media. Can you imagine the meeting by the Research and Development Department, where this idea first came up? You just know there was some guy at the table who suggested that they spend money to develop a game that guys can play while peeing in the men’s room at a ballpark.
And then another guy said, “Ya, and let’s put some cartoon penguins in there” because when one thinks urinals, one thinks penguins.
Everybody started yukking it up and slapping the table and then the department head did something useful and called the maintenance department and asked it to have someone wheel another keg of beer up to the R&D board room.
There is no way that beer wasn’t part of the development of this idea.
There doesn’t appear to be any comparable loo games in the women’s rooms at the ballpark, but that’s only because everybody knows that women would never endorse or participate in anything this stupid.
But I guarantee you that I am going to drive to Allentown this summer to use the men’s room at Coca Cola Park. And of course, I will report back about the experience because I am a thorough journalist.
We’ll call it a stream of consciousness column.
Mike Morsch is executive editor of Montgomery Media and author of the book, “Dancing in My Underwear: The Soundtrack of My Life.” He can be reached by calling 215-542-0200, ext. 415 or by email at msquared35@yahoo.com. This column can also be found at www.montgomerynews.com.