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College Fest Tantalizes

Annual Fair Provides Playboy Bunnies, Video Games, and Free Stuff, All for $8

By Brian Loux

College Fest

September 14-15, noon-6:00 p.m.

Hynes Convention Center


On Saturday Morning, hundreds of Boston-area students gathered around the Hynes Convention Center to enter College Fest, an event the likes of which MIT has never seen since the career fairs of the days before the dot-com bubble burst. Most of the people I spoke to said they were there for “the free stuff.”

In particular, all of the women I interviewed expressed this sentiment. “I wanted the free stuff,” said Diana Giannakopoulos of Boston University. “The free trips seem to be overpowering.” This was kind of confusing, because I noticed that the people standing in line for tickets weren’t shelling out eight or ten dollars (the admission price with or without college ID, respectively) because they strongly supported the idea of corporations marketing to the 18-25-year-old bracket.

They had to pay to get the free stuff. Essentially, for the price of a movie, one is able to enter raffles in which there is no chance to win and grab some trinkets that, like those obtained at every career fair, will clutter your room and eventually end up being pawned to some unsuspecting freshmen. Isn’t Boston supposed to be known as an intellectual hub of sorts? Are our children learning?

Thankfully, a good percentage of the males attending said their primary interest was the Playboy booth. It may not be the best reason, but at least it was logical. “Who is that?” asked one attendee staring at my autographed picture of Playmate Stacy Fuson. “Stacy?” he replied after I told him, “That dog’s my wife.” There were other things that pandered to the male audience: food, video games, and cars. But still, these things didn’t seem enough to justify the spending of money.

First off, the cars shown weren’t available for participants. “The free car is such a tease,” Giannakopoulos said disappointedly. “The Toyota [Matrix] isn’t even being raffled. They’re only raffling the Kia [Sephia].”

Those who were hoping for something substantial for their stomachs were in for a surprise. “We’re the only [booth] serving food, and we’re gonna get slammed,” said Olga from Gardenburger. “I’m worried we’re going to run out.” I’m going to guess that they did, because their pizza bites and meatless riblets were incredibly good, by any standard. There was a larger selection of drink booths from places like Starbucks and Lipton Iced Tea staffed by people who didn’t really mind if you took more than one sample.

In most cases, the idea of the fair was to promote new products that will come out on campuses later this fall.

The video game preview SOCOM lived up to expectations. SOCOM is short for Special Operations Command, namely the U.S. Navy Seals team fighting against terrorist teams. If that sounds a lot like Half-Life Counterstrike, that’s because it is, even right down to the “fire in the hole” sound bite when a grenade is tossed.

One major difference between the games is that Half-Life Counterstrike is always played in a first person perspective while SOCOM allows the player to move about in third person, able to see larger things in one’s field of vision. Aside from that, realism connoisseurs will love the fact that the human body can only take a few bullets, and that teamwork and stealth is a must.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the ability to play online and verbally communicate with the players as well. The booth was set up for an international multiplayer game along with headphones. So, while I may have been shot dead more often than not, I was at least able to win the verbal abuse war.

The controls, however, were a little hard to handle. Consoles have never been able to replicate the grace and simplicity of a mouse-and-keyboard setup that PC gamers have used for years. SOCOM tries by incorporating one analog stick for strafing motion and the other for heading control, but it still does not retain the ease that you would find on the PC. Thankfully, there was a spotter at the console, who was able to tell us how to move, switch weapons, and why our characters were dead already.

Perhaps, though, reviewing a game is best not done when playing multiplayer with 14 other skilled professionals.

Local band Damone also performed live on the arena’s stage. For some, like Amie Fedora of Suffolk University, the band was the second reason for attending (the first, of course, being the eight-dollar free stuff). Most often serving as background music for the rest of the fair, the band elicited mixed reactions.

“The music is too loud,” said Katie Brown of Boston University. Giannakopoulos said that at least the band “livened the atmosphere.” The band was foolishly stationed very near the Playboy and video game booths, detracting from the two major draws of the show. “I can’t hear a thing!” exclaimed Stacy Fuson, Miss February 1999.

The rest of the booths consisted of the usual fare, trying to tempt students to sign up for special offers and get a free trinket in return. Each booth attempted to be flashier than the next, be it the credit card companies offering Boston Red Sox T-shirts or Creative Labs playing hoop games for prizes and with representatives on roller skates.

John Clarke from Boston University gave fake addresses and names at most of the places in order to get the items. “These sunglasses broke the minute I picked them up off the table, but at least they don’t have my name,” he said.

“It’s really hard to make an impression. There’s often too much noise,” said ESPN representative John Carcheti. ESPN, a regular at College Fest, played the two-minute drill with students and offered a free trip to either the ESPYs, the Summer X Games, the Winter X Games, or the Great Outdoors Games.

I even began to feel sorry for a couple of the booths who weren’t there for a marketing purposes. “People are often scared to come over to our booth,” said the representative for Planned Parenthood, who were offering bags of condoms and dental dams. “We try to talk to people about education, risk factors, birth control, and the counseling options that we have,” she said.

“This is as flashy as it gets,” said Peace Corps representative Christopher Lins, pointing to his table of brochures and water bottles. Asked why the Peace Corps used this venue to attract students, he replied, “We try to talk to students early ... so they can think about taking the appropriate classes now.” Booths such as these often found themselves more vacant than the others around.

There were some other bright and original spots, such as a booth that actually sold DVDs for pretty good prices and Clairol’s free shampoos, but everything else seemed like a way to sign up for spam and fill up your bag. All in all, it was a decent way to spend the afternoon. Fun toys, Playboy, food samples, and music? Good. But worth eight dollars? Hardly.