Power-up prank lands gamers in trouble

Ohio girls face potential charges for joke after bomb squad is called; teenagers made life-size Mario power-up boxes, hung them around town.

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Games have gotten some kids in trouble again, but this time it's a far cry from the Devin Moore case, which continues to make headlines. This time the source of the problem wasn't an M-rated game like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or Doom, it was the seemingly innocuous Super Mario Bros.

In the town of Ravenna, Ohio, five teenage girls, ages 16 and 17, crafted some life-sized power-up boxes modeled after those in the NES classic. The cardboard boxes were covered in shiny, gold wrapping paper and had the black question marks familiar to most gamers. As an April Fools joke, the girls laid 17 of these boxes around the town in public spaces Friday morning.

The humor was lost on some residents, however. After noticing one package on the steps of a church, a concerned citizen reported the "suspicious package" to local authorities, who called in the county's hazardous materials unit and the bomb squad.

Upon further inspection, no materials designed to harm people, mushrooms to increase a person's size, or flowers that bestow the ability to project bouncing fireballs were found inside the boxes. The packages were empty.

Ravenna Police Chief Randall McCoy told the online edition of the Record-Courier that one girl came into the police department with one of her parents and claimed responsibility, saying it was just a joke.

Apparently, the girls got the idea from the Web site Qwantz.com, which gives detailed instructions on how to make the boxes. The Web site intended the posting to inspire art projects, and several subversive artists have submitted photos of their Mario blocks in action across the country.

The girls face possible criminal charges for their actions. While most in the online community think the authority's actions are a tad extreme, McCoy defends the proceedings of his department.

"The potential is always present when dealing with a suspicious package that it could be deadly," McCoy told the Record-Courier. "In today's day and age, you just cannot do this kind of stuff."

A posting on Quantz.com responds to the incident in Ravenna. "Not everyone has the same cultural context and not everyone is relaxed about public spaces. [The idea of the project] is to bring a smile to people's faces, to get them to connect with their neighbors, to bring color into an otherwise grey urban landscape. [We] are deeply sorry that things are not working out in Ravenna."

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