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Spirit Camera screenshot 01Damn it, Nintendo. It was a cheap trick, and it worked.

A couple of weeks ago, the publisher set up a press event at San Francisco’s reportedly haunted San Remo Hotel to promote Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir. The 3DS game, appropriately due out this Friday the 13th, uses the handheld’s camera and augmented-reality graphics to produce apparitions in the world around you.

For this event, the company turned down the lights in the San Remo and had Victorian-era creeps showing visitors their way through dark, shadowy hallways filled with static and mechanical haunted-house props. At one point, our ghostly guides split us up into smaller and smaller groups until they could put me in a tiny room by myself, and then they slammed the creaky door behind me. In the center of the room was a swivel chair and a small wooden table with a 3DS on it, Spirit Camera already loaded and ready to play.

With headphones on, I panned around the cramped space with the 3DS camera, looking for clues through the game, when suddenly, a pale young girl popped into view on the screen. Even though I knew this was going to happen — I was already familiar with Spirit Camera’s augmented-reality trickery and Nintendo warned us about this ahead of time — it was still a jarring, heart-pausing jolt to “find” someone in an otherwise empty room with me. As the adrenaline wore off, I thought to myself, “Good job, Nintendo. You got me good there.”

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