As many faithful readers of ARGN know, the game to play this fall was Last Call Poker, a promotion for Activision’s GUN. Created by 4orty2wo Entertainment, the innovative game provided players with 9 weeks of exciting storytelling and game play, both on- and off-line. The story was the final wish of Lionel “Lucky” Brown, a fictional character who passed away earlier this year, and a portion of his estate was used to celebrate his life with wakes held at six of his favorite cemeteries throughout the United Sates. The final wake was held on November 19th at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Dozens of players from throughout the United States and Canada came together to celebrate his life and play one last round of poker… Tombstone style.
The official event began just after noon as players began to gather, single flower in hand, to take some time to get to know the cemetery and those buried there. It also provided some time to greet old friends and meet new ones in a real world setting, away from the keyboards and monitors that connected us throughout the game. We walked from plot to plot as we looked for Jokers (matching death dates to our own birth dates) and talked about the game, each other, and the more interesting and unusual structures around us. It’s that time, really, that was my favorite during each of the live events that I attended and one of the things that made the game so special to me. The game was truly about people – both living and dead, real and fictional – and those moments solidified that. Soon it was time to meet with Jane McGonigal, our hostess for the day, and to deal the first hand of cards. With about an hour and a half to play, each table (5 teams of two, give or take) was able to get in about a half a dozen hands of Tombstone Hold’em… a very enjoyable and active version of Texas Hold’em (suggested rules can be found here). All too soon, it was time to crown the tournament winners. The top three chip holders each received special things from Lucky’s estate, including some of his favorite decks of cards and boxes of poker chips from the wakes.
It was then time for Lucky’s Special Favor. As with the previous live events, initial directions were posted online and communicated to those at the cemetery via cell phone by those unable to attend the event in person. After being led to a holster that contained further directions that was hidden in a bush, we were able to begin a scavenger hunt throughout the cemetery that took us to some rather remarkable memorial stones (including one shaped as a rocket), some remarkable spaces (such as the place where a game character was murdered), and some remarkable people (like the memorial for Johnny Ramone, where the 60+ of us joined in singing a punk classic). Our journey ended next to a reflecting pond where we shared a few very special moments. Several players prepared a haiku tribute to the game and others spoke, with great emotion, about how meaningful the game and the cemetery events had become. After we laid down our chips and shared in a moment of silence, we tuned in to listen to Lucky’s final radio broadcast. Suddenly, a voice from above shouted, “I know that voice!” and we all turned to see Lucy, Lucky’s grand-niece and heroine of the story, descend down the stairs towards us. She joined in as we listened to the rest of his message and then thanked us for participating, for helping her, and for remembering her great-uncle by giving several people pieces of the Gun that we had been tracking all fall long. We watched her drive off into the sunset before heading out to a local restaurant where we were joined by the creative team from 4orty2wo.
All in all, it was an amazing weekend and a great conclusion the game. The atmosphere of the cemetery, full of lives remembered (and sometimes forgotten) was the perfect place to reflect upon the enrichment of so many lives through the experience of this game. The celebration afterwards with our companions, our peers, and the Puppetmasters was full of smiles and laughter as we realized how much enjoyment we had all had in relation to Last Call Poker. It truly was an amazing ARG experience.