In the last couple of weeks, a new ARG hit the scene called Last Call Poker. The production values are amazingly high. The storyline sort of revolves around a free online poker site and starts with a video (very professionally shot and high quality) depicting a trade gone awry — money for a historic gun, with the deal set in a Hollywood graveyard. You slowly uncover more characters through the poker site (they are all registered in the game), which unlocks little tidbits of story, images, audio, and video. You use this to then piece more of the plot together. With regard to unlocking characters/information and using that to obtain more information, it is pretty much like any other interactive online story out there. This one just has some damn high quality media and they developed a custom Flash-remoted multiplayer poker engine allowing players to compete against one another, but also giving a venue for characters to interact with people and drop tidbits of information.
I mainly started following Last Call because it looked like Perplex City was slowing down a bit. Now PXC is picking up (with the recent movie trailer appearing in theaters, the new voicemail system, and the GPS coordinates to that obelisk thing on Long Island) as well as the next wave of cards about to be released. I tend to be a one ARG at a time sort of guy — partly because there is only so much time in the day and partly because I have a hard time following two simultaneous stories (I am also a one novel at a time sort of guy.) I will make a good effort to try to follow the two in parallel, but if time or attention get stressed, I may have to drop Last Call. For now, I have put together a humble little site of my notes, including a thoughtmap reminiscent of the old Matrix ARG days. I do have to say that the latest OmniGraffle is pretty slick. Being able to hyperlink objects and export as HTML is a really nice new feature. Anyway, I hope I can continue to follow the story and update the thoughtmap.
Circling back to my time limitation, I do have a little gripe about Last Call. Between family, friends, chores, and simple relaxation time, I tend to not have much time for following these kinds of stories at home, so I try to catch up where I can while in downtime at work — waiting for QA, waiting for a board to come in from fab, waiting for new metalwork, or just plain waiting for stuff to compile. Normally, this is all fine and dandy — I can catch up on news, blogs, and ARG-related sites. I can get away with reading these because they are typically pretty conservative and mostly text-based. Things that are a bit too flashy, I can look at in a text-based web browser (lynx or Opera with images and styles disabled.) In the case of Last Call, the only in-story site is a free online gambling website. This, I cannot get away with. I do not really play poker, but there is still a lot of story content on that site to be accessed. As far as things are concerned here with regards to gambling sites, I might as well be surfing for porn. WebSense is not yet aware of the site, but I assume it will start blocking it soon. It has been suggested that I could just read the forums without participating in the actual website, but that seems like a less than ideal solution. Similarly, I can read all about chess strategy without playing a single game; I can read about foreign lands without taking a trip there; I can read a clinical description of sex without actually having it. Reading about others having fun, uncovering plot, and working through puzzles without being to participate, yourself, does not exactly seem like a great way to play an ARG.
There has been a lot of speculation (heck, is it even speculation anymore?) about who is running the show, but very little about what it is for. Presumably, it is a viral advertising/marketing campaign for a company or product. I guess we will have to wait to see.
On a related note, is anyone up for some Tombstone Poker at the Lone Fir this weekend? 😉