Say, did you hear about Snoop Dogg blowing up an armored car in the middle of the Nevada desert as part of a publicity stunt to celebrate the 10 millionth visitor to Zynga’s latest “Mafia Wars” expansion, “Mafia Wars: Las Vegas”?
Maybe you did. Maybe you even watched it happen at MafiaWars.com, since the event was streamed live…and if you did watch it live, then you no doubt noticed that, despite the designated start time having been established as 6 PM PST, it didn’t actually go down ’til a little bit later.
Yeah, I noticed it, too. Except I noticed it live from the Nevada desert, since I was standing right there when the whole thing went down. And it wasn’t much of a surprise to me, since I’d been watching the events unfold for the previous two hours.
First, for those of you who didn’t see it happen, here’s a video of the event:
And, now, here’s the story of what happened and how I came to be there.
On Wednesday afternoon, I received a very kind invitation by E-mail to attend Zynga’s celebration of 10 million visitors to “Mafia Wars: Las Vegas,” namely Snoop Dogg blowing up an armored car in the middle of the Nevada desert. I thought to myself, “Okay, sounds cool, but I’m in Virginia, and I can’t exactly hop on a plane and attend.”
About half an hour later, I received a phone call, following up on the E-mail, assuring me that they’d be glad to fly me out there.
I hesitated at first, since the event was the next day, but with an assurance from my ever-wonderful wife that no one should ever turn down a trip to Vegas, especially not when it’s three days before your 40th birthday, I said, “Okay, I’ll go.”
So I went.
When I first arrived at the site designated for Snoop’s big boom, I was met with an unexpected request to sign a document which essentially said, “If anything happens to you here, it ain’t our fault.”
Given the amount of dynamite involved in this situation and no idea of my proximity to the explosion, it was hard to get enthused about signing off on such a thing, but in the end, I turned into a lemming and signed it, anyway.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried: we were placed high above the detonation site, nowhere near where the actual explosion took place.
Still, I kept my eyes peeled for shrapnel the entire time…like I’d really be able to duck, right?
Upon reaching the site, the folks from Zynga couldn’t have been more cordial, offering up drinks and sandwiches, along with “Mafia Wars” hats and sunglasses. Basically, everyone was excited about the event and ready to roll, except for one small thing: Snoop Dogg was nowhere to be found.
Actually, this was a very big thing, as we’d been assured beforehand that Snoop would be doing interviews with the journalists from 4:00 – 4:30 PM. Given that I arrived at 4 PM and sat far on the outskirts of the detonation site for an extended period of time while unsuccessfully trying to sort out a way to avoid signing the aforementioned liability waiver, I was at first concerned that I was missing my window to chat with Snoop, but then I was assured that, no, he wasn’t even there yet. And once I signed my life away and got into the area where we’d be viewing the explosion, he still wasn’t there. I felt pity in my heart for the poor people of Zynga, who were – quite understandably – freaking the hell out about the fact that Snoop wasn’t yet on site. Time was ticking ever closer to 6 PM PST, the highly-promoted time of explosion, and yet no one seemed quite sure where the designated detonator was.
Most of us, however, were relatively confident of his state of mind: while not an exact quote from anyone, I think it’s fair to say that most of us approached the situation with the mindset, “Okay, we know he’s high. But where is he?”
Kiddingly, I said to one of the publicists, “You guys did actually get him to sign something saying he was going to be here, right?” I received a hollow laugh in return, which was more than I got when I suggested that, right about then, Snoop was going to be reporting in from Las Cruces, asking, “Where everybody at? Las Vegas? Aw, hell, no…” Basically, they were trying their best to keep a stiff upper lip whilst dealing with the situation, but it was clear that there was one big overriding concern: what happens if 6 PM PST arrives and Snoop Dogg still isn’t here?
A helicopter appeared overhead. It was a news crew from one of the Las Vegas network affiliates, hovering in the vicinity in hopes of capturing the explosion live for their 6 PM newscast. It was not to be. There was a great deal of sweating going on, much of it nothing to do with the 90+ degree heat of the Las Vegas desert. 6 PM came and went, but no Snoop. Still, the Zynga folks continued to monitor the number of online viewers who had come to the site to see the blessed event, and although the established time of the explosion had come and gone, the number of viewers was continuing to rise steadily.
And then Snoop arrived.
And, oh, how the Zynga folks cheered.
Quickly, the journalists were huddled together and given the lowdown of the situation: Snoop being Snoop, there was really no guarantee that we were going to get to talk to him at all at this point, but the plan of action was that we were going to be quickly hustled into a vehicle after the explosion, taken down to Snoop’s location, and hope that he could be kept around long enough for us to chat with him. We agreed, mostly because our options were limited. If this was how we were going to be able to talk to Snoop, then so be it.
So we stood idly by, waiting to find out when the explosion was going to take place, knowing that it was likely imminent now that the man of the hour was in attendance. Someone had the live feed running nearby, and we could hear the pre-event conversations taking place. Unfortunately, what we discovered far too late was that the feed was slightly less live than we had been led to believe. Oh, it was pretty damned close to live, but much as “Saturday Night Live” is often on a several-second delay, so, we learned, was Zynga’s feed of the explosion…and we learned it when someone said, “Hey, they’re getting ready to…”
I can assure you that it was indeed a sight to behold when that armored car exploded, with flames, metal, and money (presumably of the fake variety) flying everywhere…but, alas, all you have from me are my assurances, because the lack of any forewarning meant that not a single person standing safely on the plateau was in a position to take a shot of the explosion.
I’m not going to lie to you: I was pissed.
Not at Zynga, of course, but at Snoop, whose late arrival threw the event into a complete tizzy. And I’d love to tell you that I gave him a piece of my mind, but in the end, I was kind of caught up in the surreality of the situation. Moments after the explosion, we were indeed hustled over to a vehicle with the plan of heading down to Snoop…until, naturally, it was decided that Snoop wanted to come up to where we were, since there was an air-conditioned trailer available for him to conduct the interviews. So we got out of the vehicle and stood by the trailer…and that’s where we were standing when Snoop drove right past us and over to the collection of Zynga employees, thereby forcing us to run our asses over there instead. Actually, “run” is a pretty loose description of what I did, as I’d pretty much decided that I was tired of chasing after Snoop, resulting in a speed which was far from top gear. Once I arrived, things got even more off-track, as we were abruptly informed that, instead of each of us getting three questions with Snoop, a single journalist – Arren Anderson of Las Vegas’s Fox 5 News, to be specific – would be running point, and we were to give him our questions to ask.
So much for getting an exclusive.
Still, I had my recorder out and ready to catch every word that fell from Snoop’s lips, figuring that at least I’d be able to salvage something from the conversations. First, though, I had to endure our designated spokesperson offering up a rap that would’ve felt pretty damned white even if he hadn’t delivered it while standing next to Snoop Dogg:
“When Snoop flips the switch / This armored truck went boom / Don’t switch that dial / It’s coming up on more real soon.”
Well, give the guy credit for having serious cajones, at least…though, in retrospect, it turned out that they were even bigger than I’d first believed: when I went to the Fox 5 News website, the video of Anderson asking questions of Snoop…some of which we’d given to him…was described as an “exclusive.” Uh, yeah, to him and everyone else who was standing in the huddle!
Anyway, here’s what I could make out from the short scrum. Given the wind blowing in and the near-whisper volume at which Snoop tends to speak, I suppose I’m lucky I got anything at all…
Were you as scared as we were?
Naw. You know me. I just came here to do what I had to do: to blow up the armored truck and destroy the evidence. That’s what it was all about: getting rid of the evidence so nobody could see what was in there. So I did my job.
Most people come to Vegas to blow off steam. You came here to blow something up.
Yeah. Same thing. You play and get away.
What is your role with “Mafia Wars”? How’d you get involved?
I’m a fan of the game. They reached out to my people and said they wanted me to be a part of this 10 millionth user blow-up in Vegas, so I said why not? Catch a plane out here and blow it up. Make me ready for my free copy of the game when it come out.
Why you? Why was this a job for Snoop?
‘Cause I’m Mafia. You know what I’m sayin’? I’m the perfect guy for the job.
How does this game fit into the O.G. lifestyle?
It’s so O.G.. It’s the game of the lifestyle. It’s the Mafia Wars. It’s the life that we dream of as young gangstas, growing up and watching it, looking at it and becoming fans of it. There’s no other video game that can really put you in there to really feel like you’re part of it. It’s perfect.
Who’s the biggest gangster? You’ve got Don Corleone, Tony Montana, Tony Soprano, or anybody else out there. Who’s on top?
Snoop Dogg. Yeah, the one and only.
Did you catch that bit about Snoop wanting his free copy of the game when it comes out? Given that he doesn’t seem entirely sure where one actually plays “Mafia Wars,” I think it’s probably a fair bet that his interest in participating in the event wasn’t necessarily influenced by a huge amount of fandom on his part.
Ultimately, though, does it really matter?
From my perspective, I can’t say as it does. I mean, I went to Las Vegas and I watched Snoop blow shit up, and for my trouble, I got my picture taken with the Doggfather himself (remind me to show it to you sometime) and an autographed “Mafia Wars” hat. Even though the event didn’t quite go as planned, it’s still very much a “what’s not to like?” situation, y’know? I don’t know that Zynga necessarily feels the same way, mind you, but if nothing else, they can write this off as a learning experience…and when “Mafia Wars” expands to its next city, I’ve got three words for them:
“Mafia Wars: Branson.”
The way I hear it, Andy Williams is as prompt as they come.