Game of Thrones’ Survive the Realm was the best off-site experience at Comic-Con
The ‘Game of Thrones’ off-site experience may have set a new bar for one of the more quickly rising trends at San Diego Comic-Con
Each year, as I look across the mass of people who attend San Diego Comic-Con, I always wonder if they should just rename the whole kit-and-caboodle “Line Con.” Hell, the two queues that are traditionally the longest – for Hall H and Ballroom 20 – now have their own Twitter accounts, which cover everything from tips for managing one’s line experience to good-natured trash-talk between the two. This year, one of the longest lines (based on the amount of space and time in the event) had to be for Game of Thrones’ Survive the Realm experience.
It’s no secret that I’m a pretty (damn) big fan of both George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and of HBO’s adaptation. The show has had a big presence at SDCC since it premiered, starting off with a panel in Ballroom 20 in its first year before quickly getting upgraded to Hall H (and its 6,500 seats) ever since. The show twice has announced the new slate of cast members at their panel (quick rule of thumb: If I manage to attend the panel, they won’t announce new cast members; if I miss it, they will … I’m two for four). And for two years now, the HBO has hosted the Survive the Realm experience across the street from the Convention Center.
The line for the experience was insane, wrapping around the building. Attendees were allowed in in small groups to keep the space crowded. Inside was an interactive experience that held everything from props and costumes to a pair of real tattoo artists.
HBO brought just a portion of the displays from their Game of Thrones: The Exhibition that has toured around the world. The costume displays were particularly well done. The pieces were displayed in groups, showing off items that were designed for specific pairs of characters: Jaime and Brienne, Bran and Hodor, Dany and her dragon.
There were also several interactive features. There was a green screen photo-op where Dany sat on a rock with Drogon (the rock was real, the dragon CGI, natch). There was also a very cool activity featuring Oculus Rift technology. Attendees stepped into separate “elevators” for The Wall. Once the VR Headset was in place, we were pulled to the top. Vibrations and cold air fans helped with the effect, but VR work was immersive. Once at the top, we were told to turn around as our character would walk to the edge, taking in the land beyond the Wall. I’m not going to lie … my body knew I was standing on the ground in San Diego, but when I leaned over the ledge and looked down, my mind forced my hand to grab onto the elevator. The effect was incredibly well done.
The last two activities had to be the most popular, and I think it is easy to assume that the first is why most people waited in the first place. I know it is a prop, actually one of several that HBO uses at similar events … but sitting down in the Iron Throne and getting your picture taken? Pretty damn cool. The only thing that lasts longer than a picture, though, is a tattoo. HBO brought in two real tattoo artists and were offering – at no cost – a tattoo from a selection of Game of Thrones designs. I walked through about 45 minutes after they’d opened up on Friday, and the waiting area was already full.
Giving out swag at SDCC is a staple, as networks and studio bring exclusive items for their fans. What was given out at Survive the Realm might have set an unbreakable bar. The network commissioned Robert Ball – the artist who designed the amazing Beautiful Death series that premiered in advance of the show’s fourth season – to design four shirts, a unique design for each day. The piece I received was a silhouette of a member of the King’s Guard over the Lannister crest. There were a limited number of each shirt made – only 2,000 – making them one of the most exclusive things publicly available at the convention.
These off-site experiences are becoming more and more commonplace at Comic-Con. This year, you could do everything from ride a zip-line through downtown “Gotham” to run an Assassin’s Creed themed obstacle course. The Simpsons’ Home Dome was impressive, as with the Godzilla setup. None of these, however, compared to Survive the Realm. I’m looking forward to what the network does next year, as True Blood’s final season leaves Game of Thrones as their sole property at the show. As the network has used True Blood to sponsor the annual Robert A. Heinlein blood drive, maybe they can shift that to GoT. Just think: The “Fire and Blood Drive!”