Experimental technology has become a part of the marketing campaign for the final season of A Game of Thrones. I checked out the Magic Leap One augmented reality and HTC Vive Focus virtual reality installations for A Game of Thrones at the AT&T store on Powell Street in San Francisco.
I tried out Magic Leap’s experience, Game of Thrones: The Dead Must Die, first. It was upstairs in an area that was like museum for A Game of Thrones, complete with outfits from the show on display in glass cases. The Dead Must Die is a mixed reality experience, combining real world props and AR. The physical space was set up like a scene out of King’s Landing.
An attendant helped me put on the Magic Leap One Creator Edition glasses, which come with a computing puck that you sling over your shoulder and glasses that enable you to see animated overlays on the real world. Before me, on the floor (as you can see in the picture), was one of the White Walkers, an undead creature that was sawed in half. But its animatronic arm was still moving.
Then, another one of the virtual Walkers started busting out of a box. I had to pick up a flaming torch and light the creatures on fire. I did so, and they promptly burned back to death. Then an ice wall on other side of the room started to crack. I had to physically walk up to the wall. When I did so, a Dragon Glass knife appeared. I grabbed it, and then a Walker busted through the icy portal in the wall. I stabbed the Walker, and then the experience ended. It was a pretty quick, accessible, and immersive experience.
The Dead Must Die experience is available at AT&T locations in San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago. It will arrive in Los Angeles and Dallas later in the month, and it will last until June 10.
After that, I went downstairs, where they were still working on setting up the HTC Vive Focus experience with A Game of Thrones VR experience. It took a while to get it up and running. But I waited.
I put on the HTC Vive Focus, which is a standalone VR headset. I was standing on a mixed reality platform with a lot of plastic ice around it. And when I went into the VR experience, I was at the gate at the bottom of The Wall. A Ranger from the Night’s Watch was there in the icy corridor. He told me that I needed a sword, and he gave me his. Then he picked up his bow and opened the gate.
In VR, snow blew in through the open passage. And in real life, I was hit with a blast of cold air. It was a pretty cool effect. Then he began walking ahead. I followed him, though I didn’t have to physically move or control the game at all. It was an experience on rails. The blizzard around us grew thicker, and I could only see his footprints in the snow. Then he screamed, and I started moving faster.
Then I got to a bloody spot in the snow. And a giant creature — I think it was a big Direwolf — attacked me. It was like an infected Direwolf, or an undead creature. The ranger shot a fiery arrow at the creature’s head, and it erupted into flame. I took my sword, hit the head, and then my sword was flaming. The creature jumped and attacked me, and when it landed on the ground, the motion platform I was standing on moved. I kept swinging at the wolf again and again.
Finally, it died. Then I followed the blood trail to my companion, who was lying against a rock in the snow. Then he got up in a zombie-like way, and it was clear that he had become a White Walker. He approached me and attacked, and I swung my sword at him.
Then, all of the White Walkers in the mist came forward, attacking me from a few sides. I swung my sword at them over and over, taking them down with a couple of swings. Eventually, they overwhelmed me and killed me. And that was it.
It was a pretty intense experience, mostly because that cold wind was blowing the whole time.
The store also had a lot of memorabilia and authentic costumes from A Game of Thrones. You can also buy a bunch of merchandise from the show and its various houses like House Stark or House Lannister. I took a poll and it asked me who would be crowned ruler of Westeros, and I voted for Khaleesi, or Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke. It showed that most people thought she would be crowned. I also thought I could be a good pretender to the throne as well.
The Magic Leap One headsets are on sale for $2,295. Season 7 kicks off on HBO on April 14. HBO also has built A Game of Thrones online entertainment hub, where you can get episode recaps, quizzes, in-depth character profiles, downloadable wallpapers and behind-the-scenes content, this online destination is built by superfans, for superfans.
You could say they’re going all out.