From Westeros all the way to Times Square: HBO kicked off its second annual Game of Thrones exhibition this week in New York City, and this year’s display has an interactive attraction that’s bound to have enthusiasts of the show reaching for their swords. (Please don’t actually reach for your swords.)
The attraction, called “Ascend the Wall,” provides a virtual reality visit to that huge, menacing structure that protects the Seven Kingdoms from wildlings and those creepy ghost-zombie creatures.
HBO teamed with Relevent to create the virtual reality experience using Oculus Rift technology; so after donning an Oculus Rift headset, I found myself at Castle Black on a wobbly wooden lift of dubious structural integrity. I looked up at the Wall towering above, and just as I was starting to have second thoughts, the elevator lurched up and began its creaky ascent. The ground shrank quickly underneath me, and even though I wasn’t physically moving, the 360-degree visuals gave me a false sense of motion.
Upon reaching the top, I had just a few seconds to take in the panoramic view of Westeros beyond the Wall before I heard a Night’s Watch horn – which generally means trouble – and the elevator began its shaky, stomach-churning descent.
Ultimately, I survived my brief mission as a Man of the Night’s Watch, which is more many characters on the show could say. But while the roughly 2-minute journey was impressive technologically, I found myself wishing I’d been able to get off the elevator to explore and interact with the virtual world.
HBO’s Janine McGoldrick tells me the ride I took is just a preview of what’s to come, with a final version set to debut at South by Southwest. While details on the full version are scarce, she promises it will be longer and “even more immersive.”
Viewers who prefer a more grounded experience can also take photos on the infamous Iron Throne and check out props and costumes (including Jaime Lannister’s severed hand) when the exhibition heads out on tour later this year, stopping in Mexico City, Austin, Rio de Janeiro, Oslo, Toronto, Belfast and Vancouver. You can view the complete schedule and ticketing information here.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the “Ascend the Wall” project was helmed by Oculus VR. HBO and Relevent created the experience using Oculus Rift technology.