There are plenty of things going on during San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), both inside and outside the convention center. I heard reports of Amazon bringing their Jack Ryan Experience to SDCC 2018 after their successful run during New York Comic Con and decided to add this activation to my list.
The activation by Amazon and Dutch digital media production giant MediaMonks was located one block away from the Children’s Museum on the MLK Promenade. As I walked there, I could see the buildings and the helicopter from the experience far in the distance.
Before entering the activation which encompassed 60,00 square feet, I talked with the brand ambassadors, learning that the team spent three months developing the experience when the decision was made to enhance it for SDCC. The design and proof-of-concept included building a mock-up of the activation in a Denver warehouse prior to shipping everything to San Diego for the final build.
As I entered into the offsite, I had my picture taken and was given an CIA Analyst ID Badge with my picture on it. On the back of the badge there was an RFID chip used to tap in for each of the experiences. (Videos and pictures are now being emailed to attendees at press time.)
Once I had my badge and exited the registration area, I entered into a Middle Eastern-styled Bazaar with stands offering water, fruit, and other snacks (all free). The space was wide open with plenty of seats to sit and enjoy the experience, as well as to watch participants on the zip-line. For those where were interested in cracking puzzles, there were mini-missions to play involving either solving a puzzle in a newspaper or searching for intel and clues throughout the Bazaar. While I did not try solving the entire puzzle, I observed a number of engaged attendees in their search. I can tell that these puzzles were a bit involved and required a little teamwork at times.
The events of the day were broadcast live on Twitch, so fans around the world were able to check out the action.
Aside from the Bazaar, there were two main attractions inside the experience and these both drew sizable lines:
1) Dark Ops
2) The Jack Ryan Training Field.
Dark Ops, created in collaboration with AKQA and Unit9, can be best described as an escape room but in this case the whole setting was modeled on the Pilot episode of the soon-to-air Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. Teams of approximately eight participants were sent in at a time. This was my first escape room experience and while I will not divulge much about the plot points to avoid spoilers, I will say that the experience was exceptional. The puzzles were intricate and required teamwork to solve. What stood out for me was the inclusion of actors with whom we, as the team of analysts, had to interact at various points. This added a degree of realism to the experience.
The Jack Ryan Training Field was the highlight of my experience at this offsite. The Training Field was an interactive hyperreality experience which leveraged the the latest Optitrack and Oculus Rift technology. Before entering, I was fitted into a harness, and then VR sensors were placed on my hands and shoes. Lastly were the VR helmet and backpack. Unlike typical virtual reality experiences, the setup for this hyperreality was unique because I was not tethered to the system. This allowed participants to truly immerse themselves in this experience, including running up several flights of stairs, rappelling from a helicopter, traversing a 28-foot high plank, infiltrating an enemy compound to search for intel, ziplining from a building, and escaping to a safehouse while being chased by enemy cars. The hyperreality system itself is new and is made up of two ‘open’ reality systems consolidated into one overall system.
Being untethered, I could experience the whole world setup without restriction. More importantly, there was no need to ‘stop and transfer’ from one setup to the next. My senses were literally taken over and went along for the ride, since I was able to look around using my goggles while I rappelled from the helicopter, as well as when I rode down the zipline. At times I felt that my balance was put to the test as I walked the plank between two buildings, even though I was really walking on a board affixed to a stable floor. This experience was nothing short of exhilarating and it took me a few hours to come back down to earth!
Lastly, I would like to mention that this experience would not have been as fun without the friendly cast and brand ambassadors who were on site. Amazon and MediaMonks get high marks from me and a number of the attendees I spoke with.
Overall, this offsite exceeded my every expectation and stood out as an exceptional offsite activation. If I hear about another hyperreality experience I will be signing up immediately. For those who want a similar experience with a Star Wars theme, check out The Void (reviewed by our very own Transmute Jun), located in Anaheim, CA and Orlando, FL.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, co-produced by Paramount Television and Skydance Television, August 31st on Amazon Prime Video.
Did you experience the Jack Ryan activation? Click here to join the conversation on the FoCC forum and tell us what you thought of it.