Experience the Realm, an immersive Game of Thrones event, returned to San Diego Comic Con for a second run in 2015, boasting a wholly new set of interactive adventures that let fans enjoy Westeros–up close and personal. Last year’s “Survive the Realm” allowed fans to don an Oculus Rift and travel up the Wall, pose for a picture with Drogon, sit the Iron Throne, and explore a selection of props and costumes used by the show. A tattoo station offered free GoT themed tattoos and fans were given a T-shirt to commemorate their visit to the Experience.

This year’s experience ran from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and Sunday 9 a.m.-12 p.m. The experience featured several photo ops that superimposed you into the world of Westeros. Fans shot a brief video in which they would be devoured by Dragon Fire, watched as they were transformed into White Walkers, had the opportunity to snag a shot while wielding Gregor Clegane’s enormous sword, and sat the Iron Throne itself. Finally, fans had the chance to step into the shoes of a Water Dancer and create a personalized self-portrait via sword-fighting practice before exiting surrounded by art design diagrams and accompanied by an exclusive T-shirt.

Whereas last year we balked at the 6 hour lines, we made the executive decision to crawl in line just before the experience opened and spend our day surrounded by fellow Game of Thrones fans waiting for entrance. Throughout the Comic Con week, fans eagerly lined up outside to wait their turn, queuing for an average of 5 hours before making it in. It’s really just a blink of an eye when you’re going up against Hall H lines, if you think about it.

Quick Stats

Overall wait time: 5 hours

Time in Experience: ~1 hour

Worth it? Yes! At least once.

There’s definitely something to be said about waiting in line on a busy city block. We have no shortage of exciting cosplayers, catchy viral marketing ploys passing by, and a whole slew of fun chances for a few truly unique moments.

Outside the Experience

20150711_144305Waiting in line involved a plethora of sitting, whining, talking Game of Thrones theory, and eating. There’s this incredible ice cream shop that the line crosses directly over and it’s virtually impossible to resist. And I think almost everyone falls into the Subway trap. You smell it for long enough and it doesn’t matter what kind of standards you once held dear–you’re having Subway. The only thing really worth mentioning about our line experience, however, was the argument our Shame Nun got into with the Religious Protesters. The Bell of Shame rang loud and true that day. We’re still desperately hoping the full video surfaces soon.

During our tenure in line, a volunteer came around to explain the process of viewing your pictures via the Game of Thrones Companion. By preregistering an account and choosing your House alliance, fans could easily and quickly access their data, It also kept things flowing smoothly once inside and winding through the experiences. As you completed each activity, your Companion would update (usually within a few minutes) with your pictures, all arranged on a helpful timeline. Once you chose your alliance, a video with a message from that House’s Sponsor would also become available.

It’s also inevitable that a group of unacquainted fans who spend their entire Saturday waiting in line together develop an unbreakable bond. You’ve made it through the trial of standing in the hot sun, listlessly waiting for a line to inch far enough along to get you to your destination, and these people have shared every moment of it with you. The final stretch is a flurry of group love, camaraderie, and wild cheering when the volunteers announce that you may enter the building.

Inside the Experience

Because this is the way the world works now, you finish with one line and quickly wind yourself into another. This, time, however, the end is in sight, and you can watch as the fans in front of you are filming their Being-Burned-Alive-By-A-Dragon video. Knowing I’d be able to do this might have very heavily influenced my decision to cosplay as Cersei. The results were glorious.

20150711_163744Our wait in line had some definite ups. Somehow we managed to time our arrival to place us towards the final groups of the day, meaning only a handful of people entered behind us, giving us the chance to capture a rare moment of emptiness.

Also the perfect Liam Cunningham visited the fans in line, stopped for pictures and a chat, and I may have insinuated to him that I enjoyed poisoning people.

Water Dancers in Training practiced shattering targets onscreen whilst creating a unique self-portrait that reflected their attack style.

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20150711_152845The Game of Thrones Experience also showcased a wide selection of costumes used in the previous season, giving waiting fans a chance to see every last gorgeous detail up front. It’s a wealth of information for cosplayers, who can get an even better feel for fabrics, patterns, and the little nuances that are especially difficult to catch on your TV screen. Daenerys’ famous white gown, Cersei’s beautifully brocaded mourning dress, Jaime Lannister’s new duds, and Arya Stark’s Cat of the Canal outfit were some of the impressive costumes scattered throughout the inner room.

Writer. Cosplayer. Binge Netflix Watcher. Anime Dweeb. Book Enthusiast. Harbours inappropriately strong feelings about Shakespeare and William Blake. Once lost a whole day theorizing about Game of Thrones. The most motivated procrastinator she knows. Sometimes it works out in her favor. Mostly just causes widespread panic. It's all good though, because she never forgets her towel.

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