By Luis Monteagudo Jr.
Each year companies try to outdo themselves at Comic-Con by arranging eye-catching, giant exhibits that show off their upcoming movies, shows or comic books.
In years past, fans have seen a giant King Kong peering into downtown windows, a free-fall tower to promote a video game and, last year, an immaculate recreation of the gloomy, rainy world of “Blade Runner.”
But this year, Amazon may have set a new bar for such installations with by erecting a Middle Eastern village in the Gaslamp and giving fans an opportunity to undertake a virtual reality training mission that includes rappelling down from a helicopter.
It was all promote the Aug. 31 premier of the Amazon show “Jack Ryan,” based on author Tom Clancy‘s espionage thriller.
Some fans waited up to 10 hours to participate in the elaborate scenario.
Fans were first fitted with backpacks containing motion detectors, shoes, gloves and goggles that allowed them to be plugged into the virtual reality scenario. They then were taken to a helicopter that was erected about three stories above the village, which was built on a downtown parking lot.
Participants were strapped into cables that lowered them down off a helicopter. Once on the ground, you had to walk on a wooden plank that in reality was at floor level but in virtual reality seemed to be several dozen feet over the village. It provided a frightening, adrenaline-pumping experience that felt incredibly real, even for those without fear of heights.
Leaping off the plank, participants entered a building that was about to be overrun by terrorists. After a firefight, there was a zipline below to a jeep, which you had to drive in a virtual car chase through the village.
The scenario played out for a few minutes, but seemed to last even longer because of the immersive virtual reality world that participants were playing in.
But there were rewards for fans who participated, including swag and free ice cream and water in the village.
Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who has attended Comic-Con for more than 20 years. He has written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.