As the FORBES team wandered in front of the replica Castle Black elevators at the HBO Game of Thrones exhibition at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas on Friday, we heard a succession of blood-curdling screams. It was Maisie Williams, the 16 year-old British actress who plays Arya Stark on the series, reacting with real terror to a virtual reality experience designed by the creative agency Relevent. Frantically gripping on to the bars of the elevator, she repeatedly screamed “No!” as a crowd of onlookers gathered to make sure that no one was dying.
As Williams’ reaction illustrates, the virtual reality presented by Oculus Rift can feel disturbingly real. Add in three-dimensional sound, along with wind and a shaking elevator, and the experience easily fools the body into reacting as if it stands on the edge of a 700 ft. precipice. (Williams, for one, can be seen in the above video in the middle elevator, still visibly terrified during her second run-through of the experience.)
The virtual tour centers on The Wall, a key setting in the Game of Thrones series that serves to keep the tribes of northern Westeros out of the civilized south. It begins as a creaky door closes and the elevator cranks rapidly towards the top of the wall. Cold air blows from the top to mimic the physical reality of ascending in an open-air elevator, as an endless snowy landscape opens up before you. After a couple of seconds, the elevator stops at the top of the wall. You turn around and approach the other side.
As you approach the northern side of the wall, you peak over a very precarious-seeming set of wooden planks suspended 700 feet above of the virtual ground below. That’s when most people really start to lose it. A series of fireballs, launched from trees in the distance, then begin to land around you, until one finally hits you square on. After that, you fall, and everything ends with a white flash.
Congratulations, you just died on the Wall of Westeros.