The battle for the Iron Throne is still being waged, but the fight for best SXSW exhibit easily was won by HBO’s Game of Thrones interactive experience. (Warning: possible spoilers for those not caught up on the show).
Game of Thrones has come a long way since its first SXSW experience when it only brought the iron throne for pictures and some Ommegang beer samples to call it a party. This year, Game of Thrones built a full museum inside the Austin Music Hall which featured not only the aforementioned beer samples and throne, but also clothes and props from the show, a pop-up store, and even a unique digital interactive experience where fans could immerse themselves in the series and see what it was like to climb the wall using Oculus Rift’s technology. The exhibit was so robust, even stars of the HBO show couldn’t resist stopping by. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) even tried her hand at climbing the wall with Oculus Rift.
The excitement began upon first entering the building with variations on the show’s theme music wafting through the front door. From there you were greeted by the first of many costume displays. The detail in each of the costumes is stunning — small lions adorned all of the Lannister outfits in everything from jewelry to stitchwork. Half of the details you’d likely never pick up on the show even with the best HD television system, which makes their intricacies all the more stunning in person.
Walls of photos, facts and popular quotes from the series helped guide fans through to the next round of stunning exhibits. A three-eyed ravel leered above one of the walls, watching fans walk by. I fully expected the exhibit to limit itself to props and accessories from the first three seasons that have already aired. And for the most part, it did. Dany’s dragon eggs from season one were a popular piece. While the late Grey Wind’s severed head from season 3 was given a proud display, many fans sadly bowed their heads and hurriedly rushed past the sad and gruesome sight. I, myself, was hypnotized by the sheer size of the direwolf’s shaggy head. It seemed more bear than wolf.
Now, while the exhibit mostly consisted of pieces from seasons 1-3, there were a few spoilers for those eagle eyed enough to find them. My favorite taste of season 4 was in the form of Jaime Lannister’s golden hand, which again was impressively detailed with nice little patterns lacing the gold hand mold. It was especially fun to go from his old severed hand to staring at his shiny new one.
Of course, while the exhibit’s items were fascinating, the real star (and the exhibit’s whole reason for being at SXSW) was the interactive experience. A 45 minute wait to sit on the iron throne would normally be the centerpiece and even Grumpy Cat stopped by for that picture, but there was an even longer wait for the virtual Oculus Rift wall climbing experience. My favorite experience had no line though. This experience was the free samples of Ommegang’s new Game of Thrones’ tie-in brew: a rich, red ale that will be released at the end of March.
It was easy to get lost in the world of Westoros with this Game of Thrones exhibit, and I’m sure many people did, forgoing many of the other SXSW happenings. It will be exciting to see what new features get added to this exhibit next year after Game of Thrones returns on HBO with its fourth season on April 6.