Damn it feels good to be a gamer.
For the second year in a row, Square Enix constructed a fun-filled, game-themed area in San Diego that lets fans participate in activities inspired by their video games. Dubbed The Square Enix Experience, this free event takes place in a large parking lot during San Diego Comic-Con. No badges are required since it's located off-site (from the SD Convention Center)—anyone can attend.
Attendees begin by checking in and signing a safety waiver, which tells me that the activities aren't going to be soft. Off to the side of the entrance was a beer garden serving local craft beer and flavored coconut water. There was a DJ wearing a bear head (why not?) and several Tomb Raider characters dancing to his beats. Across from the beer garden was a gaming area where fans could play several titles that haven't been released yet. The rest of the lot was taken up by three fun activities that all offered unique experiences.
Up first is the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Icarus Dash, which is a play on the ability in the game that can quickly propel the player forward. Participants strap on a vest with a bungee cord attached to the back, and then they must dash forward in a giant inflatable corridor and grab a laser gun to shoot a target. While this sounds easy, it's made extremely difficult by the resistance of the bungee cord. Not only do players need to have strong legs just to make it to the plastic gun, but they also have to keep using their leg muscles to keep themselves steady while aiming. Not surprisingly, my legs gave out before I could hit the target.
Next is the Rise of the Tomb Raider Glacial Climb, which is a rock climb inspired by the opening sequence in the game. Brave climbers must attach a safety rope to themselves and then scale a 30-foot-tall ice-covered glacier. I like how this rock climb is circular instead just being a flat wall because it offers variety and more opportunities for realistic climbing. Since the obstacle was covered in hand/foot holds, it was easier to climb than expected. That didn't stop me from drenching my shirt in sweat, though.
The third activity was Final Fantasy XV – The Royal Race, which was a go-kart race around a track with scenery that resembles what's found in the game. Full helmets were required to even step inside the go-kart, and then players were free to zip around the track. It was cool to ride through plumes of smoke amongst FFXV-inspired scenery, but I didn't have time to enjoy the backdrops because the course was so tight. This event would definitely benefit from a larger course.
According to Mike Sibowitz, Senior Director of Marketing, attendance had more than doubled from last year. He went on to say, “It's not too often that you can drive through the worlds of Final Fantasy, and that is something people want to do that's unique… the Comic-Con fanbase, that is our fanbase. They're leaving the show floor to see us because there's a way to experience our franchises.”
Mike also loves getting suggestions for future events. According to him, “excited people come up to me and say, 'Next year, you've got to do this for this title or that for that title.' We welcome suggestions. It's not always easy to come up with ideas for these events, so getting suggestions directly from our consumer base helps to make it the best experience possible.”
Mr. Sibowitz assured me that they would return next year with a bigger and better area, and he ended the conversation by stating, “First and foremost, Square Enix is about its fans, and that has never been truer than it is now.” Look for The Square Enix Experience to return to an off-site location during San Diego Comic-Con 2017.