“Jack Ryan” TRAINING FIELD at San Diego Comic-Con — will Jan survive? (watch the VIDEO)

Do you have what it takes to be a CIA field operative? Watch the video here.

The largest, most awe-inspiring experiences at San Diego Comic-Con take place in “activations” off-site – not within the relatively tight confines of the San Diego Convention Center – so I spent much of my time checking these out. There were many, arrayed along Harbor Drive from the Children’s Museum to Petco Park, and radiating outward from the Convention Center for at least two blocks.

Hulu’s “Castle Rock” off-site during San Diego Comic-Con.
Hulu’s “Castle Rock” Bed & Breakfast off-site during San Diego Comic-Con.
SyFy’s Human Claw Machine off-site during San Diego Comic-Con.
History Channel’s “Project Blue Book” off-site during San Diego Comic-Con (black light).

The “Jack Ryan Experience” dominated the buzz surrounding this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. It promoted the new, high budget and high production values “Jack Ryan” series, premiering Aug. 31st on Amazon’s Prime Video. Think of its first season as an 8-hour blockbuster movie, starring John Krasinski as CIA analyst Jack Ryan, and shot on location around the world.

For the Jack Ryan Experience, they designed and built what was essentially a large, very expensive movie set. The day that I visited, the lines for the coveted hundred or so spots for Prime Video’s “Jack Ryan Training Field” began forming at 4:00 am – but it was so worth it!

VIDEO: W​atch this video to see how I completed the “Jack Ryan Training Field” interactive VR and physical effects activation at the “Jack Ryan Experience” (video courtesy of Amazon Prime Video):

These hardy souls lined up at 4:00 AM to experience the “Jack Ryan Training Field.

The goal of this intensely realistic, way over-the-top spy mission, was to become a field operative for the Agency by completing a series of mentally and physically demanding challenges, at an undisclosed government black-site located in the Middle East.

The “Jack Ryan Training Field.”

I began my training adventure in a field tent, where I was suited up in a full harness, VR headset, earphones, electronics-laden backpack and sensor-equipped boots and gloves.

Suiting up for the “Jack Ryan Training Field.”

From there I was transported to a three-story, battle-scarred building, where I climbed flights of stairs to a waiting helicopter.

“Jack Ryan” Co-Creator & Executive Producer Graham Roland climbs the flights of stairs to the helicopter.
“Jack Ryan” Co-Creator & Executive Producer Carlton Cuse climbs the flights of stairs to the helicopter.

From there, as wind gusted and sounds of the battlefield filled my ears, I was tethered to a cable and rappelled down into the mission.

A trainee being prepared to rappel down from the helicopter.
This skyline of buildings is what the trainee sees in his VR headset.
Carlton Cuse begins his rappel from the helicopter..
Another trainee rappels down from the helicopter.
A trainee rappels onto the first building.

The next task was to walk along a plank that spanned the distance between two buildings, three stories up. I get vertigo from heights but I knew that the plank sat directly atop the wide, solid platform that connected the two buildings, so this walk should have been effortless. I failed to account for the VR effect.

A trainee walking along the plank, high between to buildings in her virtual world.

Thanks to the VR headset, my eyes communicated a precarious, three-story drop to my brain. That triggered my vertigo as I stepped onto the plank. Involuntarily, despite my efforts to ignore what I was seeing, my legs started shaking uncontrollably. I could barely remain standing. Through sheer force of will – and some help from the person standing beside me to steady me – I managed to keep my balance and walk out to the middle of the plank.

Another trainee walking along the plank.

Suddenly that plank split lengthwise in two, and half of it ‘fell’ away to the ‘ground’ below. Now the plank was so narrow that crossing it would be more like walking a tightrope, one foot over the other. My helper advised me to just look ahead, not down. I did so and somehow managed to take a few quick steps to get to the other building.

This is MUCH more difficult in the virtual world than in the real world.

Our local NBC TV affiliate shot video of my struggle. That evening I saw myself on the news!

Moving on, I became engaged in a gun battle with enemy combatants. I needed to acquire intel.

Engaging in a VR gun battle.

After successfully securing that intel, my next challenge was to zipline back down to the ground.

Carlton Cuse about to zipline.
Carlton Cuse ziplining to the ground (style points!).
Graham Roland ziplining to the ground.

From there I hurried over to a truck (motion simulated) to complete my VR experience. I drove at breakneck speed through the dangerous streets until I finally reached the safe house and delivered the intel.

The final challenge: Successfully avoid the terrorists and quickly drive the truck through town to deliver the intel.

“Jack Ryan” Co-Creators and Executive Producers Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland also experienced the “Jack Ryan Training Field” helicopter rappel and zipline.

“Jack Ryan Training Field” challenge coin.
Time out for a little R&R.

“Dark Ops” was another intense Jack Ryan experience.

Jack Ryan “Dark Ops”

The building, with its diabolical escape rooms, took six months and two iterations to design and build.

“Dark Ops” began with the analysts being briefed by radio.

It was an immersive, interactive version of the Jack Ryan pilot episode. Groups of analysts worked together to foil an imminent terrorist plot.

Money (some of it real, which we got to keep) dropped from the ceiling of one escape room.
Jack Ryan “Dark Ops” challenge coin

Outside, in the Middle Eastern bazaar, refreshments were provided to deal with the heat.

A stall in the bazaar
A bazaar vendor conducting a game of chance

Jack Ryan-branded swag included “Government Issue” Analyst photo ID badges, metal water bottles, cloth bags, challenge coins, snacks, an eight-page newspaper (headlined “SAN DIEGO INVADED”) and a Fire TV Stick. That came in handy when my cable TV failed a few days later.

Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” series begins streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video on Aug. 31st.

Copyright © 2018 by Jan Wagner — AutoMatters & More #552r3

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