Virtual reality (sort of) takes over New York Comic Con

Updated: 2016-10-10 11:56

By China Daily in New York(China Daily USA)

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Each year, New York Comic Con is like an early Christmas gift for pop culture enthusiasts. The spectacle is always packed with the latest comics, video games, sci-fi, anime and pretty much everything else you can think of that falls into the category, including, not surprisingly, virtual reality.

In the Javits Center in Manhattan over the weekend, an "Experiential Zone" took up the entire E-1 floor, featuring HTC Vive, a new virtual reality head-mounted display.

Square Enix, Amazon Studios, Lionsgate and other leading players in the industry all had booths and VR demos ready to wow Comic Con attendees.

However, despite the lines, the sweat and shrieks from game-players emanating from a tent playing 360-degree animated videos, the ballyhooed technology still seemed dwarfed by Captain America, Deadpool and Pikachu.

The crowd was excited, and if targeting existing fans of various properties was the goal, the installations were certainly a success.

At John Wick Chronicles: An Eye For An Eye, a 15-minute demo of the virtual reality-based video game set in the John Wick universe, attendees were able to catch a glimpse of the upcoming Keanu Reeves sequel John Wick: Chapter 2, which is expected in 2017.

"[It] was a fun experience for sure," wrote Tim Torres for, "with smooth, responsive controls and decent graphics - the gun detail alone is impressive".

It is not the first time that Virtual Reality has infiltrated the show floor. In 2015, during the San Diego Comic Con, conference company Dent held a special "VR Lounge" outside the San Diego Convention Center, with demos of the holodeck of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Major Hollywood studios also showcased original short VR experiences based on movies and shows like Syfy's The Expanse, FX's The Strain and Legendary Pictures' Warcraft.

Yet complaints about the equipment persist.

"You're trapped in a sweaty headset, with a pair of headphones on top of that," said Torres, "and you have a long umbilical cable tied to a PC five feet away, so your movement's limited. The cable often got in the way of my footing, too, which got annoying."

Kurt Young, founder of Mokuni Games, which also was part of this year's Experiential section at the New York Comic Con, attributed the situation to the immaturity of VR's adoption.

"VR is a new platform," Young said in Mandarin. "It's not like film or TV. People are still trying to figure out how to utilize it."

Putting aside the novelty, are these VR products appealing to new fans who knew nothing about the property before? The answer seemed to be no.

Michael Swiszcz, who was a 12-year-old version of Jay Garrick, was in line for Amazon Studios' interactive storytelling installation based off its popular original series, The Man In The High Castle - though he had no idea what that was.

"It looks cool," said the youth. "It's like you put on those headsets, and you'll be living in a different world."

After 15 minutes of waiting in line and 10 minutes of sitting down with the headsets, Michael rushed to his father and asked: "Dad, where's Batman?"

For corporate behemoths like Lionsgate, HBO and Amazon, NYCC is all about promotion, with the idea that every piece of news or footage shown will soon ricochet around the world.

VR is their latest venture, yet it requires more intuitive controls and higher production value.

Until someone figures out a way to tell VR stories in a more convincing, comfortable and engaging way, cosplays and comic books still will rule the East Coast geek world.

Xiaotian Zhang in New York contributed to this story.