Ms. Geek Speaks: FX Fearless Arena fiasco

This last weekend during San Diego Comic-con, I went into the FX Fearless Arena, a clever upscale haunted house-like experience that allowed FX to advertise for “The Strain,” “Fargo,” “The Bastard Executioner” and “American Horror Story.” This tale of fearless and fearfulness takes place in the “American Horror Story” Hotel.

The line for the AMS Hotel experience gets long because the prize is not a t-shirt but a $100 gift certificate. You compete against seven other people. Entering as a group of eight, you are each assigned to a small room, really just a closet. The closet has a window side for the public to view. On the floor is colored play money bills of various denominations. When the doors are closed and the fans start up, each room becomes a chamber of free floating paper that you must catch mid-air and put the black bag you’ve been given. You have only 30 seconds.

We entered twice. The first time my husband collected a tidy sum, tying for first place and then lost in the 10-second runoff. That was Friday and we were first in line. On Sunday, we were not first in line. We were third behind a couple, Christopher and Kelsey, who had arrived at 8:30 a.m. and a mother-daughter pair, Cathy and Jessica, who arrived just before us. We arrived about nine-ish. The actual game began at 11 a.m.

The rule of a long line is that one does get chummy and we knew the eight people we expected to be competing against. Each person clearly stated if another was joining them. There were, however, two white women who were lurking about, chatting to the people working this activity. I thought they were staff; they were supposedly exhibitors, or at least that is what their passes said.

I imagine the story they told the FX staff was that they had little time to wait in line. The exhibition hall opened at 9:30 and exhibitors should be in place by 9 a.m. The two women jumped the line, without a word of apology to the people who had been waiting and by 11 a.m. the line was quite long. Once in, they determinedly headed for rooms 3 and 4, the ones which no one was watching.  Rooms 1 and 2 faced the front on one side and 5 and 6, 7 and 8 were either facing the front and viewable by the staff or were viewable by the people waiting in line.

By Sunday, the rules had changed. On Friday, one could not pick up the bills on the ground. On Sunday, one couldn’t pick up the bills gathering on the ceiling, caught between the grate and the plastic wind guides nor could one pick the bills stuck on the walls.  We all went into our closet-like windowed rooms and 30-seconds later were out and back in the lobby. The two ladies returned with much more money than anyone else.

After the staff said nothing and we were ushered out, Kelsey was trembling with anger and loudly complained that she and Christopher had been in line since 8:30 a.m. and yet the two ladies just sauntered up. It wasn’t fair. The two white ladies in their hats walked away, not interested in engaging in the debate.

Did the ladies cheat? Yes. Calculating the rate they would have had to snatch up bills flying in the air would require them to have superhuman speed. I noted as the hotel staff was counting, that “That was the reason” they had won–some of the bills were stuck together as if they had never been in the air and had been scooped up from the ground.

On Friday, I had already been given a heads up to the possibility of cheating. Waiting in line for  “The Bastard Executioner” experience which was right next to the AHS Hotel, I explained what the AHS Hotel experience was about and was told, “But I have seen people picking up from the floor.” I quickly explained that the staff was responsible for eliminating people who cheated. I was giving the FX staff the benefit of the doubt.

Yet on Sunday, I saw that the staff was not really that proactive. Two women were allowed to cheat by hopping the line and had no conscience against cheating fellow game players in other ways.  Kelsey was also not the top money collector of the six people who had been waiting in line and had ended up in our group. Yet what she said was likely on all our minds: Two ladies had cheated in two different ways and yet the staff did nothing. Honesty was not rewarded, not in the least.

The two line-jumping fedora hat-wearing ladies were not in such a hurry it seems. They did not hurry back to the exhibition hall or anywhere.  We saw them at the nearby smoothie shop ordering refreshment for themselves. The more outspoken of the two, a dark-haired woman who had a white sweater around her waist, only gave the cashier the first initial of her name, “L.” She was hard to miss since the design on her white sweater was a large black and red circle, almost forming a target on her derriere. She and her friend were overheard discussing how “easy” this difficult challenge was because they had collected money from the ceiling trap, exactly one of the new rules that all participants were told to refrain from.

Perhaps the AHS Hotel could have been better designed so that the rooms were all visible from the inside and thus could be better watched. Dishonesty is always ugly and made a potentially fun experience into a negative experience for at least eight people who didn’t cheat and yet were not properly supported by the FX Fearless staff who were less than fearless in their application of their own rules. The staff failed to watch all the rooms equally. The staff failed to apply logical mathematic calculations. The staff failed to respect the people who were patiently waiting in line.

I doubt that this was a one-time problem. That means the FX Fearless Arena was a failure; FX lost the feel-good moment they meant to provide potential audience members and encouraged people to be dishonest and laugh at the honest game players. The couple who complained, Christopher and Kelsey, were a good game players. They had gone through the Adult Swim family carnival and collected enough tickets to win a black cape that they both were proudly wearing on Sunday morning. I doubt that this couple will have the same fond memories of that Sunday morning with the FX American Horror Story Hotel. The experience also left my husband and I with an unpleasant memory.


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