Tuesday, 26 July 2016

VR is Anti Theme Park and thoughts on VR usage in Derren Brown's Ghost Train

I can’t remember where the murmuring of VR coming to theme parks began; all I recall is that I felt repulsed by the concept from the start...

I’m not really a fan of screen based attractions full stop, to be honest. Only Universal do them well and even there I find their prevalence annoying, having to put on 3D glasses for what feels like every single attraction. I sometimes wonder if my dislike for them is just defiant principle. Somehow, using film cheapens the physical, spacial experience that makes theme parks special. The acclaimed Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is so good due to the use of projections to do what conventional dark rides cannot - to keep up with an intensely physical, fast-paced experience. The sets are really there; you navigate through real space and interact with real scenery. The screens display the action and interact with surrounding sets and the whole thing is seamless, or… Well, near enough. It would be ridiculous to say that it's difficult to tell where the set ends and screen begins, but that's part of why Spiderman’s cartoon styling makes for a better attraction than Transformers next door. It helps my brain excuse the screens, lending to that “suspension of disbelief”. Of course, both are really outstanding, well made attractions.

Spiderman's elaborate physical sets.
Photo credit: Heavy Structures

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Nemesis at Alton Towers - Review

Last year, I had planned to write a piece for Nemesis’ 21st birthday. I never got round to it, but decided that this ride was worth writing about regardless. So, happy 22nd season to Nemesis!

Isn’t it sort of crazy how legendary Alton’s B&M invert is? Few coasters get the kind unanimous praise and fascination amongst enthusiasts as Nemesis. But is Nemesis really as good as people say?

This way...
Photo by author.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Banksy’s Dismaland and theme parks as an art medium

I want theme parks to be taken seriously by academics. I want them to receive the same critique that fine art, literature, film and now gaming "enjoys". Firstly because I just find it interesting to read someone else’s over-thinking on my favourite subject, but also because I like to think it benefits the medium in some way. When questions get asked about the lacking female representation in gaming for example, some developers respond with increasingly better female representation in gaming. It's far from perfect, but we're on a road started by that discussion. Criticism matters.

Photo by Nic Jenkins

Monday, 23 February 2015

Audience misinterpretation of hyperrealism in theming…. Or, “why Dinoland USA is interesting but ultimately flawed”.

I was reading what fellow theme park nerd friends had to say about Disney’s Animal Kingdom recently, specifically Dinoland USA. The usual comments: the area is vile, doesn’t fit in or feel very Disney-like in execution and other perfectly valid and true criticisms… But I felt the need to chime in and defend the cleverness of the theme.

Then I thought, wait, what am I doing? The answer: Playing devils advocate, mostly.

See, Dinoland USA is perhaps the most self-representational, metaphorical, hyperreal commentary on the amusement industry that exists as an actual attraction. And that’s kinda cool from an “arty-farty lets have a discussion about theme park theory” point of view.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Park Map Design

A while back during a discussion with friends, I suggested that most guests do not utilise park maps for what you’d think was their primary purpose - navigation.

And so ever since then I have been mocked for the supposed lunacy of my claim...

Here, Cupcakes and Coasters attempts to mock me by apparently demoing using a map to conclude that there are definitely no roller coasters at this recreational park.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Boring Environments

I’ve recently had some design work that has thrown up a big question in my mind…

I believe that there are some narratives that would be powerful and interesting journeys to take guests on, but their associated visuals are just dull. Is that my personal taste, or is there some objective fact in this?

Instinctively, I want to tell you that theme parks, unlike film, are in danger of their stylistic qualities being misunderstood. I’ve discussed this phenomenon quite often on this blog when I talk about realism. Functional objects used as theming will be read not for their implied stylistic connotations but as functional objects, because theme parks, zoos, restaurants, museums and the like are, above all else, functional spaces.