UK theme parks from another point of view!

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Is VR a threat to theme parks in the long-term?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:43 pm

Hi everyone! Here's a worrying thought: what if in the future, days out at a theme park cease to exist?

Within the next few years, VR visuals will be indistinguishable from real life. Then there's motion simulators, which when paired with VR could perfectly recreate a real rollercoaster (minus the forces of the likes of The Smiler, and other people sitting beside you). Could it be that with sharper tech and some Ready Player One-style avatars in place of friends, we will soon get our thrills with no track at all, in a warehouse or further down the line, at home?

Looking further into the future, there's the possibility of tech that can directly talk to the brain to convince us we're moving in ways we're not, feeling things we're not. Although it's hard to imagine, it's something that's being worked on now. It would certainly be cheaper for companies to deliver thrills like this, and I have read of experts who are convinced theme parks are promoting the very VR that will eventually put them out of business.

So my question is, will we be happy with an equally as immersive (or more so) ride experience, but with no journey to the park, no walking around it and taking in the views, not seeing friends/family in the flesh, no lunch at a restaurant, no staff, and none of the Alton Towers magic as we know it today?

I think this future would be a tragedy. Mainly because if you imagine Galactica with perfected visuals, would you fear being raised above that bottomless pit that opens up at the start as much as being atop say, The Big One? I wouldn't. Because realistic as it is, I'd remember strapping a box to my face a few moments earlier, and knowing it's an illusion takes away the risk-factor, particularly if you know you're on a stationary simulator and not even a track.

But, people are lazy and companies want whatever's cheaper, so the complete rollercoaster experience in you're living room doesn't seem too hard to imagine in several decades. So many people rave about a VR future, but I find the idea of sitting alone in a room with a mask on when there's a whole world outside a bit sad. After all, The Matrix wasn't meant to be a happy story!

Interesting as it is in the video game industry, I hope VR rides are a fad, like 3D films, and future generations won't choose an albeit realistic but fake substitute for a real day out. But hey, what do I know?
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Swarm Chris
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Re: Is VR a threat to theme parks in the long-term?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:21 pm

Hello! :wave:

It's an interesting discussion. My first thought is to consider other technologies that overtook things in similar ways. For example theatre was modernised by cinema, which in-turn found its way into homes enabling people to have that theatrical experience from the comfort of their living room; and most recently mobile devices meant theatre like entertainment wherever people wanted. This has been a process of nearly 110 years. The interesting thing is that none of these changes has completely destroyed one that came before. Theatre still exists, with the long lines around Times Square to get discount Broadway tickets, suggesting it still commands a good following. Meanwhile, traveling performers in comedy, music and illusion frequently perform to sellout audiences. Cinema meanwhile, whilst having operators report they are at times struggling for audiences, is still the evaluator movies are judged by in terms of their box office revenue, which only seems to be increasing. My thoughts from this are, that historically forms of entertainment have rarely been superceded by new technology, instead they become a new form in their own right.

Stories like The Matrix and Ready Player One, usually rely on an additional reason for why the technology was so accepted. More often than not it is a dystopian view of the world after a major catastrophic event, or at a time were space or resources are incredibly scarce. Without that they would face a difficult question of: well why would you do that? So if we all happily live our lives fully in a virtual world, we probably have bigger problems than Alton Towers not existing anymore. :P

Now, could we see better VR technology making its way into the theme park industry, or as separate "midway" attractions? I think we could, and for me there are exciting prospects. It allows for certain world building that cannot be feasibly done with physical sets. Then if you add interaction, whole new experiences. Imagine a VR scare maze where you are being chased by some hideous monster, requiring you to hide from it, or distract it by interacting with the environment - all leading to your brain really believing you are at risk of death or injury, in a way that an actor in a costume could not.

But theme parks only succeed with variety. So I don't see them, or the physical rides we have now, disappearing anytime soon. :)

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