I've often thought that the most disappointing part of my favourite video game is the you could never actually go there and explore the world for yourself or witness the stories as they unfold around you. But how would you translate a virtual gaming experience translate into a physical, real-world one that would still offer the 'build your own adventure' experience that captured the heart of its millions of fans?
The answer, I concluded, was a theme park, where each rides could represent a different quest or level, and guest profile technology could allow visitors to track their adventure through the rides they had visited. But then, why not add a competitive element, where guests earn more points for visiting more rides? Better still, locate scannable, collectable items at the ends of rides and elsewhere around the park, based on the game, that impact the number of points earned from each ride - that way, you could build your own adventure just like in the game. And then it can be a competition with prizes, where the way you choose to explore the park impacts on your overall score (if that's important to you)!
Now I'm three years down the line with a 200-page park concept outline that includes 30 rides, a full wristband tracking system, retail and dining, resort potential and ideas for expansion, and I wish I had the means and know-how to do more with it.
I think this is a really interesting analysis. You're not alone with this. Houston Cooley did a really great youtube video on the correlation between experiential design in theme parks versus video games. He compared Zelda with the magic kingdom and the way we explore it.
I guess my question is a fundamental one: How does all of the above help a family with three little kids have fun with their parents? Ultimately, that's kindof what it's about. If you think about the original Disneyland, the whole thing was designed to allow a 1950's kid to do all the fun things he ever wanted to do but couldn't: Ride a rocket ship, fight indians with Davy Crocket, ride on a steam ship, drive a car, drfive a motor boat, see Peter Pan, take a train ride. So the question becomes, can these "quest" be something that can be translated for everyone vs just a teenage crowd?
Hi Nate, thanks for your question. It’s been particularly hard to pen a response that hasn’t turned into some kind of essay, so I apologise for the length!
I haven’t been able to find the video you mentioned, but, if you know of somewhere I might see it, I’d be very interested to watch.
I absolutely believe that it can be accessible for younger audiences as well as old, based on the following:
‘Immersive-ness’ – like at Disneyland, every inch of the park and every aspect of the guest experience is engineered towards maintaining the illusion that the park is an enclosed magical world. The game from my concept is also high fantasy, so attractions include riding dragons, exploring ancient tombs for treasure etc. Whilst you could argue that this is more of a stereotypically ‘masculine’ fantasy (heroism and adventure etc), there are also rides in my concept that focus more on scenery and environment, as well as extensive scenic design around the park that can be explored simply for the pleasure of doing so, not necessarily in the context of the story-driven rides.
More than rides – For this concept the rides are almost second fiddle to the park itself and the magical environment that is rich in detail and open for exploration at leisure (I’ve even considered different pricing levels for ‘exploratory’ visits and ride-users). The park itself is intended as a destination, not merely a location for the main attractions, and also includes other activities that tie into the larger story of the park, such as treasure hunts, challenges, and simply enjoying the scenery. These activities also tie in to the guest tracking and scoring system, so exploring guests can still score points and track the progress of their own visit without having to try the rides if they don’t wish to.
Rides and storytelling – Like at Disneyland, each ride contains a story, many of which form a smaller part of a larger whole. Conflict within the stories is largely represented abstractly (props, lighting, effects, physical experience of the ride) in most instances so as not to alienate younger audiences, and investment in the stories would encourage greater engagement with the world of the park and the way in which the rides tie together. Many of the rides also contain ‘hidden twists’ to supplement this idea that in the world of the park, anything can happen, and the concept also proposes some rides aimed specifically at younger audiences that still embrace the fantasy concepts of the park.
Competition – The points-scoring system is also designed to encourage groups to compete both with each other and with the wider guest network to achieve the highest score – either by accomplishing the most achievements (visiting rides, collecting items, challenges across the park) or by maximising the value of each set of points (bonuses for some items found, completing sets of rides/collectable items etc). While this may not be a drive for older guests, - particularly ones that are not players of the game – this is an element that often appeals to younger audiences, particularly when prizes are on offer. Points can be earned regardless of the type of visit (ride-based or exploratory), so that all guests can be involved.
Too much to do – Finally, the intention that there is too much to experience in a single visit to encourage return trips, particularly if marketed on the grounds that there is more to discover. Young people in particular are loathe to miss out on experiences, so the ability to offer more than is accomplishable in one trip can be very lucrative, especially if investment with the park and its stories has already been achieved.
While I appreciate that the concept may not have the same mass appeal as a Disneyland park (in fairness, Disney does have a monopoly on childhood fantasy), I genuinely believe there is potential for such a park to exist and be successful if handled with the sincere desire to translate the game into a real-world experience with as much depth and detail as can be achieved, along with immersive and memorable rides. Not only would it blow the minds of the vast existing communities of fans, but also attract new faces to the park and the game.
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