The end of the high G force thrill ride?
Traditionally, thrill ride fans measured the intensity of their favorite rides three ways: tallest, fastest, longest. But over the past decade, theme park thrills have added a fourth dimension.
Not height, not speed, not length, but the pressure exerted on one's body. With twists, turns and sharp acceleration, even a relatively low speed ride can exert force on the body three, four and even five times the force of gravity.
Witness Rock n' Roller Coaster at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Walt Disney World, where yesterday a 12-year-old boy died. Authorities have yet to determine the cause of death, but in 2000 the ride was the scene of a non-fatal incident where a rider suffered bleeding in the brain.
High G forces and circulatory problems provide a potentially fatal mix. Put someone with a congenital defect, or even a bad case of high blood pressure, on a high G force ride and aneurysms and stroke can result. Such preexisting medical conditions led to the death of two riders in the past year on Disney World's Mission: Space, another high G force ride. On Mission: Space, the peak G force is much lower than on Rock n' Roller Coaster, but it is sustained for a much longer period of time.
Yes, theme parks could do more to warn their visitors of the danger of high G attractions. Parks should urge people with high blood pressure to avoid these rides, as they already warn or ban people with heart, neck or back problems, as well as pregnant women. And I'd love to see parks publicize the G forces exerted on their rides, along with the time that riders are exposed to that force.
To that end, I'm asking registered Theme Park Insider readers today to help us collect that information. If you know the G force of a particular ride, please browse to it in our listings, then click the [Update this description] link to add that information to the ride's description.
But the tragic number of deaths at Walt Disney World over the past years, many linked to high G force attractions, might signal the end of the development of such rides in the theme park industry. Unlike heart or back conditions, or pregnancy, most people at risk for the type of ailments exposed by high G rides do not know that they are at risk, severely undercutting (but not negating) the effectiveness of stronger warnings.
The theme park industry already is moving away from the high thrill arms race of the past decade. Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro has declared that his company, the industry leader in that arms race, is done with record-setting, high-intensity thrill rides, and will instead look to recapture parents with kids by offering more family-friendly rides. Talk to theme park designers, and they express their excitement not for new ways to throw riders' bodies around, but for new ways to engage their minds.
The near future of the theme park industry lies not in thrills, but interactivity. Smart theme parks are looking for new attractions that engage riders, empowering them individually, or collectively with the other riders in their vehicle, to alter or determine the effects and outcome of the ride. Theme park managers, like their counterparts in the movie business, have learned that repeat visits create blockbusters. And that the video game generation craves attractions that they can control.
Rides like Disney's Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Universal's Men in Black Alien Attack, and Legoland's Fun Town Fire Academy and Splash Battle represent the future. And with insurance rates for high G force attractions sure to rise in the aftermath of this most recent death, that future might be coming to a theme park near you sooner than anyone might have expected.
I think the public really is starting to lean towards a less intense G-force type ride. It shows with the success of such rides like Spiderman and MIB, even Revenge of the Mummy, though it is a coaster. ROTM doesnt exceed more than 3 G's, and thats only in its initial launch. People are wanting more theme to a park, and a lot of folks see something like a coaster as a blemsih on the landscape. Personally I cant see going to a park without an intense ride, but thats me. You will see a strong surge in more family rides at all of the big chains, especially disney, who was talking about having its first 6 inversion coaster built at the Animal Kingdom when they began talking again about "Beastly Kingdom". You can sure bet that talk was thrown away this morning.
The fact is this child had a heart defect, according to prelim autopsy reports, and went on a device he should not have. The fact that literally hundreds of thousands of customers have ridden this ride, and others, with no ill effects should be enough evidence to clear Disney of wrong doing, and of the ride being too "Intense"
While rides with G forces MIGHT be going the way of the dodo (or at least, asleep for a decade or so), I really do look forward to this potential rebirth of the dark ride.
G force rides do add another dimension to the thrill of a ride. One of the main problems is what is a safe amount of G force. I would imagine it would be different for different people. Pilots wear G suits for a reason. As G forces increase, blood is forced into the extremeties causing the brain to lose oxygen and you pass out. The G suits inflate as the G force increases causing the blood to remain in the vital areas of your body. I think we all understand that if our brain is deprived of oxygen, it is a bad thing.
You gotta be kidding me. More people die and are injured each year traveling to and from Theme/Amusement Parks than those that die or are injured at them. That includes all the theme and amusement parks in the USA. Why don't we urge all those parks to close so that no one gets in a car accident traveling to or from them? That would be the responsible thing to do!
I was not, by any means, calling for a ban against G-force rides. I was stating facts. If you look at Universal, what is its two most popular rides? Spiderman and Mummy. The biggest complaint you here? Too many intense rides.
I understand that accidents like this, coupled with the previous tragedy on Mission Space, have tendency to bring up discussion on the dangers of thrill rides. I also understand that many parks are starting to lean more toward low intensity, simulator type rides...including the "industry arms leader" Six Flags (By the way I'll believe that line by Shapiro when I see it. Their downfall has not been being coaster happy, it has been mismanagement of those resources.) I understand rider concerns about G-Forces, because many folks don't understand the concept behind them.
I think there are a lot of great comments here. I myself enjoy Rock n Roller Coaster. My children ages 12 and 7 have never gone on it. I am actually surprised by the ages of children going on these intense rides. My kidshave never gone on Tower of Terror, Mission Space, Test Track and Kali River Rapids. They find these rides too intense. They even refuse to go on Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
There has been a lot of good discussion on this issue (way too much as of late), but please consider this:
The theme park industry is an entertainment business. And, as in all entertainment businesses, trends come and go. We've been in a trend toward high G force rides. We're going to leave that behind now and enter a trend toward interactive rides.
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