Theme Park Interactivity 2.0: Building the next generation of attractions
By Robert NilesJason Garcia's piece in the Orlando Sentinel this morning about interactivity in theme park attractions raises a topic that we ought to talk about more.
Published: September 28, 2009 at 1:04 PM
(Which is one way of saying, 'Yeah, he quoted me, but I got more to say.')
Theme parks have been reaching out to the video game generation for a decade now. Shoot-'em-ups like Men in Black and Buzz Lightyear have become theme park staples. Disney's light-up pins and Pal Mickey have flirted with extending interactive technology outside the attraction gates. And SeaWorld's long been the master at interactive experiences, with its various animal encounters. (For a hefty extra charge, of course.)
But those represent just the first steps toward truly interactive theme park experiences. It's all Web 1.0 - the way the Internet was "interactive" around 1998 or so. You click on whatever you want and get different experiences all day.
The real power of interactivity emerges when it doesn't simply allow guests to interact with the park (or website publisher), it comes when the guests can interact with each other. That's Web 2.0 - and what Theme Park Interactivity 2.0 needs to become.
Think about what really hard-core MIB fans do when they come down the line. They chat up the folks in the line around them, asking how many times they've ridden, what's their high score, etc. If they're not sharp, let 'em cut ahead. But if they're good, keep 'em, and put together a car that's sure to win the suit, beating the car on the other side.
What happens when parks find a way to formalize that cooperation within a theme park adventure? How cool would a Harry Potter attraction be if you had to sort into teams (houses?) to complete a mission - and the winners were rewarded with getting to stay for the next mission without having to wait in the queue again? (Think pick-up basketball here: Losers walk and winners play the next team.)
Interactivity raises the addictiveness of theme park attractions, like airtime and high scores first did in years past. An attraction that visitors will want to ride again and again not only continues to drive attendance long after its initial season (making it a better capital investment for the park), it relieves the pressure on the park to develop more expensive attractions, shops and restaurants to occupy guests after that initial ride, doubling the value of the investment.
Theme park managers and designers read this website. What would you like to see from them? What interactive experiences would you love to see in a dream attraction?
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