Monday, 14 November 2011

Video Game Theme Park, Anyone?

During September I went to the theme park, Alton Towers. Whilst there, amidst the rabble of crowds, the rattling of rollercoaster rails and screams of simultaneous joy and fear, I heard the sweet plinky sound of Sonic the Hedgehog collecting rings in the the same time I could be heard squealing with joy:


From L-R; Matt, Me, Sonic, Georgie, Adam
The answer to this question was affirmative! Even better...Sonic the Hedgehog was there! No, really...he was.
It got me and my friends thinking; why hasn't there been a theme park dedicated solely to video games?

We're constantly being told by games developers that games are getting more interactive and immersive. This might be true, but what could be more immersive and interactive than a theme park experience?

I know there used to be a Pac Man Land back in Texas in the 80s and more recently they opened an Angry Birds area in the Window of the World Amusement Park in China. But that's not what I'm referring to, neither am I making reference to the simulation game,  Theme Park (although, admittedly racking up mass fatalities in my theme park was a lot of fun back in the day) - I'm talking about a theme park where different areas are sponsored by different games developers.

It's not impossible...well, getting Nintendo to agree might be. A Nintendo area would be brilliant; a Pokemon arena, Yoshi rides for the little 'uns, a Donkey Kong themed jungle ride (possibly a log flume?), Mario and Luigi walking around, posing for pictures. Hyrule Castle?! In my mind this is already shaping up to be a bit Disneyland for geeks.

The level of detail put into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios was phenomenal, except for the fact it's in Florida (which is in no way like England), that aside, it shows that bringing a game to life is a possibility. This is how I envisage my ideal theme park. If Harry Potter gets a whole world...why can't individual video game titles? The gaming industry is a mean contender to the film industry these day; games such as, Call of Duty: Black Ops, for example, took over $650 million in its first five days of release. That's a hell of a lot of money and was a global record beating films, books and other video games. They make enough money so, why can't gamers immerse themselves in a world they love, like film-goers?

Theme parks like Universal Studios or the Studio Ghibli Museum do a great job at bringing film rides to life, making you feel as though you're part of the movies themselves and it's in that same vein I imagine my video game theme park to be.

As a ray of hope, I came across a conceptual theme park online, called Game Nation. There's not a great deal of information about it online, which makes me wonder how conceptual it is.

It's an experimental resort but that's all anyone seems to know about it. The slide show on their website is pretty cool and apparently, Atari have backed the project but with no definite go ahead I'm still sceptical. The site claims that;

Game Nation would offer a brand new experience, with total immersion and complete interactivity.

Well, it sounds like my kinda place, I just hope it makes it past the planning stages.

But back to my park, one of the key aspects to its success is developer support: I would particularly love to see a Valve area...Half Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal! These games as well as being awesome, would make excellent rides. Imagine a ride where you get to escape Aperture Science like Chell! You're travelling at speed through empty corridors, surrounded by turrets and Ratman's scrawlings all over the walls and just think, as you're about to hit a dead end, the ride utilising clever trickery and mirrors (I really have no idea how this would work but I'm not a rollercoaster designer, so someone else can sort it out!), a portal appears and you're teleported to another location, only to face GlaDos before departing the ride safely - taking care to exit to the left, collect your belongings and purchase a picture of you on the ride!

The very fact laser tag exists means shooting bad guys could be part of a ride; in Alton Towers there was a simple haunted house which had been revamped to include this feature. You're in a vehicle travelling through a haunted house, things still jump out at you and make you scream but you have the chance to take out zombies, spiders and ghosts with your gun...each hit scores you points and there are bonus points for different enemies so you can gloat to your friends at the end when you beat their score (like I did - 44600! YEAH! Take that, Adam! Woooo!)

Being on that ride made me wonder what else was possible. Shooting zombies with laser guns in what could essentially be classified as a mass LARPing session in a Left 4 Dead setting for example. Or laser tag Halo games? Part laser tag game, part rollercoaster...I mean, who wouldn't want to fly a banshee or a ghost in real life? It would be amazing. Bungie and 343 Industries always maintain good communications with their fans and would no doubt create something wonderful.

There could also be Grand Theft Auto bumper cars, Fallout-style food stalls, BioShock themed hotels, Red Dead Redemption shooting gallery, FIFA and NFL arenas; the list of possibilities is truly endless.

In my imaginary theme park - that should exist, let's face it - games award ceremonies and launch events could be held, oh and of course, an annual gaming convention. Essentially, a mecca for gamers to call home.

Of course, all my speculation and hot air is entirely dependent on the game companies and their property rights - more than that, their willingness to participate. It's hard to imagine securing the licensing for one game let alone a whole bunch.

All I know is that there's a gap in the market and the next logical step for making video games more immersive is a theme park. I can only hope Game Nation is more than just vague statements and hearsay.

Maybe games companies will jump on board and realise the vast potential sums of money they'll be able to roll around in, either that or I'll come into a small fortune enabling me to pay people to design and create this haven . Given the likelihood of the former, I like my odds.

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