Why Do We Love Dark Rides?

Anybody lucky enough to get their hands on last month's Dark Rides CoasterCrate will be familiar with this article I wrote for their new monthly magazine! Anyway, now that the box is out I thought I'd share with you this little piece about dark rides the guys asked me to write for them. Enjoy!

There’s a classic theme park ride that is perhaps even more beloved than the mighty roller coaster. From the clickety-clack of the old Laff In The Dark to the spooky black-lit painted ghouls of Ghost Trains to virtual reality on a London Underground tube train and cars swerving around using trackless technology, I’m speaking of course about the dark ride! These old classics can be traced all the way back to the early 1900s and have been embraced as a form of storytelling entertainment all over the world. There’s something nostalgic and whimsical about the dark ride that it seems we just can’t get enough of, but why? Let’s take a closer look as to why such a once primitive and crude form of storytelling has continued to permeate the theme park industry and gone from strength to strength with every embrace of new technology. If like me you prefer the term theme park enthusiast over something as limiting as being labelled a coaster enthusiast, chances are there’s something about being completely immersed in real live action narratives that tickles your pickle. And for me that’s the number one reason why, in this day and age of 3D tech and virtual reality, there’s still nothing quite like a dark ride with actual motion through a live set, with real tangible animatronics and effects to truly get your blood pumping. As technologically advanced as virtual reality and 3D is these days, you still can’t touch it, you still can’t reach out and really feel and see and hear and smell the story the way you can in a dark ride, and there’s something special about that. Next, we all just love getting drunk on nostalgia don’t we? You only have to look at the outrage in the theme park enthusiast community when it was announced that our beloved Bubbleworks would sail its last factory tour in 2016 to see that these rides are especially precious to us as they link directly to our childhood. More than likely they’ll have been one of the first kind of rides you ever experienced due to their low-thrill nature. You don’t have to wait to be tall enough for a dark ride like you do with a coaster, so the age of first riding would tend to be a lot lower. And, chances are you rode these with your family, therefore creating a strong bond between the memory of family fun which is triggered into life whenever you hear that dark ride tune or get a whiff of that familiar smell. Finally, the reason I love dark rides so much goes back to my first point of immersion. Like watching a great film and having no idea what is about to happen next, there’s something incredibly thrilling about physically travelling from set to set, not knowing what special effect or jump scare or magical transition is going to happen next. It’s like slowly unwrapping a really cool present, it just gets better and better with each layer revealed. Yes, some coasters do sort of have a narrative, but often you’re whizzing past it so fast that it becomes kind of hard to properly connect. Whereas there have been some dark rides with stories so encapsulating and immersive that they’ve inspired entire movie franchises!

Talk later xoxo,