Is Fear Part of the Fun?

When you visit parks as much as the likes of us lot do, it's very easy for the theme park magic to wear off. And I'm not just talking about that sense of wonder and enchantment you get when you walk through the gates of your favourite attraction, but also the sense of anticipation you once had when waiting to ride for the biggest, scariest ride at the park.

Let's take, for instance, Oblivion. I remember as a 9 year old, watching those terrifying old Oblivion ads prior to our yearly trip to Alton Towers and scaring the absolute shit out of myself. But in a good way. It's all I could think about for the entire journey up, all that was racing through my mind as I made my way through the gates and all I fixated on as I made my way over to that most intimidating of UK coasters. My heart raced and my palms sweated as we wound our way through the queueline, all the while a sinister voice booms down overheard that 'this ride is perfectly safe' (all beautifully building towards the crescendo of the drop, but that's another post for another time). I remember telling myself over and over that all I had to do was muster up the courage to click the restraint into place, and then my fate would be sealed. Pure terror paid off by maximum adrenaline combined with an overwhelming sense of achievement. I did it! I conquered the beast!

But sadly, for me, coasters just aren't really like that any more. I mean, sure, launch coasters get my heart racing momentarily as I'm waiting to be flung out of the station and I'm sure that when I FINALLY get my basic ass over to Cedar Point to ride Top Thrill Dragster there will be some bum-clenching taking place, but I miss that raw fear from when I was younger and not as 'experienced' coaster-wise.

So it got me thinking, could it be that the fear I had back in those days actually added to my enjoyment of rides? In the Oblivion example the terror definitely made the payoff of joy all the more enjoyable - a feeling I'd say I've only experienced as an adult on the likes of Taron, Helix and Shambhala. It's kind of sad to me that I didn't used to have to travel so far for that happiness fix, and the more I think about it the more I think the role of fear has a huge part to play in how I once enjoyed rides.

Sometimes excitement and fear are described as interchangeable. Fear, I'd argue, is definitely the more intense feeling as it triggers that fight-or-flight response that releases those sweet endorphins that got us hooked on riding coasters in the first place, but in a way it's still just a slightly different expression of excitement. And fear for a coaster is definitely different (for the most of us anyway) than fear of something more extreme like, I dunno, being mugged walking home alone at night. Both play with a fear of death or the unknown I guess, but I suppose that the rational part of our brain knows that in reality rides are 'perfectly safe' as the Oblivion queue likes to remind us.

And perhaps, as people who visit parks and ride coasters more often than your average Joe, that's the kicker. We've all been privvy to the delightful general public who comment on many a coaster page, calling the rides death traps etc. For many I guess that REAL fear of death and fear for one's safety is still synonymously linked with the enjoyment of riding a coaster, so for them they'd still get that awesome pay off that we no longer do. Damn us for being so rational and well-informed, it really takes the edge off!

So what do you think, is fear part of the fun? Do you have to be properly scared of a coaster to fully enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to get your thoughts on this!

Talk later xoxo,


  1. Fear will not be part of fun for me.