Being An Enthusiast Now Vs. A Decade Ago

As we've just entered a new decade it's made me super reflective and I've spent a lot of these dark, theme parkless winter nights being nostalgic and taking a look back over the past ten years and reminiscing over all the awesome experiences I've had. I'm also startled at just how quickly that time has flown by and how old I've gotten - especially look at pics of baby me from things like opening day of The Swarm that feel like only a few years ago to me. Thing like that made me realise just how much being a theme park enthusiast has changed over the decade and how the theme park community now, whilst similar and unchanged in so many ways is also unrecognisable in others. Taking some time this evening to look back at just how different being an enthusiast was ten years ago!

Top 10 lists are something I've always been slightly obsessed with. From my early enthusiast days on the forums there was always a topic around the subject (and still is to this day!) and I love looking back through it to see how my list has changed - it's so interesting to me to see how my tastes evolved and changed throughout the years as I rode more and more around the world and really got to grips with what I adore in a coaster. It's also a great way to identify the huge sweeping trends of the decades - say what you will about individual tastes but I remember a time when EVERYBODY who'd ridden the things had Millennium Force and Bizarro in their Top 10 list and RMC was but a glint in our eye as to what the next breakthrough was going to be towards coaster excellence. 

Nowadays you can barely mention the phrase Top 10 without being inundated with Steel Vengeance, Taron and Helix mentions. Sure there are some old school enthusiasts who still hold on the the fact that the likes of El Toro and Expedition GeForce are still good (they are, not disputing that) but better than the new hotness of Intamin Blitz coasters or Mack multi-launchers? Get outta here. 

Also out of interest here is my Top 10 list from ten years ago:

1 - Dragon Khan, Port Aventura
2 - Nemesis, Alton Towers
3 - Colossos, Heide Park
4 - Piraten, Djurs Sommerland 
5 - Troy, Toverland
6 - Goliath, Walibi Holland
7 - Kumba, Busch Gardens Tampa
8 - Stealth, Thorpe Park
9 - Oblivion, Alton Towers
10 - Anubis, Plopsaland de Panne (?!)

In 2020 it is sooooo easy to get access to the latest theme park news globally. Whether you love your news officially sourced from fabulous websites like Blooloop or Screamscape or you prefer things wild and unverified like on Twitter, there are literally an endless stream of social accounts, amusement industry new websites, YouTube channels, forums and more that are constantly churning this kind of content out on the daily. It's almost overwhelming how much content there is out there, and what's especially great in this day and age is it's very easy now to get updates from parks all over the world, in particular the far east where the theme park industry boom means there's a ton of huge exciting projects to keep up to date with. 

The early 2010s was a dark age for this kind of thing. I remember spending my evenings refreshing theme park forum pages waiting for even just a morsel of theme park news to keep my tided over until the next big update, which usually came from the parks themselves in terms of full details compared to the internet sleuthing we have nowadays where we pretty much know everything there is about an attraction before the thing is even announced. I kind of miss those days. Of course it was MUCH worse pre-2010s but let's not forget social media hadn't really developed to the point we're at now and we were all still posting Facebook updates in third person so there was still a lot of developing to do before we reached this golden age of theme park news overload. 

In 2020 a theme park meet is pretty much just as simple as putting out a tweet to see if any like-minded people want to pop to Alton Towers on a weekend (if you're open to that kind of thing) or failing that a message to any number of group chats you're in with fellow enthusiasts you've gotten to know through social media. A great thing about 2020 is we're a lot more 'woke' with meeting up and safer with how we go about things, we tend to really build friendships first before diving in the deep end to a park meet which is of course a great plus. 

The early 2010s were a slightly wilder time and it wasn't unheard of for people to find out through a forum or similar that a meet up was happening and simply show up having never met any of these people before - myself included. That's exactly how I first met face to face with fellow theme park enthusiasts and while I've never looked back or had a bad experience I do kind of cringe at how potentially dangerous that could have been. Oh well, I'll live, just don't follow my bad example. 

Another great thing about meet ups is the transparency we get now. Social media is faster and more accessible than ever and through regular posting, chats, videos and more it feels like you can really get to know the group organisers better on a more personal level than blocks of text in the form of forum posting so in general the whole thing is just a lot more comfortable and trustworthy. 

I've mentioned this briefly in the above but my god, the content creation has come on leaps and bounds in ten years and I can only see it continuing. Back in 2010 YouTube essentially consisted of some weird Flash animation style videos on coasters, poor quality rip offs of Travel Channel TV specials featuring THE WORLD'S MOST EXTREME RIDES or some old white guy attempting to film a shaky-ass POV and generally giving off more Prince Andrew vibes than he probably realised. In short, it was kind of bleak, and your choices for undertaking a creative release for your theme park enthusiasm consisted of that dark, scary early 2010s YouTube, becoming a passionate yet eloquent debater of theme park topics on a forum where you'd spend hours pouring your soul into precisely why El Toro is the best wooden coaster ever created and going through your opponents argument point by point and tearing it to shreds or showcasing your fabulous theme park photography skills via your latest photo dump into a Facebook album nobody really cared about save untagging themselves from the HIDEOUS photo you'd uploaded of them from the latest meet up. 

Cut to present day and the creative theme park content out there is endless. You have YouTube and its countless theme park sub genres from news shows to history channels to vlog channels to POVs. Incredibly engaging podcast content from the laugh out loud engaging to the genuinely fascinating. Gorgeous Instagram accounts filled with thousands of breathtaking shots and angles of your favourite rides and any number of blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages and groups with people all over the world sharing everything from their latest trip report to breaking theme park news. What a time to be alive!

So yes, it's certainly a different kind of landscape compared to 2010. Way back then it still felt like you were a bit of a weirdo or an outcast to be into such a niche hobby whereas these days weirdness is certainly more embraced and it's viewed as interesting and engaging to be into something so off kilter. Add to that the time and dedication people pour into sharing their love and passion for this hobby alongside the developments in technology and of course the theme park enthusiast community is thriving and the best it's ever been. I wonder what the next ten years will bring for this strange yet wonderful interest and I certainly look forward to sitting down in 2030 and looking fondly back once more. 

Talk later xoxo,