The Joy Of Criticism

You've seen it before - a poll on Twitter asking if you prefer Nemesis or Nemesis Inferno, a Facebook post ranking a list of Top 10 wooden coasters or a YouTube video counting down the worst screw ups in rollercoaster history. And there, every time without question in the comments, it will be: "why do we have to rank and rate things? Why can't we just have FUN riding coasters?" As if somehow creating content that interrogates and analyses theme park rides somehow takes the fun out of them. Well as a repeat offender of creating such content and somebody who thrives off of this sort of discussion as it feeds juicy, juicy extremely specific factoids into my already bloated theme park nerd brain I wanted to take some time today to talk through specifically why indeed we have to rank and rate things and will argue that, oftentimes, it increases our enjoyment of parks and coasters - especially during times like these where riding them isn't an option for many of us!

So firstly, for me it really helps me process a ride. This is especially the case when something is new for me. Now, this isn't something I'll do with every Big Apple and Wacky Worm I come across, otherwise I'd be here all damn day, but any significant coaster I ride I do try to take a little time to consider the attraction and what my thoughts and feelings were about it. I guess if I were a particularly 'woke' kind of person I would call this 'mindfulness' - for those who aren't aware mindfulness is 'the practice of intentionally paying attention in the moment'. In the current plane of time within which we exist, we are constantly doing  hundred things per minute and it becomes really easy for our experiences to become watered down versions of what they should be because we're trying to cram so much in at once and therefore not giving our undivided attention to one thing as a time. As a result of this our brain doesn't have time to properly process, nor even enjoy the thing we've just experienced (can you remember the last time outside of a cinema you watched a movie or tv show and didn't check your phone? This is what we're talking about here.)

So it's about the analysis of the coaster or attraction and really paying attention to the detail, the way it makes me feels, the twists and turns and forces, the sounds, the storyline, all the stuff, is in a way a form of mindfulness that allows me to fully focus our undivided attention in order to form an opinion and therefore memories from that experience. It wasn't just a fun coaster - why specifically was it fun? What parts of it really filled me with joy? And generally taking a step back to allow my brain a moment to soak in the experience and process it all. I find this really important when it comes to things like coaster road trips where you're riding a ton of 'major' coasters one after the other - if I don't take the time to really take everything in my mind very easily forgets whether I've even ridden the things let alone what I thought of it!

Another enjoyable area of criticism for me is that it allows for a more thorough categorisation of the coasters I've ridden. Think how satisfying it feels when you empty out the kitchen cupboards and put everything back in neatly, or sort out your wardrobe - this is exactly the same as those things only with a collection of experiences as opposed to tangible items. I find this becomes especially important when you've ridden hundreds of the bloody things - in order for our brains to even attempt to sort out a list that big categorisation is key. And of course there are ENDLESS ways we can categorise our lists - by manufacturer, by personal preference, by wood or steel, by location. And then we can get even further down into our own personal preferences - Top 10 best night rides, best coasters to ride in the rain, best coasters we thought would be crap, and so on and so on.

I think the whole process is cathartic and extremely enjoyable - unlike collecting something tangible that brings us joy when we see it or hold it in our hands, a collection of coasters we've ridden is very different in that it only exists in the present when we are actually riding the thing or in the past as a memory. It's why we like to buy souvenirs or ride photos or keep park maps - they're all little physical pieces of evidence of our achievement and a great way to trigger and build memories that bring us joy to reminisce upon. Therefore to enjoy our hobby when we're not actually able to be in the parks riding coasters as most of us are not able to do most of the time, it's a fantastic way to extend the enjoyment our hobby outside of the turnstiles.

And finally, and for me this is probably the most important one - we're big fucking nerds! We get pure, unadulterated joy out of going over our attraction and coaster experiences with a fine toothed comb and over-analysing it to death because there's nothing we love more than absorbing any crumb of detail was can squeeze out of any source we can get our hands on be that primarily through going out into the world and experiencing things for ourselves or secondarily through researching our beloved industry ourselves. It's FUN to talk to like-minded people who are equally as passionate about this realistically meaningless crap that brings us so much joy and it's just as fun to debate about why they're wrong to hate a ride you love or vice versa. It's all part of the hobby and personally if I hadn't found enthusiasts who love this stuff as much as I do to bounce off of I'm not sure how far my own personal passion would have taken me.

Which is why it irks me so when I see those inevitable 'can't we all just enjoy coasters and leave it at that' posts in so many a comments section. If that's what you personally like to do and how you like to enjoy your enthusiasm then by all means, carry on. But if seeing people go into excruciating detail about the merits of wooden coasters vs. steel coasters or some other such subject then I'd argue the online community is most probably not for you! We over-analyse because it's fun. We categorise and make top ten lists because it's fun. We discuss our opinions and criticise because it's FUN. Shutting down these conversations with such reductive comments serves no other purpose than to put a stop to the fun and prevent others from experiencing more joy out of there hobby - something particularly important to remember at times like these where we're all as gagged to get back into the parks as each other.

Remember, we're all nerds here and the reason we take up hobbies is because of the joy we get from them. So the next time somebody shares an opinion on a park or attraction you don't agree with, instead of getting angry or upset and trying to put a stop to the conversation because "why can't we all just enjoy the rides/parks for what they are" why not instead try to enter a friendly debate and explain the particularities of why it is you enjoy/don't enjoy a certain ride and discuss it. We don't need to descend into these ridiculous threads of "WELL IT'S ONLY MY OPINION" if we keep calm and remember, it's only bloody roller coasters!

Talk later xoxo,