Don't Judge Before You Ride

It's a theme park enthusiast discussion that's been ongoing since the dawn of time (aka the early 2000s on coaster nerd forums): park announces a new ride, releases concept art, maybe an animated visual or POV, and before the place has even had a chance to drill a support into the ground there's replies from enthusiasts complaing how it looks slow, or short, or poorly paced, or not exactly what they specifically would like to see from the park. 

And it's one that's always baffled me. Having ridden my fair share of rides, as I'm sure many of you have, I will never understand the blind confidence of an enthusiast on a message board, or indeed now on social media, boldly declaring their opinion on a ride that not only they haven't ridden, but that isn't even built yet. I wanted to dive a little deeper into this discussion today and explore why it's ultimately harmful to the eventual experience of finally getting to ride the thing to go beyond general speculation. 

So firstly, concept art and animations are meant to be, as the name might suggest, conceptual, and are never representative of the actual 100% fully signed off finished product. Especially in the very early stages of a project. So we might see different train designs, a slightly wider track, trees or rockwork where there doesn't end up being any, etc. A lot of the time, concept art is used to 'sell in' an idea as opposed to being actual, detailed blueprints of the thing. It's an idealised, top line version of what the attraction might look like and therefore you'll often find the details are foggy and vague. 

Think those wishy-washy conceptual paintngs of Epic Universe in the early days - there was pretty much no defining detail in those images but rather a generalised idea of what the park would look like. Of course this didn't stop countless YouTube channels dissecting and zooming in on every square foot of the image, speculating what might be to come, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. It's an exciting, shiny new project that we want to get hyped about after all! But what we can't do is say oh from this extremely vague concept art I determine that this ride/attraction/park is going to be rubbish and immediately start slating it because there's no fact or detail to be garnered from it. It's outrage and disappointment based on nothing at all (looking at you, Disney 'fans' slating Tiana's Bayou Adventure concept art...) 

The next point is more specifically about rollercoasters. Anybody who's ridden...any rollercoaster ever can surely agree to the fact that even the most high quality, HD, crystal clear POV cannot convey the actual forces felt on a coaster. Because sometimes, forces come completely out of nowhere and catch us off guard (and those are the best ones in my opinion!) I'm thinking SkyRush's first drop - there's insane ejector airtime on that thing that you would never be able to predict from a POV, or even the top hat on Velocicoaster. Yes, seasoned enthusiasts can watch a POV of a coaster we've never ridden and get a vague idea of what forces will happen where but it's never 100% accurate until we actually ride the thing. 

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I find it infuriating when enthusiasts say a coaster looks slow, or forceless, or has no airtime, but they've never ridden it and have only watched a POV. I know in the past I've had countless debates with people who will argue with their whole chest that they know what the experience is like from watching loads of YouTube videos, but let's be real, you cannot really have a fully formed opinion on any ride until you've ridden it yourself. You can certainly argue whether you think something looks fun or not based on your personal tastes and what you know you personally like from a ride, but to say something flat out IS bad without having ridden it yourself is crazy to me. 

And to add to that - when you watch a POV the only sense of the ride you get is visual, maybe a little aural, but I'd argue the latter depends on the quality of the video in question. Your sensory is experience of the ride is reduced to a detached visual one (eg filtered through the lens of a camera and then again through the screen of the device you're watching on). You're completely removed from the actual sensation of the ride itself, audio nuances, smells and any other sensations you'd feel in real life. ALL of these things are purposefully designed to elevate the ride experience, and to judge a ride without experiencing those things altogether in the symphony it is intended to be is reductive, and ignorant to the ride designers and their intentions for the attraction experience. 

Finally, and this is the kicker for me personally, I do not understand the idea of wanting to experience a ride for the first time having already made up your mind on what you think the experience will be. I actively will not watch POVs of rides I haven't been on for the most part, because I do not want to have any bias in my brain for how my actual enjoyment of the thing will pan out. Also spoilers! So many rides have little things that happen that come out of nowhere, and personally I do not get why anybody would want to take away from the joy of being surprised by that for the first time in real life. If you watch a POV of a coaster and decide it looks crap, then surely when you ride it yourself for the first time you're boarding the thing expecting it to be crap? I do not understand self-sabotage like that, for me I'd much rather board for the first time with a blank slate and make my mind up after the fact. And usually even then it takes a few gos to get a fully rounded opinion. 

In conclusion, don't judge before you ride! Not only is it irritating when debating with those who actually have ridden the thing, but it's non-sensical for attractions that literally haven't been built yet and also detrimental to your eventual experience of the ride itself. Imagine, discuss and speculate to your heart's content of course but leave the final judgement until after the fact. 


What do you think? Are you guilty of this? Do you think you can get a good idea of what a ride will be like from POVs and concept art alone? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,