Our family is in the midst of planning for our kids’ first-ever trip to Disney, and in my research I found this thought-provoking quote about the Animal Kingdom:
“Rather, the joy of the experience is in the atmosphere, and in discovering little things that make the theme park a place, rather than a collection of rides. To me, the atmosphere and these details are a big part of what separates Disney theme parks from other theme and amusement parks. If all you care about is running from attraction to attraction, why do Disney parks at all? There are better options for that.”
As an MMO player who has *long* loved and generally preferred theme park titles over sandbox ones, this resonated strongly with me. It also illustrated why a theme park isn’t just a theme park, because it’s not merely about the big-ticket rides (dungeons, boss fights, epic quest lines) but the atmosphere, the art, the ambiance, and the details.
I know sandboxes can have those too, but I’ve always felt that theme parks tend to be more coherent and focused in the attention to detail. It’s not a place with a bunch of toys for kids to mess up; it’s a carefully crafted experience that’s designed to make you feel a certain way as you progress through it. Yet even within that guidance, there are personal deviations one can make, particularly to explore the surroundings and investigate the artistry at work.
I was also thinking about how even when you know you’re getting an artificial experience, it can still be fun. I mean, heck, the Jungle Cruise is as phony as all get out, but in a weird and real way, that’s the fun of it. It begs you to use your imagination to get into the moment and unleash your inner child. Even as a kid I knew that I wasn’t seeing real rhinos or elephants, but that it was a play of sorts that was constructed for my amusement. I don’t ever want to lose that entirely.
These days I’m not really in any camp, whether it be sandbox, theme park, or sandpark. I just want good games, period. But I’m also a little tired of the backlash against theme parks that can sometimes overlook some of the genuinely good qualities that they exhibit.