When Is Immersive TOO Immersive?

Talk about what is going on in the theme park and attraction industry in general.
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Can Immersive Be TOO Immersive?

Yes
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45%
No
11
55%
 
Total votes: 20
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Owen
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Something that I’ve seen cropping up on some forums from across the pond, mainly to do with Disney, is this idea where we are now getting to a point where so called ‘immersion’ is becoming a hinderance to theme park lands and theme parks in general. I thought it would make for an interesting discussion...

I think the first time I began noticing there be a major issue with this was with Pandora: The World of Avatar in 2016, where we had missing signage, new languages that you had to get the gist of and just an unnecessary level of so called “immersion” where it became an issue rather than a cool aspect of the land. Along with that, using the immersion argument for questionable planning for areas (Diagon Alley and Avatar again being contenders here) in terms of shop sizes and availability seems a little off to me too. There seems to be this point being mentioned with Star Wars: Galaxies Edge too, where the lack of audio and “put-on rudeness” of certain staff seems to be hurting the land as opposed to aiding it.

To throw my two cents in, I can definitely get this, and I do think there’s a limit on how immersive you can get before something becomes unpractical and begins hindering a land. Based on my experience in Pandora, which was a year after the land had opened meaning the whole idea of the language being a major part of the land had been scrapped already, I would say this land suffers majorly because of “over immersive-ness”. The layout of the land as “natural” and “realistic” as it may be, is dreadful. It truly is. The fact that there is little signage through the area also means it’s a nightmare to navigate with how rammed the area can get which is a shame! Not to mention there being a single merch shop in the land which just so happens to be connected to the exit of the lands only major ride. I think Pandora is a clear statement of how Immersion can most definitely get to be too much, or at least be focused on in the wrong places.

What do you all think? Do you think any other areas suffer from this issue? Or do you think that there is no limit on how immersive parks can get?
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Swarm Chris
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Creating a living breathing world, certainly sounds like a great idea. Especially to marketing folks. If that world is also an already known entity, even better.

I'm perhaps in two minds. Building these believable worlds you can escape to, is exactly what the Disney parks have been about, especially the Disneyland/Magic Kingdom parks, where you can feel fully immersed within a jungle adventure, the wild west, or a fairy tale. So these new developments with their insane budgets should really be exceptional versions of these areas, however after experiencing a couple, I came away with the feeling I had far more to do in the older lands than some of these newer ones.

Pandora is a great example of immense detail throughout, but not a great deal to do. Just two attractions, a shop, a restaurant, a photo-pass point and two 5 minute street shows (the shop being so small that when it rains it hits capacity quickly and cast members then have to ensure there is a path for those exiting Flight of Passage to make their way through and out). Compare that to any Fantasyland, or Discovery/Tomorrowland and there is quite a gap, regardless of how good those two attractions are.

Diagon Alley has a lot more to explore it felt, even if itself only has a single attraction, not counting the train. However, the attention to detail means that if you had no idea of the story, you could quite easily miss the non-descript entrance, and think that the King's Cross station is the whole lot. I didn't even find Knocturn Alley until maybe my fifth visit through, but perhaps that is a good thing, to keep finding new areas to explore?

Other parks have done it very well. Cars Land at Disney California Adventure still being one of the best immersive experiences, with a large attraction and several smaller ones, along with shops, food places and street entertainment. Rookburgh at Phantasialand is another, perhaps benefiting from being deliberately smaller (or at least marketed as being smaller) from conception, compared to the massive things Pandora, Galaxies Edge and Diagon Alley are meant to be.

Immersion is great. But perhaps some of these new developments look really pretty, but simply don't have enough in them with respect to the scale of the development. And I think that's my issue. If Disney are going to spend $1bn on a single land, it should open with more than 1 attraction. Especially given that a new Disneyland style park is typically $5bn.
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theparklifekid
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Whilst I love how Galaxies Edge looks and the tech involved makes me so excited, I do see issues with the staff in these areas.

Imagine you are a tired dad who doesn't want to be at this expensive park, when suddenly your child wants to do the lightsaber building thing. You go up to the kiosk to book your slot when suddenly staff in the First Order/Storm Troupers costumes come up and start interacting with the guests. The staff at the kiosks are told to get in character and stop selling the items so they don't get found out by the storm troupers until they leave, you are hot and bothered, you get want to get your child a glowing stick thingy and now this staff member is not selling you your item for another 10 mins (you've waited an hour already to get this) until these 'actors' have left. Finally they leave and you buy your ticket for a staggering $250 but you get confused when they say "250 credits please". Finally after that experience your kid is happy and says they want to go on the Millennium Falcon ride, this land is confusing and your time slot for this land is nearly over so you decide to ask a staff member for directions to the ride. "Whats a ride?" they ask. You then snap.
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Owen
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Whilst I understand that it can be frustrating that a themed land can have limitations I honestly think that’s just bad planning and over thinking the immersion on Disney’s part with both Pandora and Batuu. Ironic really as both of these are based on fictional locations and time points within the source material so they really could add anything, yet with Potter which is very strict in what can be added, you’ll find far more ride and non-ride experiences than the both of Pandora and Galaxies Edge combined. Anyway that’s not what this is about do back on topic...


I think for me I’d be more inclined to side with theparklifekid’s take here.

It’s less about how much there is to do for me personally (although I can definitely see the point with Pandora and Galaxies Edge, which is why I don’t believe they’re to the level of the Wizarding World) but more about this so called immersion just becoming ridiculous and unnecessary. Again, using Galaxies Edge as an example (as it really takes the cake for ‘unnecessary immersion’) Love that you want me to believe I’m buying this weird blob from some made up planet that has never been mentioned before, don’t then start asking me for credentials and such because who knows what to say to that! (Credentials seem to equate to an annual pass in this case), is honestly be half tempted to whip out my drivers licence at that point thinking that’s what they wanted. It kinda just makes everything 10X harder than it needs to be.

Meanwhile, just as an example, the aspects that would really have an effect were axed from Galaxies Edge, and replaced with someone asking if I worship a rodent instead (yes, they do stop you and ask that)...
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abigsmurf
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I think an easy way of describing how I feel is that I want to be amazed by the sights and sounds, I don't want to roleplay.

Wizarding World blew me away with it's theming and you can explore it as much as you like in your own way. If you want to interact more you can buy a wand and activate all the cool effects. It's all voluntary and never pressed on you.

The prospect of stormtroopers and other cast members coming up to me and interacting in that way makes me uneasy. I'm already the kind of person that gives wandering characters a wide berth and tries to hide whenever there's audience participation.  Save the interactions for shows and things you put yourself forward for and let me enjoy the experience on my own terms.

But then, I'm socially awkward and weird, maybe the American public get much more of a kick out of it.
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cookiee_munster
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I think it just comes down to the approach and how user-friendly it is. I know that a lot of the more role-play elements that were planned for Galaxies Edge has now pretty much been phased out as well as restaurant menu items properly labelled with that they contain rather than just an obscure name and a picture of it. I'm not sure whether this was the same in Pandora. I think the fact that these two lands that come into criticism for over immersion is interesting, and to be fair, I think is pretty much doing the job they are meant to be doing. They are both based on different planets, so things are going to be a little different. Compared to the Potter lands which are set in the UK. I've not been to these either, but I'm pretty sure there's got to be some kind of lingo differences that can be confusing.

That aside. Immersion for me if when you make a ride not look like "a ride" it's hard to do and a lot of the time in most low budget parks its normally just a themed skin/paint job that's just thrown over the ride mechanism. Which is fine I guess, but just isn't as immersive as it could be.

One of my biggest bug bares on a more recent ride is The Hagrid ride at Universal... why this wasn't covered and made as a dark ride/coaster is beyond me. The fact that it's in the open and its on a rollercoaster track just absolutely spoils the immersion of the ride. I'm not saying it shouldn't be a rollercoaster, it's more about the fact that the track and supports are exposed that it falls into that area where the elements surrounding the ride are great, but the fact that its exposed just ruins the immersion. Had it have been totally enclosed I think the ride would have been incredible.

The Slinky Dog Dash coaster at Hollywood Studios is a great example of it being a rollercoaster but it's themed as a toy rollercoaster, so it's meant to look like an outdoor playset which is a really great way of having an outdoor rollercoaster, exposing the track and supports and it still being able to tie into the immersion of the land.
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I think this has been around for ages!

The Haunted Mansion's Cast Members are not allowed to smile and the Dungeon's actors (though it may have changed now) were always told to be a bit "rude" to guests.

I remember going up to the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom having a fast pass booked for something else and I asked the CM - "how long is the ride?" and he replied "The safari lasts 3 weeks, sir". I said "no - I need to know how long it is because I've got an upcoming reservation and he whispered the actual reply. I appreciated that level of detail and his dedication and I found it interesting that he whispered the real answer as it proves how committed the cast members are when it comes to the story.

A friend of mine, however, lost a phone on the Millennium Falcon ride (not sure how) and it took loads of faff with improvising CMs to get them to offer a real response so I think in that scenario it's a bit of a silly choice.

The audio issue at GE is interesting and it was more blatant before Rise of the Resistance opened - as you only ever hear the famous Star Wars motif on that ride. I can get that by omitting non-diegetic audio and only have the audio be diegetic that it adds to the "This is NOT a theme park land" but, the issue is, we (the guest) KNOW we're in a theme park... so why do they try and hide that from us? On the flip side - when I first saw Harry Potter at Universal - I really loved the set design but I *didn't* feel immersed because normally there isn't a symphonic orchestra playing music as I'm walking down a village street (sadly).

No point to this post, really - just adding my two cents.
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Chris
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I do enjoy it when theme parks get carried away with placing you in their world. For me, the ultimate immersion is when you can stand in a highly themed setting and not see, hear, or recognise anything from the outside world. Obviously Disney are the masters of that, and Universal are until you see a big box with painted trees on, and it's why themed places like Thorpe Park have and Drayton Manor have never been rated as high as the likes of ATR and Chessington when it comes to atmosphere. The John Wardley era of attractions really did make you feel like you're in another place.
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