Theme parks are the biggest virtual environments realised in the physical world. By virtual environment, Makai means any designed architectural object that uses signifiers to elicit the experience (a representation or simulation) of ‘worldness’ (Klastrup 2009) for its interactors as spatially embedded narratives of being elsewhere. Virtual environments can be physical or digital, but they share the capacity to affect people by providing extraordinary sensory stimuli, they abstract some elements of a spatial totality to convey an “essence” of a place (realised as narratives or themes), and they require human interaction to function. Because these virtual environments provide entertainment and take significant design effort and resources to devise, build and operate, they are frequently intertwined with other entertainment media and profit-driven enterprise. As such, they are designed to be transmedial and intermedial, expandable and renewable.
Principles of commercial virtual environments began with the theme park, but its methods of conveying spatial narratives have been heavily utilised in the creation of digital game spaces as well. So what happens when the physicality of the theme park is transmediated in digital games? And how are the design principles of theme parks simulated when you build your own in-game theme park? To answer these questions I bring examples from the history of representation of theme parks in digital games to search for common patterns of how designers curate the intended experience of the themed environment, even though human users are not bodily inside the virtual world, and AI-simulated patrons in theme park business simulations do not ‘experience’ anything, per se.
ABOUT THE COLLOKWIUM
The ColloKWIum provides a platform to present and discuss ongoing as well as emerging research projects. It does not solely address research projects from within the KWI, but is also open to guest lectures which tie in with the KWI’s research agenda.
Internal Colloquium, open to members of the University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr).