Last week we went down to LA to visit my Mother for her birthday, and to take the kids to Disneyland for a day (after the other trips we’ve taken for family reasons, including my Dad‘s rememberance). It was a great trip for all reasons, but the Disney experience had a lesson for me.
We had almost no lines the whole day even for top rides like the Matterhorn, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, etc. We caught Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride early, but late in the day went back to Fantasyland to hit Pinocchio, Snow White, & Peter Pan (none of which I’d been on in more years than I care to admit). We went on the first two, since the line for Peter Pan was substantially longer. Finally we bit the bullet and got in line for Pan, and then I understood why people were waiting for it. Peter Pan was a substantially better ride, for important reasons.
Now, each of these rides has a ‘license’ (in the game industry, companies with ‘properties’ such as Lord of the Rings will license them to companies to make accompanying games, and no one else can make a competing game) they have to align with. The trick, then, is to make the ride a compelling experience in and of itself, as well as use the story associated with the license. With games, sometimes the experience *is* the story, that is you play James Bond in GoldenEye, and other times it’s another story with the same character (e.g. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis).
In a ride, the experience should be good on it’s own, whether or not you know the story. So, for example, our kids never got into the Pinocchio movie and consequently don’t know the story. Nor had they seen the Disney version of Peter Pan. Yet the Peter Pan ride was just very cool: you float out over the city in a sailing ship and into the stars, before coming down and flying around Neverland. While in Pinocchio, you basically just see the events in the story (with the one caveat of being eaten by the whale, which is scary). And Snow White didn’t even have a real ending, suddenly you’re just out!
Disney’s Imagineering has done amazing things, and those rides are old, but there’s a lesson here about getting the experience right, so that not only is the story referenced, but the rider actually has an interesting experience. That holds for learning game (er, Immersive Learning Simulation) design, too, where you don’t just want cognitive practice of important decisions, but you’d like the learner to be emotionally engaged. As I tell my workshop attendees, it’s not about designing content, it’s about creating an experience! So, think wholistically and create an environment that hooks you from the beginning, creates interesting emotional trajectories, and provides a feeling of closure at the end.
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