Experience Radar 3: Theme Parks Get A Virtual Reset, Film Premieres Go Virtual Too, And What Hamlet Can Teach Heritage Attractions

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to Experience Radar 3, where we’re talking about what VR could do for theme parks and film premieres, the latest in London experiential dining, and the real meaning of living the rich life.

1. JOMO Is Dead; Long Live JOLA, “The Joy Of Looking Ahead”

Legoland, USA. Photo by Mike Dias/Unsplash

Merlin Entertainment and Oracle have released new research that suggests that consumers in both the UK and the US are ready to rollercoaster, with 80% of UK respondents saying that they feel optimistic about spending quality time with families and friends at leisure attractions such as theme parks. They call this phenomenon “JOLA”, i.e. “Joy Of Looking Ahead”, suggesting the days of JOMO (“Joy Of Missing Out”) have been well and truly quashed by months of pandemic.

It’s also fuelling pre-bookings, with 40% of families saying they’d pay extra to be able to pre-book their day’s activities in advance, and 48% of millennials keen to provide preferences in advance to receive relevant offers on the day. It was a similar story in Campfire 18, where experience creators Yoram Roth in Berlin and Rebecca Paul in New Zealand both said they’d seen huge demand for their IRL experiences, Covid or no Covid. The simple truth is: once we can get out there, we will.

2. Game Engines Will Enable Generative Storytelling In Theme Parks

Freethink have released a video exploring how VR technology might pull theme parks out of the 21st century and into the future, in order to compete with the increasingly sophisticated immersive experiences people can now have from their homes using consumer tech:

In the effort to remain relevant, they suggest that theme parks might need a “hard reset” – where VR might not only revive existing rides by retrofitting them with layers of virtual stimuli, but also enable theme parks to create entirely new attractions – or do away with having a physical location altogether.

“What all of this technology means is that it’s finally possible to deliver on the promise of the theme park, which is the illusion that you’re in a fantasy world,” they say – an idea that reminds us of the importance of generative storytelling, as discussed in Campfire 3: Is This The End Of Storytelling? and Campfire 14: The AR Firestarter With Rob Morgan.

3. “Mirror, Mirror, In The Questionnaire… What Kind Of Traveller Am I, Do Share?”

Travel types. Photo by Manuel Moreno/Unsplash

Philippe Brown and his team at Brown + Hudson have devised a “What Traveller Type Are You?” questionnaire. They say that, “Today, the key to substantially improved travel is to shift your attention from where you want to travel, to who you are as a traveller and why you’re travelling at all” – something that reminds us of the points brought up in Campfires 16/17: Experience Design Will Elevate Your Next Vacation, where we discussed the importance of the “why” rather than the “where” of travel and the shift from demographics to emotions.

In many ways, the test is like holding up a mirror to your travel-psychological self. Even if it’s automated and imperfect, it helps you think about the kind of traveller you are, or want to be. Perhaps more experience firms could think about the experientialists who visit their experiences and help them self-identify, thus generating the sort of experience most likely to give them hedonic & eudaimonic happiness.

4. Flash Your Paper Cash At The Top Hat, London’s New Monopoly-Themed Restaurant

Photo courtesy of Hasbro

In last week’s Radar we told you about the new Batman-themed restaurant opening in London’s Brewer Street; now it appears it has an experientianl dining contender with the arrival of Top Hat, a Monopoly-themed restaurant launching in Tottenham Court Road to coincide with the life-sized, immersive version of the game (read all about this and other new immersive experiences in London here).

Top Hat will include a playing-card version of Monopoly, a potential “Chance” gaming element to the menu, cocktails named after destinations on the board – Leicester Square Red Carpet Daiquiri, anyone? – and reclaimed Tube line fabrics in its design. We’ll be scoping it out when it opens in our continuing quest to discover what makes a great experiential dining experience – watch this square.

5. The Method In The Madness: What Heritage Attractions Can Learn From Hamlet Live

Hamlet Live at Kronen Castle. Photo by Nick Karvouni/Unsplash

WXO Co-Founders Peter Holst-Beck and Joe Pine have co-authored a research article looking at how the Renaissance castle of Kronborg, a Danish heritage visitor attraction and the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, has shown how heritage attractions can entice guests back through their doors by staging Hamlet Live, an interactive theatrical experience.

In Hamlet Live: the 7 I’s Experiential Strategy Framework for heritage visitor attractions, they look at observations, semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis of TripAdvisor reviews to identify and describe seven interconnected elements that have made Hamlet Live successful in terms of revenue and visitor satisfaction. These elements form an experiential strategy framework that other heritage visitor attractions could use to create extraordinary experiences. 

6. How To Have A Truly Rich Life

Photo by Millo Lin/Unsplash

Spoiler: it’s not by buying a Lamborghini. A new, as yet unpublished paper by Shige Oishi & Erin Westgate suggests that as well as the classic idea of the good life, the *interesting* / psychologically rich life is just as relevant for large numbers of people. In A Psychologically Rich Life: Beyond Happiness and Meaning, the authors argue that rather than being seen in terms of hedonic or eudaimonic happiness, “psychologically rich lives are best characterized by a variety of interesting and perspective-changing experiences” – and that “a nontrivial number of people around the world report they would choose a psychologically rich life at the expense of a happy or meaningful life.” This suggestion that experience design can improve wellbeing is good news for those trying to get buy-in from the Experience Economy from governments and investors, as it places it within a more meaningful – and profitable – global context.

7. The Film Premieres Of The Future Will Be In VR, Too

SXSW film screenings at Paramount Marquee. Photo by Ann Alva Weilding

Event producer Celeste Lear drew our attention to the launch of the short VR film Baba Yaga, which had an accompanying VR premiere in AltSpace. The actors, including Jennifer Hudson and Daisy Ridley, were represented by VR avatars, while the space was transformed into a wondrous forest landscape that looked like it was part of the world of Baba Yaga, including a mysterious hollow tree, a massive magical cauldron, and mushrooms as chairs propped up in front of a giant theatre screen.

As Celeste points out, the opportunities for event producers are huge: “I feel so adamant that more event producers should be following this technology, as most assuredly we are going to be seeing more of it in the future and it will allow many people to stay home instead of having to travel as much… We will even be able to offer clients BOTH options for physical events & more high tech, fun, gasified virtual ones.” And if you’re an event producer looking for more tips on hosting hybrid physical and virtual events, check out data strategist Alessia Clusini’s series on SXSW 2021.

Seen a piece of Experience Economy news we should report? Have news of your own you want to share? Let us know!