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Being an enthusiast isn't what it used to be - a nostalgic ramble


Inferno

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You know those 'memory' notifications you get on your iPhone now and then, where it features a load of photos from a past trip?

One of those popped up for me recently from an old meet up we had on another site, which sent me on a bit of a nostalgic frenzy.

 

Since that happened, I've spent a bit too much time these last few weeks looking back through old photos and videos, and it's prompted me to reach out to some old 'theme park friends' who I haven't spoken to for a while. To be honest it's been absolutely bloody fab.

 

But it's got me thinking... Being a theme park enthusiast just isn't what it used to be.  I'm wondering if others feel this way too?

 

Of course I dearly miss the days in my teens where I'd regularly meet my friends at the parks, but equally I am finding myself really missing all the fan forums that there used to be, and how busy they were every evening.  The forums used to be buzzing with excitement and discussion about our weird shared favourite topic!  And that was just it, it was a discussion, often about the unknown.  It was rare that we actually knew what was going to be happening at the parks, so speculation and rumour really did drive the discussion and keep everyone interested!

 

Aside from the big forums and fan sites, there were also countless smaller sites, run by people who loved the parks just as much and just wanted to share their hobby and interest.

 

It didn't stop at the forums either - YouTube was awash with videos from enthusiasts everywhere, not just the big names, who now seem to have unlimited access to everything. I remember sat at my laptop in my room at my parents house, most nights I'd check my usual sites and channels for any updates I could find!  It was exciting - had someone managed to get a blurry photo from underneath a fence, or even better get a 20 second video clip of a scare maze entrance, or a trench being dug somewhere?  Or the rare holy grail, someone had found some plans on a planning portal somewhere! 😮

 

I absolutely loved the mystery and excitement surrounding everything - "what could be under those tarps?", "Did anyone see that crane today?", "There's a new poster for Fright Nights!"...

If you wanted to know what happened inside the Asylum, you would need to physically go into the Asylum and find out for yourself! There were no HD POV videos from press night, no behind the scenes videos, and no real construction updates to speak of. All you had to go on was the reviews and discussion from others who had been through before.

God... it was brilliant wasn't it?

 

There's no denying, however, that things are better now.  We got what we wanted.  We now have more access to information than ever before, with the parks being very open about what they're doing, and the YouTubers and Influencers of today being very detailed in what they show.  It really is good that we have access to all this stuff - but I have to admit I do miss the days when the 'news' came from everyone - whoever happened to be at the parks (or peeping over the fences) that day, with their blackberry camera out and ready to snap a picture or two!

 

I think the age of the influencer and all of this free and open information has nearly killed off the forums, and the way that theme park enthusiasm used to be.

It seems that now, the 'star enthusiasts' who run the major YouTube channels and social media pages, are in some ways an extension of the park's own marketing team, with some influencers quite literally being employed by the parks, even creatively responsoble for some of the attractions...

 

It would also appear that, although I have nothing against any influencers out there, that the enthusiast game has in some ways become about building up an audience and even making a living from it - it's not as much a 'hobby' as it used to be it seems?

 

Taking a wonky photo of the Curse arriving on the rain soaked beach, or Saw the Ride's brand new supports going in to the newly reclaimed land, and getting home to plug in your cable to transfer the image to your laptop to post it on the forums was never about seeing how many likes you could get - it was about sharing the joy with like-minded people from across the country, or it was in my case at least, then having a good chat about it.

 

Social media has killed off the forums really hasn't it, all those little hidden communities where friendships were made and interests were shared!

There's no denying that social media is better, and information is more readily available, but are we better off as enthusiasts?  I'm not convinced we are.

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Well worded and containing reflections of many of our thoughts.

 

Oddly enough, the improvements in technology and availability of the contact, has disintegrated some forums and clubs, with splinter groups becoming cliques no longer open to "all members"; I have seen it with aeroplane clubs as well as coaster clubs, no doubt this applies to many hobbies.

 

We all have a variety of interests and levels of knowledge which, in the older formats, could and would be shared with wider audiences.

 

Enjoy your hobbies.

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5 hours ago, planenut said:

Oddly enough, the improvements in technology and availability of the contact, has disintegrated some forums and clubs, with splinter groups becoming cliques no longer open to "all members"; I have seen it with aeroplane clubs as well as coaster clubs, no doubt this applies to many hobbies.

 

We all have a variety of interests and levels of knowledge which, in the older formats, could and would be shared with wider audiences.

It's such a shame isn't it!  I really do miss the way it used to be.

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I think with the expansion of Facebook and then Discord the groups on forums just migrated to those places.

 

Being able to make posting footage of things a job also has made a massive contribution to the way the media of it all is consumed and distributed. How many construction updates were just someone taking photos on a random visit rather than being camped out for days on end or a 30 minute video with an asinine presenter and a click bait title?

 

Also many who used them in the "heyday" have grown up, gotten jobs and lives that take precedent over forum times.

 

I will say though some things do irk me about modern enthusiasts. Which isn't solely a theme park based issue. The almost cult-like following of certain "influencers" where their word is law, the way in which everything must be amazing or terrible with zero nuance to things.

 

On the other hand, I do think some places had some very unwelcoming "veterans" and often internal politics/cliques/issues that did not help matters for newcomers or regulars. 

 

As mentioned though, this is not an issue solely in this hobby. There's a lot of forums I used to frequent which are very dead, even with there being constant new stuff happening. Discord is king now I feel of the old forum life.

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4 hours ago, Benin said:

Also many who used them in the "heyday" have grown up, gotten jobs and lives that take precedent over forum times.

Oh definitely.   The sort of period of time I'm reminiscing about was probably a good 15 years ago really...  Which is crazy, there are enthusiasts riding the coasters at Thorpe right now who weren't even born at the time I'm harking back to... 🫥 A lot has changed since then.

 

4 hours ago, Benin said:

I do think some places had some very unwelcoming "veterans" and often internal politics/cliques/issues that did not help matters for newcomers or regulars.

Oh this is definitely true, and I think some of the forums were responsible for their own demise. 

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Great write up, I remember frequently reading many of the park forums back in the day, before deciding to join up myself. 
 

it does feel strange how different the theme park enthusiast world now is. Definitely more controlled and refine to say the least. Not to mention many of the additional park sites have closed and disappeared now also. 
 

Times do change. 

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As I intimated, my other main hobby is Aviation and luckily recently I combined a trip to Seattle with Toronto, and as we have discussed, things change; very few aircraft collections/museums now provide guides and likewise with theme parks. I was aware of fellow coaster enthusiasts who used to collect those guide/plans and for them, a major part of our hobby has gone.

 

The comment from these establishments is "it's online".

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Forums have unfortunately died away a bit. The rise of social media is a big part of that. And then with Discords, Slacks, Twitches and whatever else (I feel like an old man talking about that as I have no clue on these things properly), it just adds. The idea of signing up for one specific website to discuss one specific topic is just foreign now.

 

Thorpe-specific as well, it's no coincidence that here at TPM the forums dropped off during a time when investment in the park was at rock bottom. We went from coasters every 3 years, and new attractions yearly, to bouncy castles and mazes being the 'big new things'.

 

And yeah, theme park enthusiasm has changed dramatically. 10 years ago, it focused a lot on "trying" to find out whatever you could, but deep down knowing you would just get the odd glimpse here and there. You might hear from / know someone who legitimately knows something, and you got a kick out of knowing it. But it was all a lot more 'wait and see'.

 

Now, influencer culture more broadly means people have quite literally been able to turn their hobbies into a career of sorts. It's their job to find out the information, be that camping out for days on end, working alongside the parks or what have you. It feels a lot more stifled. 

 

This point really resonated with me @Inferno

Quote

There's no denying, however, that things are better now.  We got what we wanted.  We now have more access to information than ever before, with the parks being very open about what they're doing, and the YouTubers and Influencers of today being very detailed in what they show.  It really is good that we have access to all this stuff - but I have to admit I do miss the days when the 'news' came from everyone - whoever happened to be at the parks (or peeping over the fences) that day, with their blackberry camera out and ready to snap a picture or two!

We're currently experiencing a double-edged sword of information. Getting 'behind the curtain' is so much easier now, be that through press nights, VIP BTSs, park open-ness, etc. But sometimes a bit of ignorance can be bliss too, or that more scattergun approach feels more natural. Seeing behind the curtain is very controlled, parks will naturally sweep the dirt under the rug before they do that (literally, in some cases). There was something much more exciting about just catching glimpses here and there in a more uncontrolled way.

 

At the same time, just reading your Face it Alone review from Studio 13, it made me go "Damn, I wish we had a POV of it. I would love to remember how it looked during that middle third which is such a blur". Even if we know that a press night POV would be over-egged, it would still be good to see (okay, there wasn't a 'press night' in the way we're used to describing that for FN14, but you know what I mean). We're really in a golden age of being able to document and archive stuff, which I think is positive.

 

 

Going back to a more TPM-focus now, I've literally spent more than half my life as a member on this forum. I've made life-long friendships here. At one point, I house-shared with a couple of people I met through TPM. Whilst that's stuff that could happen on Twitter / Discord / Whatever, it just felt much more natural here. I always feel like these days I could contribute more to the forums, but as Benin says, growing up means forums slowly subside in the priority list.

 

With TPM, we keep the socials active. The forums and the website have suffered. The main website in particular; backend-wise, it's ancient, and those problems have crept into the look of the website (you can't actually read any news article at the moment, lol whoops). We're looking at fixing that over summer though...

We intend to keep the forums running. We're probably long removed from the days of running meets. But we never ran paid-for meets/events (even when we got ERTs, BTSs, etc), and don't intend to go down that way.

TPM is just a couple of people who like Thorpe and like sharing that enthusiasm with others, through both sharing updates and discussing things. Don't want to make it a career or anything. We've never gone down the Youtube/vlogging route, simply because we don't want to talk in front of a camera. We're not changing who we are, even if that means we're becoming a bit of relic to enthusiasm of yesteryear.

 

 

Anyway, that was very tangential to this and rambling and hijacking of the topic at hand. The whole theme park enthusiasm has changed, some of it for the better, some for the worse. I guess the good thing is you can still make of it what you want. It's just a shame it's harder to keep it 'as it was', if you will, when the rest of it has changed around you.

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