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A few days ago an enthusiast posted a comment to Tony Clark of Cedar point via Twitter. Her statement was “Someone just told me that, Steel Vengeance is overrated…” Tony’s response really got me to thinking about amusement parks, roller coasters, and enthusiasts. Tony replied, “You know, I think we should all go to parks and enjoy them as a place of fun and happiness. So much nasty out there.”
I wondered, “Have enthusiast become our own worst enemy? Have “we” taken the fun out of amusement parks and roller coasters?” To me this is a double-edged sword. On one hand I think that there is fun to be had by riding, evaluating, and ranking the quality of the attraction. On the other hand, I look back fondly to my days as a non-enthusiast. Those days where I went to a park, rode the rides, and enjoyed the total package that was an amusement park without the distraction of being an enthusiast.
To give this some perspective, I am a middle-aged male with only about 65 credits. Those credits I have collected over the course of the last 30 years of my life, and most are now defunct. Until very recently I was that dreaded “GP guy”. Over the course of the last few years, I began giving in to this desire to think more in-depth about what I had experienced. Like the rest of the community I began comparing and contrasting these rides with other coasters I had been on and then ranking them accordingly. Along with this typical enthusiast behavior, I also joined several online coaster groups and began attempting to more finely tune my love of roller coasters and connecting with more “experienced” enthusiasts. This attempt was both frustrating and fulfilling. I found it fun and enjoyable when I could find an enthusiast that didn’t look down his/her nose at my low coaster count. I also found this attempt at broadening my knowledge and friend base to be very frustrating. I felt defeated and scorned by some who felt that they were above talking to someone with less knowledge and experience.
My experiences in the enthusiast community has been mostly positive. Apart from a few elitist enthusiasts, most have been very welcoming and open to the opinion of others. However, It became obvious to me early on that the community at large tends to eat its young. Honestly, if it wasn’t for persistence in seeking out a group that was open to all thoughts, opinion, and differences in personalities, I would have probably given up. It makes me wonder how many budding enthusiasts have been run off. We forget that we all are an enthusiast because of a common enjoyment of the experience. It should not matter if you have ridden 1 or 1,000+ coasters. Something the elitist should remember is we all love them the same, and all started with 1 credit.
I see an alarming trend in the enthusiast community. With all the coaster related activities such as ranking lists, coaster counts, YouTube content, near constant speculation of the newest and greatest to come, coaster and park awards, forums, Discord servers, and enthusiast groups, I think we are losing sight of what brought us all together in the first place. The love of a fun and exciting ride. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that other stuff too. To me, it adds to the experience. However, there is the danger of becoming so wrapped up in which coaster is better than another coaster for varying reasons that we lose the innocence of just enjoying the ride. I have heard some imply if a coaster isn’t a top 10 coaster that it isn’t worth their time. This is bunk! Coasters are FUN, whether they are elite rides or more common fare they are fun. At other times, I feel we get so lost in what is next that we fail to enjoy the great ride that is right in front of us. I think when we do this we risk forgetting why we all fell in love with amusement parks and roller coasters to begin with.
THE FUN OF IT ALL!!
To answer the question posed in the title. The answer is a mixed bag. At the moment the answer is “No,” I feel enthusiasts enhance the coasterverse. However, If we aren’t careful, if we don’t consider our behavior and the consequences it can have, then the answer could very well be “Yes.”