Disney Adding Video Game Flavor to Theme Park Attractions

Kids, it turns out, are more engaged — and spend more time exploring

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Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios

A Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster in the hands of a 7-year-old on a Disneyland attraction looks like it belongs in a video game. It should. It was designed to be that way.

During this week’s GDC Next conference, Disney Imagineers Jonathan Ackley and Chris Purvis explained how the early video game culture, explained in-depth by the Los Angeles Times, from the 1980s and 90s helped inspire the current wave of Disney attractions by showing them how to present kid-friendly play that kept families in the park, with or without the rides.

Case in point: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. Originally formed in 2009, this game takes the visitor outside a traditional ride attraction, gives them an entirely new function within the park and sends them on a quest to unlock mysteries, all while tying to Disney themes. With visitors spending an average of 45 minutes on the game, Disney loves the added time spent in the park.

And there’s more. The Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game takes nearly five hours to complete. And that’s just on its easy level. By adding in “sorcerer cards” to the attraction, Disney created something to collect. Additional levels can also mean additional visits.

Games that zig-zag visitors throughout the park ups the incentive for annual pass holders and helps hold the visitor in the park longer on each visit. Adding the game-like attraction within a ride can also ramp up the excitement. All this is great news for a theme park hoping to make the ride experience more kid-friendly — while drawing more money from a parent’s wallet.