Dark ride research proposes the Dark Ride Cube as typology model

Dark Ride Cube

Last week, a group of three Dutch researchers published a scientific article in which they examine theoretical conceptualizations of the dark ride experience. In their research, Pieter Cornelis, Wim Strijbosch and Philip Corsius compared objective design elements of several dark rides to literature-based notions of the dark ride experience. They evaluated 238 dark rides in Europe, the Middle-East and Africa, based on data that was provided by the Dark Ride Database. Results offer a refined understanding of the underlying dimensions of design elements in dark rides. When these dimensions are visualized together in the form of a cube, this results in a new model for the typology of dark rides in theme and amusement parks: the Dark Ride Cube.

Theme parks and amusement parks offer guests a wide variety of dark rides. Based on literature study, the researchers defined three main characteristics of a dark ride: story, theming, and challenge-based gaming elements. These characteristics were operationalised in a list of 36 objective design elements, which were supplemented by six emotional elements, resulting in a list of 42 elements. In the article, this list was used to compare the theoretical notions with the sample of 238 dark rides, by evaluating on-ride video footage of these dark rides on the presence of the 42 elements.

Results indicate that story-related and theming-related elements can be boiled down to three underlying dimensions which dark rides tend to vary on: low versus high story, low versus high amount of theming features and lowly versus highly pervasive interaction. On the side of emotion arousal, the researchers found that dark rides may mostly trigger positive emotional valence and low show and ride arousal, but that high show arousal is also often triggered.

Based on the three dimensions, which came to the fore as the constituent elements for a dark ride typology, the researchers proposed the Dark Ride Cube as a model for classifying dark rides in terms of their design elements. The Dark Ride Cube presents the amount of story on the y-axis and theming on the x-axis, which are the two basic elements of themed entertainment as supported by earlier literature, and complemented them with pervasive interaction on the z-axis. By plotting the examined dark rides on these three axes, researchers found that they are highly scattered across the three dimensions.

Pieter Cornelis presenting the first outcomes of the research at IAAPA Expo Europe 2021 (© Dark Ride Database)

The research team has worked on the article for more than a year, based on a data sheet provided by the Dark Ride Database team. The first results were already published during a presentation at last year’s IAAPA Expo Europe, as we reported in our special. The presentation also gave a peek into the follow-up research, focussing amongst others on the experience of visitors while riding a dark ride. We wish the researchers good luck on these upcoming articles, and congratulate them with the article that was published last week. The complete article can be found here.

Cornelis, P. C. M., Strijbosch, W., & Corsius, P. (2022). Conceptualizing the dark ride experience through the Dark Ride Cube: Evidence from the EMEA region. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/10963480211069173