Virtual Reality (VR) has been making its way into more attractions at amusement parks, especially in recent years following Samsung’s launch of the Gear VR headset. Up until this fall, theme parks mainly focused on integrating this VR experience into their biggest thrill attractions, roller coasters. However, regional park operator, Cedar Fair, decided to introduce a VR experience specifically for the Halloween season at a couple of its amusement parks. FearVR: 5150, for example, was added to Knott’s Berry Farm’s highly-acclaimed Knott’s Scary Farm fall event. This VR experience was going to take this extremely popular fall event to the next level. However, in recent days and following an outcry by a group of local and national mental health medical advocates, Cedar Fair removed the VR experience from the three regional parks that were operating the attraction – Canada’s Wonderland, California’s Great America, and Knott’s Berry Farm.
What Was FearVR: 5150?
This limited-edition, haunt-focused virtual reality up-charge attraction placed park goers in the middle of a mental health facility called Meadowbrook Medical Institute. Guests were to be strapped into a wheel chair with a Samsung GearVR headset, one panic button in hand, and a pair of headphones as they encounter a disturbed patient by the name of Katie; the virtual reality experience hoped to provide some unique and vivid scares. This attraction was purely for adults and older teenagers, and, like at many Halloween attractions around the country, a psychiatric facility scene is included in the haunt offering to have for added scares; however, this experience was different because of the lower-capacity VR component.
Why Was FearVR: 5150 Pulled?
After the attraction was announced, many mental health organizations and advocates were outraged and felt that the attraction depicted mental health patients in a bad image, possibly ill-informing the guests. Furthermore, they felt that the three parks and park operator, Cedar Fair, were being very insensitive. Initially, the focus appeared to be on the 5150 part of the name as it references the California Welfare and Institutions Code whereby law enforcement and medical personnel place somebody under an involuntary psychiatric hold. As a result of this early situation, Cedar Fair decided to remove 5150 from the name of the attraction. However, after that solution was not suitable to the demands and outcries of the mental health advocates, Cedar Fair pulled the up-charge attraction from all three parks.
For years, haunts have included a number of scares that park guests would normally not experience outside of the confines of an attraction. However, it appears that the politically correct police suddenly want to pull their weigh in the haunt industry. What are your thoughts? Did Cedar Fair make the right decision? Was removing the attraction the only decision the company really had?
[Images courtesy of Cedar Fair.]