YouTube is probably the greatest anthropological project ever launched. It has managed to expose the multitudes of the human condition more than any other medium ever created, and allowed people to express themselves in more diverse ways than at any point in history. This weekly column is an outlet for me to share with you some undiscovered gems, as well some very well-trodden gems, and discuss just what it is that makes the chosen accounts so intriguing.
WHO: Theme Park Review.
WHAT: "Reviews" of rides and attractions at theme parks the world over.
HOW MANY SUBSCRIBERS AT TIME OF WRITING: 740,414.
WHY SHOULD I CARE: One of my first experiences with a computer was watching a first-person POV video of a rollercoaster on my brother's Dell, which was in his room. I wasn't really allowed to go in his room, like all younger siblings, though always desperately wanted to, and being let in once was like being invited to the coronation of Jesus Christ. It was odd – I'd never seen a video quite like it, something that sort of, ever so slightly simulated the feeling of being on a rollercoaster, an experience I'd only had once or twice due to height restrictions. Anyway, Theme Park Review brings all those heady memories back, but with added videos of waterslides and Frozen parades at Disneyland.
Theme Park Review (which always annoys me, because it should really be "Theme Park Reviews"; Theme Park Review makes it sound like a quarterly magazine) is a collection of videos of people riding rides. You can search for basically any coaster in the world and chances are TPR has uploaded a video of it. Japan, USA, Germany, the UK, they've all been documented. They even upload CGI previews of rides that won't be completed for years, in places you've never heard of. They also claim to have ridden over 1,000 rides in the six years since they started, which isn't too hard to believe, given the sheer amount of stuff on their channel.
But why is Theme Park Review important?
Well, firstly, touring the world to ride rollercoasters is the most colossal – if not slightly endearing – waste of money I can think of. But these videos come thick and fast every week. A new water world, a new vertical-drop death coaster, a new fairground game for viewers to experience vicariously through their screens. Every week, more whooping, more cheers, more hands in the air.
Another thing that's endearing, but also a little depressing, is the live reaction to the coaster. There isn't a great deal of reviewing going on, but usually when a ride's good it elicits a thrilled scream. When it's not so good, you get nothing more than a weak chant. Maybe a sympathetic "This is awesome!" thrown in. There doesn't seem to be many bad reviews of the rides; perhaps it's too painful to admit the coaster you spent a grand to get to and go on isn't much cop.
It also opens up yet another window into our increasing obsession with extreme documentation. Is there nothing that can be done without committing it to film? Even when we should be forgetting about the internet – instead concentrating on the fact we're upside down and travelling upside at 130 miles and hour – we still insist on strapping GoPros to our bonces and thinking about Google metrics and SEO and views and clicks.
That said, the people behind Theme Park Review have made it their raison d'être to film rides, so it's presumably not a chore for them. Really, you get the sense that what they do is the ultimate labour of love. A completely money-siphoning, time consuming task, done so a bunch of people on YouTube can leave a comment like "looks fun".
The more I think about Theme Park Review, the stranger the concept gets. It really is a phenomenally bizarre thing to choose to do with your life. Though I say that sat in a dry, bright office, hunchbacked with RSI coursing through my crunchy finger bones, blinding myself with Macbook light. Maybe I'm just jealous...
I'm furiously, sickeningly jealous.
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