America’s Oldest Amusement Park Enters Modern Age with VR Attraction

Knott’s Berry Farm is known as America’s oldest amusement park. It has been a source of enjoyment for those in the Orange County area for decades. On April 1, the 160-acre park is opening up its first VR attraction: a multiplayer shooter game by the name of “Showdown in Ghost Town,” thus ushering the park into the current era.

Founded by Walter and Cordelia Knott in the 1920s, Knott’s Berry Farm may have started as an average American farm, but it soon grew in fame. The founder’s addition of a ghost town replica acted as the beginnings of the now beloved amusement park seen today. Hence, “Showdown in Ghost Town” will be a unique experience combining the light-hearted gameplay similar to Disneyland’s Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters with a nostalgic homage to Knott’s Berry Farm’s origins.

After a experiencing the VR gameplay first-hand, Ian Hamilton, a writer for UploadVR, divulges that “Whether playing on your own and aiming for a high score or back to back with a friend or family member, the experience is a quick three minute battle that puts you in the middle of an old west town trying to stop time traveling robots.”

The players will be thrust into the virtual city of Calico, where different kinds of robots will either directly attack your person or use debris to hinder progress. Armed with a toy gun and VR headset, it is the players’ responsibility to protect Calico from the robotic enemies. Points are simplistically distributed based on the player’s performance: points are earned when you hit or kill enemies, and points are deducted if you get hit by a robot or their projectiles. After the game, points are tallied and the players get to see and compare how they did within the group.

The technicalities of “Showdown in Ghost Town” are simple, yet effective. Instead of having the players attached to the system via wires or have them carry heavy backpacks of tech, Knott’s Berry uses overhead cameras that track headset locations. Computers then send that information to the players, updating the player’s view roughly 60 times a second. While this does create some “blur” for those familiar with VR, it doesn’t hinder the overall gameplay and is much more efficient than previous systems attempting to use VR on such a large scale.

Previous hesitations regarding VR appeared to stem from its difficulty to implement and its inaccessibility to the average person. However, it seems like virtual reality is slowly making its way into everyday life in this day and age, with Oculus Rift and other VR programs becoming more and more accessible. Now that amusement parks such as Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags are attempting to implement virtual reality into their attractions, it seems like this expanding technology will finally be able to be enjoyed by the masses, and not just techies and gamers.

Photo credit: Inside Universal