Best in the West – A Love Letter to “Legends of Frontierland”

5 thoughts on “Best in the West – A Love Letter to “Legends of Frontierland””

  1. Great piece Dave. The part about the cast interactions on the last day is really spot on, and I realized on the last day it sort of went both ways. Willum and Doc had always been fond of each other, and then there was the moment when Doc went in to hug Zane/Kevin…both were holding back the tears at that moment.

    But it also points to 2 challenges they never quite resolved and which no doubt will have the lawyers and pr people thinking. The first is how to control the guests if the barriers are down. We saw various challenges throughout our play there– whether copyright (given Doc’s character), safety (when one guest tried to take over Tom Sawyer island), economics (the constant adjustment in prices) or boundaries (when one guest started courting one of the characters) — that they had to address in various ways The second was the children– it was harder for them to build relationships with the other guests (some of whom didn’t want to play with kids) or the characters (who might be inclined to pass up an interaction with a kid if a louder adult was nearby, particularly if the kid can’t understand the soap opera aspect of things). If you look at the final picture, children are clearly underrepresented and that’s a problem for a family park like Disneyland. The children might have benefited by more fixed things to do (most just liked to throw each other in jail).

    As to the culmination of a storyline, we had split experiences. Doc was able to bring his story it its natural resolution, but he had to basically do it himself, and fortunate timing with other things going on at Disneyland assisted. My experience was closer to yours. I was hoping on my own quest (for Statehood) that there would be a resolution by the Governor rejecting the petition due to Zane’s behavior but it never came.

    1. That’s a fair point you make about kids perhaps being underrepresented in the community of regular players, but I think a lot of it comes down to the demographics of people who are most likely to have the time to sink into a game like this. Using completely unscientific methods of guesstimation, I’d wager that most of the core community was in the 18-30 age range; people who are old enough to run off to Disneyland by themselves, but also young enough that they don’t have as many things demanding their time. Obviously these are gross generalizations and there are clearly exceptions, but I think, unfortunately, the parent who is going to a) be just as into this as their kids are and b) have sufficient amounts of free time to bring their kids to play a game like this on a regular basis is a somewhat rare breed.

      That being said, I think you’re right about there being a gap in play style between kids and adults, and hopefully whatever future iterations of this we see will work to bridge that gap.

      As for the other issues, I suspect (though am not sure) that the copyright thing would only be an issue if it was integrated into one of the elements of the game on Disney’s side (like, say, having a reference to the Tardis in an article printed in the Gazette). Just as anyone can come into the park wearing clothes featuring non-Disney IPs, a guest who decides to play a role “inspired by” a character like Doctor Who is probably okay. It’d become an issue, though, if that player was refusing to play within the spirit of the game and insisting on hijacking the experience for their own ends (though, that’s an issue whether or not non-Disney IPs are involved).

      The issues of safety and boundaries are things that Disney does have loads of experience with, as well as a fairly effective method for weeding out problematic guests. These issues are more of a concern for other people who may want to create a similar experience without the same infrastructure Disney has.

      The trickiest one of these is ironically the least problematic in a real world sense, and that’s Frontierland’s economic crisis. As long as there are people who only play for a short amount of time, there will always be the issue of bits being removed from circulation. There’s not really a good way to deal with that problem, at least not that I can think of, but there is a way to address the issue of high-level players who accumulate large amounts of bits, but aren’t buying land. The answer: create items or services in the game that appeal specifically to high-level players and put a high price tag on them. This gets bits back into circulation and provides another experience for people who have moved beyond purchasing land. Extra Credits did an episode recently on the issues of digital economies in MMOs, and while the specifics would obviously need to be different, you can see how some ideas could cross over.

      1. They struck a nice compromise with Doc’s character that really worked in his story: they didn’t endorse any Doctor Who references, but played off on the mystery of who is this strange little guy. It also took me a while to be able to translate his ideas into something that worked given the structure of the game, working closely with Red & Zane who were great at assisting.

        With the kid thing (which is similar to the short term involvement problem which I think they went a long way in solving), it’s unfortunately going to be more of a problem for Disney, than say it would be for another theme park, since there’s apparently a desire in management that this be “family friendly”. Given our demographic we were extensively polled (formally and informally) by management on this subject, and I know they’ve given it quite a bit of thought. In particular, we and some of the other parents were quite vocal during the great rules crackdown that made it virtually impossible for the kids to play (even as short termers). They went a long way to fixing it towards the end, and my suggestion was more stations like the jail which let kids do stuff.

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