Why The Haunted Attractions Industry Needs Virtual Reality

In the entertainment and attractions business the goal is to captivate audiences and make them center stage in the stories we tell. Quality storytelling is and always will be a central component to successful attractions and theme parks.

Telling that story relies not only on quality design, but also on available emerging technology. One of these emerging technologies is Virtual Reality or VR for short.

VR has been around for some time but only recently has become an important part of the growing media and production market. With VR storytellers have the ability to place audiences inside of a story, taking viewers beyond the “fourth wall” of traditional film and visual media. 

 VR takes audiences well beyond the "fourth wall"

VR takes audiences well beyond the "fourth wall"

VR adds an entirely new dimension to storytelling. For haunt based attractions this means that guests can experience fright at a much more personal and immersive level.

Haunted attractions have experienced somewhat of a renaissance over the last few years. Both seasonal and year round attractions have seen increased and steady attendance.

This is no surprise considering Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the United States. People enjoy being scared. Research shows that so long as a person knows they are in a safe environment they want to experience fear and are willing to pay a premium for that experience. 

This creates an opportunity for attractions and media professionals to develop safe and scary experiences for audiences. Modern haunted attractions can utilize high-end actors, film quality special effects, and virtual reality to develop incredible experiences that are only limited by the creator’s imagination.

People enjoy being scared. Research shows that so long as a person knows they are in a safe environment they want to experience fear and are willing to pay a premium for that experience. 

An important quality of Virtual Reality in a creative environment is that it does not require the same “suspension of disbelief” that film or traditional video does. With VR the delivery method of being directly linked to a guests senses creates a natural and strong emotional connection to the given content.

Because VR is an individual experience the content can be adapted to allow for individual guest experiences adding an entirely new level to interactive haunted houses. 

In theory this can be done using a BCI or Brain-computer interface. A BCI is a mix of hardware and software that monitors brain activity and then translates that activity into action. This potentially means being able to use individual guest fears inside of a haunted attraction. The benefit of a system build on a BCI is that user interactions are now based on users thoughts rather than touch or voice commands. Startups like WAVR NYC and Neurable are already developing BCI’s to be used with VR systems. 

 An example of a BCI VR integration

An example of a BCI VR integration

Another benefit of using VR in a haunted attraction is that the content can be changed relatively easily to create different experiences each time. If multiple storylines and content are developed they can be easily cycled through and updated.

In traditional haunted attractions guests walk through rooms in single file groups experiencing the story as they move through each space. VR has the ability to change the traditional model allowing for unique and highly interactive experiences. It also allows for longer stories to be told because guests are not limited to a singular walk through attraction.

A great example of this was “The Repository” at Halloween Horror Nights 26. The repository was a VR experience that involved both non-VR (real world) and virtual content. Guests started their journey in a real space with physical actors similar to traditional haunts, but later were transported to the world of the supernatural using VR. Using clues from their VR experience guests had to work together as a team to solve a mystery. The entire experience lasted about 30 minutes. 

 Guests experiencing "The Repository" at Universal Studios Haloween Horror Nights

Guests experiencing "The Repository" at Universal Studios Haloween Horror Nights

This interactive mix of real world and VR is much closer to an escape room or interactive theatre experience than a typical haunted house. This means that VR opens up a new door of creativity for the attractions and haunt business.

One of the concerns with VR has been that being completely cut off from reality can take away from social or group experiences. This is of even greater concern in a haunted attraction where guests cling to each other and experience the attraction as a group. However The Repository shows that so long as the group element is built into the experience VR does not take away from the social element of attractions. In fact it might even be an agent to increase the social impact rather than detracting from it.

A great example of a fully VR group experience is Zero Latency’s Zombie survival game in Orlando Florida. With up to 6 players per group each player can see and work with other players in a virtual space. The objective is to work as a team to survive a zombie hoard. 

 A group at Zero Latency

A group at Zero Latency

These are just two examples that show VR can help enhance the social impact of an experience as well as be an incredibly powerful storytelling tool. Telling a story that engages gusts in a haunted experience should be the goal of any haunted house. This is incredibly important for success in the haunt business. 

VR opens up a new door of creativity for the attractions and haunt business

VR can help accomplish this goal. It can take a traditional haunt and elevate it to higher level of quality and fun. Virtual Reality can heighten the guest experience and improve production value of a haunt. This means that guests are willing to spend more time and more money on an experience that involves Virtual Reality, creating not only a better guest experience but also more revenue for the business.

Overall VR is a necessary addition to any haunted attraction of today. Contact us to find out how VR can work for you!

 -Christopher Settineri