The Leisure Commons: The Makings of a Democratic and Global Fantasyscape in the Digital Age

Friday, July 18, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 301
Oral Presentation
Payal ARORA , Media and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Within the United States, there are now more than 400 ‘Disneyesque’ amusement parks and if we are to look at Europe, we would find 300 such parks scattered across its terrain. Even the emerging markets have jumped on the bandwagon, in spite of their economic slowdown and continuing issues with infrastructure. At least eight theme parks have opened or are scheduled to open in West Africa alone since 2000. As their youth populations grow and demand novel terrains to experience leisure, Malaysia, China, India and others are well down the line to embracing this new fantasy environment. Furthermore, the influence of traditional and contemporary media companies on fantasy parks is stimulating a new kind of massification of leisure.  In 2011, The Angry Birds amusement park opened with much fanfare in China’s Hunan province, enabling visitors to literally immerse themselves by allowing them to catapult giant stuffed birds at green pig balloons. Gamespot senior editor Giancarlo Varanini told FoxNews that, “as video game brands continue to grow in popularity, there will undoubtedly be more attempts at using their built-in audience to lure more people into parks that would otherwise not care.” Hence, this paper investigates the role of digital games in the democratizing of fantasy parks and the implication of this new avenue of inclusivity on leisure geographies. To situate this novel phenomenon, we start by tracing the historical role of media empires on the architecting of amusement parks and mass consumption of fantasy.  In doing so, we reveal the persistence of media empires on amusement parks and the disneyfication of mass culture. We argue that the further democratizing of leisure cultures through gaming fosters hybrid commoditized spaces that pervade even our cityscapes today.