World Joyland (环球动漫嬉戏谷, Huánqiú Dòngmàn Xīxì Gǔ) better known as the Warcraft and Starcraft-themed amusement park, has been the subject of massive speculation since the first digital rendering surfaced on the internet six months ago. An amusement park entirely devoted to making your online virtual nerd-topia a reality, the EPIC potential of our MMORPG fever-dreams made manifest led us to the park with pretty massive expectations.
Joyland is located in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, and if you need directions we’ve got you covered (even though non-noobs would probably be able to find the park relying on nothing but their roaming skillz). It claims to be the world’s first video-game-themed park, it cost 200 million yuan (about $30 million USD) and includes seven sections (see our review of the non-Blizzard sections here) spread over 600,000 square meters.
Joyland might not succeed in actually evoking the gamer’s experience – there were no activities anywhere evocative of actual game-play (they confiscated our bow and mage staff at gate, so no 20-sided dice) and there was a shocking dearth of nerds. But the sheer and constant stimulation factor more than makes up for the lack of felicity in recreating epically massive terrains that gamerz have sacrificed their health and sex lives to live inside of.
The concept of the park in general is actually pretty cool – Joyland is an attempt to merge our digital entertainment lives with the real world:
World Joyland will gather the world’s best contents of digital culture, combine the newest digital entertainment and interactive technologies, partially realize anime-and-game virtual sceneries, innovate anime and game communication and display methods, interpret the core value of digital culture, archive education during entertainment.
To that end, they have devoted a large section of the park to arguably the two most popular games on the planet: Blizzard behemoths World of Warcraft and Starcraft. And the park has now successfully become a conceptual mecca of sorts to the gamers of the earth. 1337!
They’ve also built enormous gaming and technology R&D facilities on the park premises, including the National E-Sports Competition Center(!!!), International Anime-and-Game Expo Pavilion, Anime-and-Game Technology and Derivatives R&D Park, and a Digital Technology High-end Professionals Training Center.
According to their promotional video (see below) China wants World Joyland to compete with the likes of Universal Studios and Disney! They don’t bother to address the logistical and legal issues involved with exporting such a shanzhai-tastic park, though, without going completely broke from legitimately licensing the project.
Because they obviously didn’t purchase the rights to use characters and names from Blizzard, the Warcraft park is instead “Terrain of Magic” and Starcraft is humorously mislabeled the “Universe of Starship.”
The sheer size of the park left some of us wishing we’d done more research before our visit. We missed entirely, for example, the giant theater near the entrance that was likely screening the terrifying fire-breathing underwater/space monster show being promoted on Joyland’s many posters around Changzhou.
After hitting the restrooms and traipsing through Taobao street, we hung a left and entered World of Magic. Park maps are available at the entrance, and except for the section titles, are entirely in Chinese. We set our sights on what looked like the largest things on the map, and made our way in that direction.
Terrain of Magic (a.k.a Warcraft world)
No doubt about it, one of the most entertaining aspects of the park is the sign boards in front of each attraction. They include huhlarious descriptions, in both English and Chinese, followed by a rating system using one of three indexes: Splendor Index, Happiness Index, and Thrill Index (no damage index). Here’s an example from the first attraction:
With thousand years of unstopped war, this place is forbidden to losers and cowards. We are looking forward to a hero to bring back peace with his sword!
Spendor Index: *****
Unfortunately that ride was closed, particularly disappointing because the map makes it look like a giant battleground. Idk, maybes we have to L2p b4 going in.
We couldn’t help but imagine finding groups of aimless people waiting outside rides looking to join a raid. Or giant microphones blasting agitated youths cursing one another, or costumed dwarves screaming LEEEEROY JENKINSSS at 15 minute-intervals throughout the park.
Our first ride was an exciting little number called Splash of Monster Blood, and they’re not kidding about the splash. We’ll just say this much: trying to act cool by refusing to buy a sky blue poncho on your way in is a giant n00b stamp.
The ride was, as its sign board attests, a “beast-bloody journey” (a.k.a. your standard amusement park log ride affair.) After clicking and chugging up a tunnel full of orcs and monsters, you are then plunged down into water that manages somehow to smash you from both the front and the back simultaneously. Sadly, this was not the wettest part of the ride. You are then squirted by multiple streams of water, which we later found out are aimed by demonic lookers-on who fill water-gun machines with coins to spray you.
Ride attendants in the Warcraft park were forced/delighted to be wearing what appeared to be glorified bam-bam outfits of brown and leopard-print spandex.
You can buy fake battle swords and Minnie Mouse hair bows, respectively, from the merch carts. Sword ran us 20rmb (about $3.50), Minnie ears about the same. One may be tempted to ravish the big-breasted elves and mer-women statues with one’s sword, but be prepared to face a judgmental “dude, there are kids” from your companions.
By the way, there are a LOT of kids.
The most impressive part of the Warcraft park are the enormous statues lining your park experience with massive copyright infringement written all over their faces. There’s no horde/alliance distinction however, and tauren/night elves/humans are strewn about with seeming abandon. They throw in mermaids and dragons for good measure.
Universe of Starship (a.k.a Starcraft world)
The transition from Warcraft World into Starcraft world was noticeable in the color palate. Everything changed from brown/orange/red to blue/yellow/white.
We saw a total of two other foreigners in the park, and barely more Chinese. We couldn’t imagine why it wasn’t packed on a summer weekend afternoon, but we also didn’t care because the longest we had to wait was 20-25 minutes for any ride, including the big-name roller coaster.
In fact, the best rides in the park often seemed the least populated, which was probably because most of the park guests were children, and locals in general tend to prefer the boring rides.
The main attraction of the park is a big blue inverted rollercoaster, aptly named the Sky Scraper but misspelled as the Sky Scrapper on its signboard. Amusement park rides are a dangerous affair in China, and we weren’t entirely sure we’d come back from this one alive. But we did, and have the photos to prove it.
One of the most disturbing parts of the park was the general decay we witnessed, unnerving in a park open only a hair shy of two months. Cracks in paint and rust on handrails made the attendants’ habit of screaming “Goodbye!” as the roller coaster surged out of the gates even more terrifying.
The other big attraction in Starcraft world is the Wrath of Ratheon, one of those drop tower rides that we skipped because every park has one.
Lastly, we walked into the largest, most overpowering unit at the center of Starship Universe to see what the 4D theater was all about. By far our longest wait, we were surrounded by oodles of teenage girls, which we don’t have time for because we’re busy farming XP, DUH! We were picturing the aforementioned fire-blasting sea monster posters 4D extravaganza, but instead got a boring Star Wars Episode I pod racer knock off ride. The 4D chairs jiggle you around enough to make the girls scream bloody murder, but it was a totally uninspiring experience in general. EXCEPT for the safety instructional video on the way in, where a ninja tells you not to smoke or get pregnant or tear off your shirt and get drunk:
The park is open from 9am to 10pm, but if you want that much time in the park you’ll have to arrange for your own transportation. In fact, if you have more than three or four people, hiring a car could actually be cheaper than the 160RMB roundtrip on trains each. Directions here.
The Idea of Joyland video via MIC Gadget (and yes, that is in game music from WoW you’re hearing):
“Mystical, transcendental, amazing, passionate”:
Photos by Jessica Colwell and Fan Huang