Theme Park Play Workshop


On Nov 9 & 10 we will host two events on the subject of

play and theme parks


November 9, 2023 – Podcast recording (Public)

Live podcast recording of The Disney Dish with Jim Hill and Len Testa.

6:30p-7:30p on the MIT Campus, Stata Center, Room 32-155, 32 Vassar St., Cambridge. The Stata Center is close to the Kendall Sq red line T stop. Event is free and open to the public (no registration required).


November 10, 2023 – Workshop (Closed)

With keynotes by Rebecca Williams (“Spatial Transmedia, Participatory Culture & Fan Play in the Contemporary Theme Park”) and Scott Lukas (“Playful Realms and Critical Experiences: Navigating the Intersections of Theme Parks and Gaming in the Anthropocene”)

Theme parks have long been a subject of scholarly interest, from high theory to formal analysis. Increasingly methods and questions focused on fandom and experience have productively added to the field. The case for understanding theme parks as sites of serious critical inquiry has been built over a number of decades now by scholars working across many disciplines.

Alongside the rise of theme park studies has been the emergence of game studies, which has also sought to also take seriously another domain often cordoned off as simply leisure or frivolous. Scholars in that field have similarly undertaken robust research looking carefully at games and play as sites serious inquiry, from formal analysis to empirical studies. And game designers have additionally brought their expertise to these environments and had a role in the creation of attractions and parks themselves.

This workshop asks: What might it look like to bring game studies into conversation with theme park studies? How might we leverage some of the theoretical groundwork and methodological tools from both fields to the study of theme parks? Are there productive overlaps and/or places where they meaningfully diverge? What does games and play look like in themed environments, be it designed from park owners, constructed by attendees, or a complex mix of both? How are both analogue and digital forms of play and games being taken up in parks? What forms of socio-technical analysis can be brought to bear on understand play and games in themes parks?

This workshop is focused on giving scholars who are interested in bridging these subfields an opportunity to hear from notable theme park scholars as well as present their own research in this domain and think collectively about what this intersecting conversation might look like.

Submissions now closed.

Accepted presentations:

  • Carissa Baker, “Play, Narrative and Space in Theme Park Interactive Dark Rides”
  • Myles McNutt, “Super Mario Bros. Queue: Realities of Interactive Immersion in Super Nintendo World”
  • Jim Shull, “Learn to Play, Play to Learn. The Lessons of ‘Toy Story Land’”
  • Gabriel Huddleston, “Bringing Home the Magic: The Commodification of Space and Place in the Disney Parks”
  • T.L. Taylor, “Theme Parks as Playgrounds”
  • Ross Garner, “Histories and Tensions concerning VR within Disney Parks”
  • Caro Murphy, “Immersive: An Evolution of Themed Play”
  • Péter Kristof Makai & Florian Freitag, “Ludic Paratexts as Tutorials of Affect: How Games Describe and Prescribe the Theme Park Experience”
  • Bobby Schweizer & Megan Condis, “Disney Park Board Games and Min-Maxing Joy”


Questions can be directed to T.L. Taylor @