Seven life lessons we learned from Roller Coaster Tycoon

Nostalgia is a funny thing. The second I hear a classical German or Austrian song from the 1800 or 1900s, I immediately picture the merry-go-round from Roller Coaster Tycoon spinning slowly, a short queue line of guests who prefer less intense rides waiting for their turn on “Merry-Go-Round 1.”

Go on, listen to “Tales from the Vienna Woods.” Take a quick trip down memory lane.

Roller Coaster Tycoon managed to captivate our hearts, minds, and free time in the early 2000s by allowing us to tap into our creativity and challenge our business skills at a young age. Sure, when I was 7 I didn’t exactly get the complexities of loans, I just knew that the money I got from the bank to build another roller coaster had to be paid back quickly.

Going back and playing the game now in my early 20s, I realize how much of an impact it had on us. Without realizing it, Roller Coaster Tycoon taught us several valuable lessons – and no, not just that you had to hire extra handymen to sweep the outside of looping coasters.

You know what I mean.

1. You’re not for everyone, and that’s okay.

“I want to go on something more thrilling than Haunted House 1.”

“Roller Coaster 3 looks too intense for me.”

“I’m not paying that much to go on Bumper Cars 1.”

Trying to please all of your guests is an unforgiving task. Some prefer more intense rides, others prefer the gentle type for their thrills. Even if you build the entire ride catalogue, there’s still going to be a few guests that don’t have a good time. They’ll buy a park map, maybe hit Spiral Slide 2 once, and then leave the park.

If you spend too much time focusing on the small percentage of guests who are quite literally programmed to not really enjoy your park, you’re going to ignore the ones who enjoy what your park has to offer. Think about it; whether it’s the first ride you build in Forest Frontiers or the last one you construct in Thunder Rock, someone in your park is going to have a big smile on their face.

Yes, it’s important to have a nice park, but try not to pay any mind to the guests that come in with a grumpy face, and leave with a grumpy face.

As it is in life; not every ride, or every park, is going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s just fine.  

2. Early organization generally prevents chaos.

Every park starts off small. You have a blank map and a wide stretch of grid before you, until it cuts off at the edges and turns black. In Roller Coaster Tycoon, the world is indeed flat. You start small, with a merry-go-round, junior coaster, twister ride and maybe a pirate ship once it becomes available to build.

But before you know it, your bank account is growing, the park has spread to all four corners of your questionably flat map, and things seem good.

Except… every other moment a ride seems to be breaking down. Or, it’s taken a long time to fix. Where is the mechanic? You look, but he’s on the other side of the park, or lost in an underground pathway.

The downtime of rides can be reduced, and reliability can be increased if you assign mechanics to certain rides and ensure that there are frequent inspections. The time it takes your staff to get to the actual rides is dramatically decreased too, if you plan it all out.

Now, it’s a lot easier to just hire a bunch of mechanics, plop ‘em down, and let them go to whatever rides are broken down. But it makes the guests unhappy and the popularity of the rides decrease.

Pictured: Not peak efficiency.

I created the greatest Bumbly Beach of all time, once. If you remember, the park layout is quite small. But, by building rides on top of one another, I created an actual layered park. Picture a gravitron on top of a motion simulator with a roller coaster speeding over the top.

However… every second it seemed I got that blip at the bottom of the screen informing me that a ride had broken down, or it was taking the mechanic too long to get there. Eventually, I had to painstakingly assign all of the mechanics to different grids of the park to keep everything in tip top shape.

If you get into the habit of organization early on in life, or early into a project, the process is generally much smoother with more desirable outcomes. So come on; pull out that agenda, get your highlighters, and assign those mechanics to specific sections of rides.

3. You don’t always have to start over – sometimes a simple fix works.

In moments of frustration, the urge to rip up a piece of paper, throw something away, or rage quit can be overpowering.

You’ve spent forever building that perfect coaster; it goes below ground, loops around a pedestrian pathway, and fits your park layout perfectly. You had to really work for that perfect track. You’re proud of it.

Now, the guests roll in.

“Roller Coaster 4 is too intense for me,” thinks every guest that walks up to the queue line.

Okay, okay. Let’s delete a loop. Open the ride again.

“Roller Coaster 4 is too intense for me,” thinks every annoying little jerk guest that walks up to the queue line.

Let’s delete a corkscrew, make that hill less steep, and delete the boost.

The guests walk up to the queue line again. You know what they’re thinking. Your own reaction towards it is too vulgar to write.

Often, I’ve felt compelled to just delete the coaster, delete the pathway leading to it, and return the land I altered back to its original state. If these ungrateful idiots don’t like this coaster, fine. They can’t have it.

However, if you’re a true Roller Coaster Tycoon pro, you know that intensity is based on the lateral G-force. So before you decide to pick up all the park guests that refuse to ride it and plop them into the lake, go back into construction mode. Slow it down before the curves, and make the turns wider and more gradual.

So before you decide to metaphorically flip a table and storm out of the room, locate the issue. Breath. Fix it. Soldier on!

4. Don’t be afraid to start over.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to start fresh with a clean slate.

Towards the end of the Roller Coaster Tycoon campaigns, the objectives get much more difficult. If you need your park value to increase by at least $20,000 in less than two months, you’ve maxed out your loan, and the running costs of your park are sky high… well…

You can try to see if a miracle will happen, race against the clock to earn some more cash, and try to build a few more rides.

But, the more sensible option is to start over. Take a look at how you began the park last time; did you go in too hot with an expensive roller coaster? Did you build a few rides with too short of lines, leaving a lot of guests to wander around aimlessly with cash in their pockets?

Take a step back, go back to the drawing board, and hit it again. Don’t be afraid to fail. I must’ve played Thunder Rock at least three times before I got it right.

5. Invest in yourself.

We know that beauty isn’t everything. In Roller Coaster Tycoon, a few hundred dollars should probably go towards the construction of a new ride. But sometimes, if things are feeling a little “meh,” there’s nothing wrong with investing in scenery.

I’m partial to placing white flower beds or trees in between ride entrances, shops and stalls, bathrooms, or along pathways to spruce things up. A well-placed fountain can never go wrong, either.

Though added scenery may not make or break the park, it can really bring the park up another level. While it can be easy to race ahead to complete the objective on each park, it can be important to slow down and add a few nice touches.

In life, it’s important to dedicate time, and sometimes some funds, into yourself. Take a walk, a bubble bath, get your haircut, buy a new outfit; remember that it’s not always about the objective at the end.

6. You can’t go wrong being cautious.

You just build a wonderful water slide! I bet you can’t wait to see how much the guests love it.

Yikes.

You probably should’ve decreased the slope there, eh?

No worries, let’s move onto that awesome coaster you built. It’ll go up the slope, and fall back down into the station…

Ahh… nope.

Risks are good, but calculated risks are better. Don’t make the slope too steep at first and don’t make the launch speed too fast.

Planning in life can prevent disasters – though maybe not as extreme as crashing roller coasters – and testing the waters can’t hurt.

7. Have fun.

Roller Coaster Tycoon is more than a game. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a hobby, a passion, a craft that can only be excelled at through years and years of hard work.

The level of mastery I’ve reached at this point didn’t come easy. There were failed park objectives, crashed roller coasters, out-of-control loans, and one too many guests that just couldn’t find a single thing they liked about my park.

But for nearly two decades, Roller Coaster Tycoon has been fun. It’s not always about the park value, the number of guests, money in the bank and miles of tracks built; it’s about the thrill of the experience.

About the Author: Kelcey McClung is a freelance reporter who has been featured in a variety of publications. She loves Star Wars, Animal Crossing, and almost every PlayStation game ever made. If you think you’ve completed all the park objectives in Roller Coaster Tycoon more times than she has, she’ll take you up on that bet.

Classic Nerd

Classic Nerd