Home » Is Interactive Gaming a Good Fit for the Disney Parks?

Is Interactive Gaming a Good Fit for the Disney Parks?

Peter Pan's Flight

The Disney Parks are well-known for their totally immersive experiences, and they’re finally bringing a little bit of that magic to the long, often interminable lines that precede some of their best attractions. With the Play Disney Parks app, guests are given a plethora of ways to kill that 1-3 hour standby line, from modified versions of Pictionary and Would You Rather? to trivia and mini interactive games that can be enjoyed solo or with a group.

While the games are currently limited to a few choice attractions, the app is free to download, easy to navigate, and has already received positive reviews from parkgoers. Still, it may not be for everyone—particularly those looking for something geared more toward young children or those who tend to revisit the same attraction again and again. Let’s break down some of the pros and cons of Disney’s newest tech-based line diversion and see if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be.

Pro: It enhances the Disney Parks experience, rather than detracting or distracting from it.

Peter Pan's Flight

Image: HarshLight, Flickr (license)

We’ve all been there: As soon as the wait time stretches past 20 minutes or so, we whip out our smartphones to scroll through Instagram, challenge our friends to a round of Heads Up!, or check for nearby Pokémon. There are myriad ways to pass time at the Disney Parks, but not every form of distraction is the same—there are those that keep you immersed in your own little tech bubble, oblivious to the world around you, and those that actively enhance and engage with your surroundings. Thankfully, the Play Disney Parks app falls into the latter category… for the most part. That’s most obviously seen with its Peter Pan’s Flight-based activities, which use polls, “Would you rather?” questions, and a blend of real-life and digital scavenger hunt items to help you better engage with the story behind the attraction. Other mini games, like Slinky Dog Dash’s “Andy’s Board Game Party!”, feel more app-based as you move around a virtual board game with Buzz Lightyear, Rex, and Jessie and compete in challenges against your game partners.

Con: It’s not available for every attraction and can get stale for attractions that have already been experienced.

Flight of Passage

Image: elisfkc, Flickr (license)

The marquee “mini games” on the app work best for the tourist who only has time to visit each attraction once (and is more likely to elect for the slower standby line rather than speeding through the FASTPASS or single rider lines). The novelty of upgrading your spaceship or hunting for Tinker Bell’s lost items is exciting the first time you try Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight, but it may not be as engrossing during a second trip through the line.

It’s also worth noting that Disney has yet to develop mini games for each of their attractions. In both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, guests will find “Off to Neverland” at Peter Pan’s Flight and “Rocket Race” at Space Mountain; Disney California Adventure features “Playset Party” at Toy Story Midway Mania and “Disney Colorwheel Challenge” at Pixar Pier (an interactive game that preceded the app); EPCOT offers “Soarin’ Challenge” at Soarin’ Around the World and “Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure” at World Showcase (as with the Colorwheel Challenge, both of these games preceded the app); Disney’s Hollywood Studios has “Playset Party” at Toy Story Midway Mania and “Andy’s Board Game Blast!” at Slinky Dog Dash; and at Animal Kingdom, guests can opt into “Disney’s Animal Kingdom Animal Expeditions” at Maharajah Jungle Trek and Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. (The app has yet to develop anything to make the five-hour wait for Flight of Passage feel any shorter.)

One important tip: You can “cheat” the app by claiming to be at the entrance of a queue if, say, you’re waiting in line for Splash Mountain but feel like playing a little “Off to Neverland.” Keep in mind, however, that the interactive elements you need to complete some games won’t be accessible as they’re inextricably linked to specific attractions.

Pro: It’s more readily accessible than stationary queue-based entertainment.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Image: DebMomOf3, Flickr (license)

Prior to the launch of the Play Disney Parks app, the closest Disney got to interactive queues were the random activities found at some of Walt Disney World’s more popular attractions, like the space-themed video games in Space Mountain’s queue, interactive shadows at Peter Pan’s Flight and colorful gem matching game in the line leading up to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. While these features are still-unparalleled when it comes to immersing guests in a ride’s backstory, it often wasn’t worth waiting in a standby line to experience them—and, most frustrating of all, guests often had to wait a long time before they got a chance to experience the games themselves (or were rushed right past them if the line picked up pace at the wrong moment).

App-based games, on the other hand, are available to every parkgoer at any point in the queue, no matter how fast or slow it’s moving. And thanks to the stealthy incorporation of elements like Tinker Bell’s lost items and rocket upgrade codes, guests can still find fun ways to interact with the queue as they move through it.

Con: It’s not geared toward solo travelers.

Single rider line

Image: Theme Park Tourist, Flickr (license)

While the Disney Parks tend to attract more families, couples, and friend groups than solo travelers, they’re still an important demographic—and even big groups of parkgoers may split off to experience different attractions and shows on their own at some point during the day. When using the app, however, each of the mini games (arguably its most engrossing feature) has a requisite player minimum of two people. This is a great idea for parents who want to distract and entertain young children or friends who need a fun new way to pass time together, but for the single rider, it becomes a non-option unless they create a fake second user to play against. It’s a workable solution, sure, but not one that feels fun… especially for those who may already feel self-conscious about tackling the parks on their own.

Pro: It’s adaptable for future attractions and lands.

Sign for Star Wars Land

Image: Theme Park Tourist, Flickr (license)

This is perhaps the biggest upside to the app so far—like Disneyland, it’s never finished. There’s no doubt that Disney will continue to add mini games, trivia, and other lands to the app in the months and years to come, particularly once Star Wars Land debuts in Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 2019. For now, there’s plenty of time to collect all of the ride badges, exhaust “Rocket Race” and “Andy’s Board Game Blast!” and become a trivia expert before the next big update rolls around.

Hopefully, the future of the app will also include more inclusive features for solo travelers and single riders, more mini games for attractions that see the longest wait times (including Flight of Passage, Splash Mountain, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission – Breakout! and the Incredicoaster, among others) as well as an expansion of offerings that include rides at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.


Have you tried the Play Disney Parks app? Which do you prefer: the app’s games, music, and trivia options or the hands-on activities already built into the queues?