Great America closes virtual reality ride after claims of insensitivity

- A virtual reality experience at California’s Great America has been pulled from its park following concerns that the attraction was harmful to people who suffer from mental illness.

Fear VR was a virtual reality feature that strapped users into a chair and allowed them to experience a horror filled hospital through the view of goggles. It debuted last weekend at three parks owned by Cedar Fair Amusement Parks: California’s Great America, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Canada’s Wonderland.

Mental health advocates from Southern California first raised concerns about the attraction. On person sent out a tweet that said a psych ward with a demonic patient is not entertainment. The National Alliance on Mental Illness echoes that concern.

“To reinforce the stereotype of the dangerous, psychopath on the loose, breaking out of the hospital is incredibly damaging,” Anne Fischer, Executive Director of NAMI San Francisco, said.

Fischer said one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition and many delay seeking treatment because of public perception.

“It’s appalling that in this day and age things like that still exist,” she said. “It makes you realize there is so much stigma against mental illness.”

Cedar Fair, the company that owns Great America, released the following statement:

California’s Great America is proud of its popular annual Halloween Haunt event.  For nine years we have delivered unique and immersive haunted experiences to our fans and loyal guests.  Our evening attractions are designed to be edgy, and are aimed at an adult-only audience.  Over the past week we have heard from a number of people expressing their concern that one of our temporary, Halloween attractions - FearVR - is hurtful to those who suffer from mental illnesses.  Contrary to some traditional and social media accounts, the attraction's story and presentation were never intended to portray mental illness.  As it is impossible to address both concerns and misconceptions in the Halloween timeframe, at this time we have decided to close the attraction.

FEAR VR has pulled the attraction from all three of its locations.

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