Previously, we looked at the notion of Credit Whoring and how some folks will go to nearly any length to add another name to their list of coasters ridden. There is one big point that was intentionally left out of that article, though, because it deserves an article all its own... namely, "Can I Count This as a Credit?"
That may seem like an easy question, but as technology advances and elements of several different kinds of amusement rides merge into a single experience, the lines become blurred as to what is or isn't a coaster.
Rides like Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Universal Studios Florida) or Wonder Mountain's Guardian (Canada's Wonderland) have sections of gravity-driven action along coaster-like track, but the main experience is that of a more traditional dark ride attraction.
Big Timber at Enchanted Forest in Oregon looks like a log flume, but the wheeled log-shaped cars lose the water for a bit in the middle of the ride and navigate a drop and a rise on tracks before returning to the water. Almost everyone counts this ride as a coaster. Disney's Splash Mountain rides have a similar experience during the "Laughing Place" part of the journey, but almost no one counts these rides as coasters. It's all so confusing!
Then there are Alpine Coasters, wheeled sleds that run on a continual downhill (never uphill) journey down the side of a mountain on rails. While that seems like a no-brainer, since it clearly rolls along a track, it complicates matters when you realize that the rider has a brake handle and can control the speed of the ride. Does this interaction disqualify it as a real coaster? Maybe the fact that many of them are not continuous-circuit tracks, that you need to ride a ski lift to the top rather than ride the sled up, might change your mind.
Oh, and how about if that Alpine experience has a trough for the wheeled sled rather than rails? Can you call that a coaster?
Have a look at those two pictures above. Some people get mocked for including rides like the Alpine Slide in the top picture on their list, which simultaneously counting the rides like Kings Dominion'sAvalanche in the bottom picture on their own lists. Heated debates have waged over the likes of this, I kid you not.
At least all the rides mentioned so far are powered (at least in part) by gravity and roll on wheels. Thus, even the most die-hard purist could begrudgingly understand why someone could make the argument that if it rolls on wheels and coasts via gravity that it could be counted as a roller coaster, even if it doesn't look like a traditional coaster.
But what if it never coasts? Could you call it a coaster?
When the Six Flags chain of parks unveiled their new additions for 2015, several of the parks were listed as getting a ride like the one shown above, commonly called a Super Loop. In all cases, the ride is powered from beginning to end and never operates on gravity. In all cases, Six Flags is advertising the new ride as a coaster. While the enthusiast community went ballistic over this and took to social media to call them out for it, the general public will likely just buy into it and call it a coaster because the park does. After all, it looks like one and it goes loopty-loop and all.
Even websites devoted to helping you keep track of what you've ridden don't agree on what's a coaster and what isn't. American Coaster Enthusiasts keeps a census of operating coasters worldwide. They count the Alpine Coasters with the rails, but not the ones with the troughs (which are usually called Alpine Slides). It should be noted, though, that they put Alpine Coasters in a separate category and they aren't counted in the grand total of worldwide coasters.
Rollercoaster Database now counts the tracked ones as steel coasters without a separate category, but originally, it didn't count either type of Alpine ride. It does count the Big Timber flume, but not any of the Splash Mountain flumes. It also counts powered coasters, but not Super Loops.
Clearly, then, there should be someone who should step in and determine once and for all what can be counted as a Coaster Credit and what can't. It would all be easy coasting downhill from there, yes?
Even if there were such a list and even if every enthusiast agreed to it (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA), there would still be raging debate amongst the Conservative Counters, the Crehos, and all those in between as to when it's OK to count credit for a coaster, even if the coaster were on 'the list'.
For example: some coasters are built with two or more completely separate tracks on the same general structure and are known by one name. If you ride both tracks, do you count two credits or just one? If you opt for the "one name, one credit" philosophy, counting the two tracks as a single coaster, but you only get to ride one of the tracks, do you count a half-credit?
Some folks go into detail with this, saying that if the two tracks are basically identical or simply mirror images of each other, it counts as one, whereas those whose tracks are more individualized (like Hersheypark's Lightning Racer shown above) then they count as two.
Another sticking point: Lots of coasters are production models. Namely, a park will choose a particular model of coaster that is offered by a manufacturer, give it a name and a color scheme and plop it down in the park. Great. But you rode the exact same model already at another park. Do you count it as a new coaster for your list? Considering the popularity of coasters like Vekoma's Boomerang model (shown below), which seemed to pop up nearly everywhere for awhile, this can affect your count substantially. "But since each one is at a different park and the location affects the overall ride experience, it should be a new credit." Gotcha.
Let's take it one more step with this hypothetical, yet very common scenario: You ride a coaster at park A. The park later sells the coaster to park B, which moves it and sets it up there. You ride the coaster again at park B. It has a different name now and is maybe painted a different color. Do you count it again? Surely the new setting at the new park gives it a wholly different ride experience, and you can count it again, right? RIGHT?
But if it's just a different ride experience that's the key, let's look at the Mr Freeze coasters at Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags St Louis. When they opened, the trains were fitted with over-the-shoulder restraints that had padded sections that sandwiched your head between them, effectively holding your head in place. The ride launches to 70mph down a runway, then goes straight up into a "top hat" inversion, does a large overbanked turn, then ascends a 238ft spike before stopping and repeating the journey backward. Doing all of that with your head sandwiched between the restraints was a less-than-stellar experience.
A few years later, the head restraints were removed and the trains simply had lap bar restraints, allowing riders to look around and see things beyond what was directly in front of them. By all accounts, the ride experience was significantly improved with the changes... but significantly enough to count it as a new credit?
How about a few years after that when the trains were turned around to face the opposite direction, meaning that the launch was now backward and that tall spike in the middle was done with riders looking straight down at the ground? Six Flags felt it different enough to change the name of the rides to "Mr Freeze: Reverse Blast" as if it were a new coaster - but is it a new credit?
For 2015, Cedar Point in Ohio took the trains off their Mantis coaster, in which you rode in a standing position, and replaced them with trains where riders are sitting, but with no floor beneath their feet. They painted the track a different color and renamed the ride Rougarou - before it even opened, there are raging debates on online forums about whether or not it's a new credit.
One final consideration: if you ride the coaster, but it suffers a breakdown before you reach the end of the ride and you are evacuated from the train and walked back down, do you count that ride? If it stopped on the initial lift hill, most people would say no, but if you got all the way to the final brake run and just walked the last few feet into the station, that's a lot less certain.
Perhaps you are now shaking your head at the lunacy of all this angst over whether or not something "counts." It does seem a bit silly, but when people are passionate about something, they can take it personally at times. Some folks count every little thing that even resembles a coaster while others rule out all but the most standard of coaster types. Which is right?
Well, if you've read this far in hopes of getting a definitive statement about what you should or should not count, you'll be disappointed. Simply put, there is no definitive statement and there probably shouldn't be. Each person should count the rides he or she deems appropriate to count, period. Sure, that will mean that there are folks out there who claim to have ridden more rides than you, while your count is only lower than theirs because you don't count Alpine Slides, powered coasters, First-Gen Intamin drop towers, traveling carnival coasters, or Big Timber and they do... but until there's some sort of monetary prize for reaching certain milestones on your credits list, it shouldn't matter. If they inflate their count, who does it hurt, really?
It's like my mom used to say: "If you cheat to win a game of solitaire, you're the only one who gets cheated."