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Artificial Adventure, Recreation & Leisure Environments

James Neill
Last updated:
25 Dec 2004

What's New?

Why go artificial?

  • Dwindling natural resources

  • Minimizes mass impact on natural resources

  • Convenience / accessibility

  • Novelty

  • Capacity to create & repeat specific qualities of experience

  • Moldability & scalability

Introduction to Artificial Adventure Environments

The first artificial environments were the first shelters made by our homo ancestors, roughly 4 million years ago.  However, it was arguably not until the 20th century that human consciousness shifted massively indoors and large cultures of society lived almost exclusively in artificial environments.

Around the turn of the last century, not one of the futurists predicting our prospective lives, mentioned anything remotely connected with the computer.
- John Scully, former CEO Apple

Indeed, very few futurists at the turn of the 20th century predicted computers or that our lives would become almost entirely dominated by artificial environments.

As a result, people's interest in adventure and outdoor recreation and leisure has also turned to the artificial, coupled with the increasing challenges of finding natural environments in which to recreate and adventure. 

Thus, around the turn of the 21st century we see a new proliferation of artificial Indoor Ice Climbing - The Ice Factoradventure environments underway, as we rapidly consume nature at one end and spit out a constructed environment at the other end. 

A major point in the timeline of artificial adventure environments is the creation of Project Adventure in 1972, the organisation which professionalized and popularized ropes challenge courses and games for building trust and teamwork.  Other examples of artificial adventure and recreation environments include:

  • Playgrounds (Sherri Arnold)

  • Indoor game and sport environments (e.g., gymnasiums)

  • Indoor and outdoor climbing walls

  • Water theme parks & constructed whitewater systems

  • Artificial snow and skiing

Examples of Artificial Environments

Trends & Predictions

With regard to the future of adventure programming, one of Priest and Gass' (1997) predictions was that "artificial adventure environments will dominate" and that "to some extent this is already the case".  They went on to explain:

In North America, group initiative tasks and ropes or challenge courses have all but replaced the classic outdoor pursuits with corporate clientele. A proliferation of course builders has created the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) to standardize construction and safety for thousands of American courses in use today. These numbers are expected to grow exponentially in the future, with similar patterns of growth and standardization now being seen in Australia, Canada, Britain and the rest of Europe. Shrinking natural outdoor settings, coupled with the cost and danger of transporting clients (the most dangerous part of most programs) will necessitate that alternatives be found. Some alternatives might include the already popular: climbing walls, ski slopes, kayak roll tanks, and whitewater canoe chutes. Others have yet to be invented.

Researchers on Artificial Adventure Environments

  • Colin Beard, Sheffield Hallam University

  • Aram Attarian, North Carolina State University