Bugged by spiders? Beware of Six Flags ride

6:20 p.m Thursday, March 9, 2017 Atlanta Events

Acrophobia has turned into arachnophobia at Six Flags Over Georgia.

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Thanks to virtual reality technology, the amusement park’s drop tower ride has become an adventure in which riders battle giant mutant spiders. If you have a fear of heights or of spiders, consider yourself warned.

Hyosub Shin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Members of the media ride Drop of Doom VR, a new virtual reality version of the Acrophobia drop tower, at Six Flags Over Georgia this week. Using Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus, riders become the pilots of a futuristic gunship under attack by mutant spiders. The technology makes the ride up seem to be 100 stories, not the actual 20. Six Flags Over Georgia will open for the season on Saturday, March 11. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

The Acrophobia ride itself has not changed; after being hoisted 20 stories up in the air, riders pause briefly before plummeting back to the ground. But guests will don Samsung virtual reality headsets that change the ride, now known as Drop of Doom VR, into something totally different.

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Instead of an amusement park, the area is transformed into a futuristic urban scene. The ride up seems to be 100 stories, not 20. And at the top, riders are greeted by giant spiders. The headsets let riders shoot at the invaders, much like playing a video game, except you fire the gun by tapping the side of the headset.

The excitement builds as you (and the spiders) drop seemingly 100 stories to the ground. Everybody ends up safe, but not before a final encounter with a furry arachnid.

Hyosub Shin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The AJC’s Tom Kelley (right) and Tim Baldwin (left), communications director of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, ride Drop of Doom VR, a new virtual reality version of the Acrophobia drop tower, at Six Flags Over Georgia this week. Using Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus, riders become the pilots of a futuristic gunship under attack by mutant spiders. Drop of Doom VR debuts Saturday, March 11, when Six Flags Over Georgia opens for the season. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

“It’s really creepy, futuristically creepy,” said Tim Baldwin, communications director of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, a roller coaster fan club that enjoys all types of rides. “It adds another level of intensity — let’s take 20 stories and make it 100. That’s crazy!”

Visitors to the park last year may recall that Six Flags used the same equipment to transform the Dare Devil Dive roller coaster into a battle with invaders from space. The Drop of Doom VR setup is the first time Six Flags is using the technology on a drop tower attraction, and the addition of the special effects and the storyline has transformed the ride into a virtually new attraction. “It’s now two rides,” Baldwin said.

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The virtual ride experience is included in the price of admission to the park. To use the virtual reality headsets, riders must be at least 13 years old. Those younger than 13, or with a fear of spiders, can ride the old-fashioned way without the special headgear. Six Flags says the virtual setup will be offered for a limited time through spring, but it is not ruling out an extended run.

Drop of Doom VR debuts Saturday, when Six Flags Over Georgia opens for the season. “It’s a great kickoff to our 50th anniversary,” said Dale Kaetzel, president of Six Flags Over Georgia. The park, which opened in 1967, will be celebrating its history with a display near the park entrance and elsewhere in the park, including a special recognition on the train ride that encircles the park.

Hyosub Shin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The AJC’s Tom Kelley and others ride Drop of Doom VR, a new virtual reality version of the Acrophobia drop tower, at Six Flags Over Georgia this week. On March 11, Six Flags Over Georgia will open the country’s first-ever permanent drop tower virtual reality attraction. Using Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus, riders become the pilots of a futuristic gunship under attack by mutant spiders. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Hyosub Shin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The AJC’s Tom Kelley (right) and Emily Thomas react after they rode Drop of Doom VR, a new virtual reality version of the Acrophobia drop tower, at Six Flags Over Georgia. Using Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus, riders become the pilots of a futuristic gunship under attack by mutant spiders. Drop of Doom VR debuts Saturday, March 11, when Six Flags Over Georgia opens for the season. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
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