Fantasy camps have existed for sports lovers for decades -- middle-aged guys can, for a price, play basketball or baseball alongside Hall of Famers and live out all of their jock fantasies that never came true. But there has never been an equivalent for the sci-fi geek or rabid movie lover. Why the hell can't we pay to, say, experience a real zombie apocalypse, or become a spy?
Well, it turns out you totally can. Start saving up so you can ...
On some level we all know that an undead takeover of the planet would be a terrible thing, but at the same time, we're also secretly rooting for it. But the only way most of us can shoot a shambling corpse in the head is by investing in shovels and marionette strings. Unless ...
Just outside of London lies an abandoned mall that offers zombie enthusiasts a dream come true. Zed Events has decided to cash in on the zombie fad by taking the 250,000-square-foot edifice and converting it into a real-life zombie survival fun house. For about 200 bucks, visitors can spend the day seeing how well they would fare if the undead actually did rise up against humankind (or, rather, experience a fantasy version of that in which we heroically survive rather than get killed within five minutes when we discover that chainsaws are not actually effective close-combat weapons).
It's difficult to get a gun in England, making this whole zombie scenario very unrealistic.
The experience starts with a training session, where participants are given Airsoft guns and taught the basics of survival and combat in the mall. From there, it's a "running of the bulls" mad dash for safety, except instead of bulls it's zombies, or at least dudes convincingly dressed as zombies.
Zombies with much better tailors than you.
Once you've survived this stampede, you're tasked with missions throughout the mall, all while wondering if a zombie will be lurking right around the corner. And, unfortunately, your ammo is severely limited, so the experience is as much about being able to evade capture as it is about being able to shoot everything in sight. As far as experiencing the kind of adrenaline rush that only exists in the aftermath of a devastating horror movie apocalypse, it's as close as you can get without moving to Detroit.
The Walmart greeters around there are pretty enthusiastic.
The "regular guy gets caught up in a spy scheme" bit is a Hollywood staple, from Cary Grant in North by Northwest to Larry the Cable Guy in Cars 2. So we all had that fantasy as kids -- say, a mole infiltrates an elite spy organization, kills an agent and infects their computer system with an unknown virus. Somehow it's up to us and our friends to help, because we somehow have acquired the specific skills needed for the task, despite our complete lack of training or experience.
"No, I got this. I go to cut the red wire and at the last minute change to green. It never fails."
The Citadel, in Phoenix, Arizona, is a local business that puts on an immersive, sprawling, six-hour spy experience with live actors, special effects and guided missions aimed at making you forget that assistant managers at Burger King don't normally get to participate in international espionage. It's basically LARPing Mission: Impossible.
You and your team (it takes four people to play) interact with actors and videos to introduce you to the premise and are given a GPS device, some high-tech walkie-talkies and a broadband-connected laptop. Then, you're set loose on several indoor and outdoor locations in downtown Phoenix so you can find preplanted evidence and clues, sort of like "How to Host a Murder," only fun. You are expected to find and make contact with "agents" along the way who are actors in disguise and could be literally anyone you see on the streets.
This guy seems pretty conspicuous.
That actually sounds like it could make for some extremely uncomfortable misunderstandings. Take this article about the game:
It's almost 6:30 when team Dragon's mission starts. They will not finish until 12:30 in the morning. Along the way, they will stop at eight locations and encounter more than six actors, some disguised as everyday Phoenicians. Some of the clues they will uncover are cleverly hidden -- for example, a clue could be a message embedded in a book that's sitting on the shelves of a bookstore, or hidden inside a fake advertisement video on YouTube for a fictional local taxi company, or tucked into a pack of cigarettes some unconscious bum's clutching in a park.
"Attempt to rob everyone you see, because anything could be a clue."
You read that last part right. They don't see a problem with you going fishing through the belongings of unconscious homeless people for clues (a classic hiding place for incriminating evidence in a global web of conspiracy). The potential for real-life adventure is off the charts!
Assuming you're able to avoid all the vagrant-rape-related obstacles and finish the game alive and with your virtue intact, you are scored on how much information you and your team were able to uncover. If you do well enough, you could be listed on the Citadel's website as a top performing team. Conspicuously absent is the list of top teams murdered by hobos.
Currently this is the top team, which just means that the best agents are those you least suspect.
Whenever you're watching an adrenaline-fueled action sequence, you're watching the unsung heroes of the movie industry: the stuntmen. While, in the audience's eyes, Bruce Willis gets credit for jumping off the wing of the plane and onto the villain's limo, the stuntmen are the ones who do it for real. So if you dream of being a Hollywood action star who smashes through windows to deliver spin-kicks to masked assassins, you're not dreaming of being Jason Bourne. You're dreaming of being these guys. And the only thing between you and them is an entire lifetime of physical training.
"How the fuck did I get here?"
Or, you can join the one-day stuntman course in England at Regent Park Studios. For one tit-rocking, action-packed day, you can be a stuntman under the tutelage of Martin Shenton, a former army instructor and current stuntman whose work has been seen in movies like 28 Weeks Later and Tomorrow Never Dies, and some BBC shows where he flies through windows and stuff (and here we thought British storytelling was all people in Victorian-era costumes delivering withering bons mots to each other).
"I find you quite the oaf, good sir, and rather ill-maannneeeered!"
After you take some introductory lessons on basic action work (such as how to take a fall without breaking anything), you are thrust into some common stunts, like being run over by a car. Sure, it's not ramping a car over a train, but these people have to deal with liability insurance just like the rest of us.
It costs extra to be run over by anything other than a Citroen.
After that, your group can do battle with an assortment of stunt guns and knives before falling the hell down a flight of goddamn stairs (this is something of a specialty for Shenton, as he holds the world record for falling down 109 concrete steps). After the day's bruising activities conclude, you get a video of your antics as a one-off stuntman, so you have something you'll be constantly showing your friends, assuming you didn't crap your pants and leave a trail of feces down the stairs you were falling down. In which case you need to post that shit straight to YouTube.
For an extra hundred bucks, they'll let you race a Slinky.
Not content to be a single unbelievable fantasy setting, Middle-earth has all the variety you would expect from a fully formed magical world. It has vast plains, huge forests, craggy mountains, Hobbiton and Rivendell and a giant fire-belching volcano for the melting of finger-eating lunatics. It's a fantasy geek's dream vacation, yet there's no way it could exist anywhere on Earth outside of tons of graph paper and dice with too many sides.
Such a dream can only be conjured by Mountain Dew: Code Red and whole bags of Cheetos.
Of course, thousands of Lord of the Rings fans who are reading this have already screamed "THAT WAS NEW ZEALAND, YOU PHILISTINES!" For some of our fans, that's literally the only reason they know about the island between Australia and the ass end of nowhere where sheep outnumber people 8 to 1. As a result, a whole cottage industry popped up out of nowhere to cater to every elf-loving fan with a substantial travel budget. Companies like this (and this) offer trips ranging anywhere from an afternoon in Hobbiton to a full 13-day tour that takes you to Gondor, Mount Doom and all the other main locations from the movies.
The Misty Mountains.
Sean Bean's grave (19 of 22).
These companies even have fantasy armor and weapons for guests to be photographed in. Want to take a picture in front of Bag End with Glamdring? No worries. Need a full armor set and Narsil for a photo to impress your buddies on the fencing team? They've got you covered.
They have to cut your shins out to fit the dwarf armor on. It's totally worth it.
Obviously, the scenery is missing a lot of CGI towers and continuously erupting volcanoes, but sharp-eyed fans will recognize the landscape from their favorite scenes. If nothing else, the tour guides will make goddamned sure of it.
Here's the place where either Saruman assumed power or this guy had a picnic.
As countless websites too depressing to research prove, there's no shortage of people on the Internet who experienced their sexual awakenings during Star Trek reruns and Princess Leia's bikini scenes in Return of the Jedi. As such, they can no longer achieve maximum sexual satisfaction with women who aren't doing some kind of exotic sci-fi cosplay.
Unfortunately, unless there's some unintentionally hilarious dating service out there that we aren't aware of, there's no way this particular part of their personalities can ever be sated in the form of actual sex. Or is there?
Right down the road from Area 51 is the proposed site of a sci-fi themed brothel that will let you explore extraterrestrial bathing suit zones with your beef probe. It's being set up by Dennis Hof, a man described as "the most successful brothel entrepreneur" in Nevada.
We don't know who this red, sweaty man is. He must have stumbled into the shot.
Hof explains that he envisions the establishment to be modeled after the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars. Guests will be able to sleep with slave girl Leia, dress up like Darth Vader and seduce a sexy Stormtrooper (because that had to have happened at least once) or just Captain Kirk the hell out of some boobacious green alien woman (Hof actually plans to include a "Kirk Room" featuring the captain's chair from the original series). And it's all completely legal (prostitution is legal in Nevada, as long as it's in controlled brothels like this).
"Why three boobs when you can have 12 boobs? Why not just a woman made of boobs?"
Hof argues that an entire generation of young men has grown up on video games and now lacks the social experience to really have sex unless they can adopt a persona and immerse themselves in a scenario that provides them with the confidence they need. This is another way of saying that preying on socially incapable sci-fi nerds, and offering them sci-fi titties, is an excellent business model. Who the hell are we to disagree?
The only difference between science fiction and pornography is a sense of shame.
For more ridiculous ways to blow your money, check out The 6 Worst "Vacations" People Actually Pay For and 7 Great Products for Telling the World You're a Rich Dick.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see which columnist has his house set up like World 1-1 of Mario.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infographic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!