Roller Coaster Chess

Roller Coaster Chess

Part of a series on Photo Fads. [View Related Entries]

Updated Mar 07, 2014 at 09:31PM EST by James.

Added Dec 30, 2009 at 12:41AM EST by Bill.

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Roller Coaster Chess (also known as “Extreme Board Game”) is a photo fad that involves bringing a board game on an amusement park ride, and posing for the camera that takes pictures for souvenirs. It is typically accomplished by gluing the pieces of the game to the board so when the photo is taken it appears as if the participants have been playing the game during the course of the ride.


On April 16th, 2007, cartoonist Randall Munroe illustrated the original idea (shown left) on his web comic blog xkcd[1]:

On July 18th, 2007, Munroe published a photograph[2] sent to him of Andrew Burke, Chris Ranker, Ryan Dowlingsoka and Chance Brown, who experimented with the photo fad while visiting the Daredevil Falls at the Dollywood Park in Tennessee (shown right above). Later that same month, YouTuber heelofkevinZ posted several videos[2] taken from the same trip to Dollywood, which showed a group of friends playing chess on the Daredevil Falls, the River Raft ride and the Kiddie Car ride.


Burke and his friends’ xkcd photo tributes were picked up on the same day by Digg[4] and BoingBoing[9]. Two days later on July 20th, 2007, Munroe compiled the fan photos into a gallery page titled “Chess Coaster.”[10] Some of the earliest fan submissions to be featured on the site included pictures of Jared Meadows and Renea Campbell at King’s Dominion (shown far left), as well as one of Captain Phillip Sprincin (shown far right) posing with a chessboard on a military aircraft:

In the following months, the xkcd gallery link was reblogged by numerous internet humor blogs and social news aggregator sites like Neatorama[8], TheChive[3] and eBaumsworld.[5] Thereafter, other readers on xkcd began posting their own variations with boardgames like Checkers, Jenga, and House of Cards; some even took the joke to the next level by brushing teeth or reading books or looking rather unamused during the ride.

Notable Examples

Google Image search for “Roller Coaster Chess”[6] reveals hundreds of users-submitted photographs in which subjects are seen posing with chess boards and checkerboards while on amusement rides or in “extreme transit.”

Derivative: Extreme Board Games

Following the rise of “Roller Coaster Chess” photo fad in the summer of 2007, a colorful variety of spin-off fads featuring other board games in all sorts of extreme or unusual settings began to emerge.

Search Interest

Google search volume for “Roller Coaster Chess” picked up significantly in July 2007, the month when Munroe posted the first pictures sent into him by readers. According to Google Trends result, interest seems to stay high during summer months and dip during coaster off season in winter months. As May rolls around and Spring resurfaces, so do new pictures.

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