The 8 Ways HBO’s Westworld is The Best and Worst of Videogames
By Matthew Arcilla
Hailed as television’s next big thing, HBO’s Westworld has been generating a bit of buzz from all kinds of fanboys and fangirls. But what is it exactly about? No one knows for sure at this point. One thing we do know, Westworld feels like a videogame. Here are our arguments why it embodies the best and the worst about playing in a virtual world.
8. “History” is the playground.
Despite being sold as a fantasy wrapped within historical accuracy, Westworld has more in common with the Wild West described in cinema and paperback lore. That’s right, it ain’t no simulation of a real frontier but rather, a John Ford Western theme park with no inconvenient diseases or gun control laws. One thing we can count on never seeing on the park? Feral camels.
7. Recycling assets.
To depict hundreds of non-player characters in a vast environment, compromises need to be made. In video games, re-used textures and models are a necessary evil. In Westworld, the Hosts are shuffled around to play different roles. Why print a new android when you can re-use one? That’s right, despite the $40,000 guests pay per day, the engineers of Westworld still have to think about overhead.
6. Software updates, feature rollbacks.
In the first episode of Westworld, concerns are had over a new update causing memory glitches in the Hosts. The solution is a complete rollback to a previous version of code. Gamers know what that’s all about. Many games today require a launch day patch. Meanwhile, online games are constantly being evaluated for necessary changes to rules and mechanics.
5. The limits of script writing.
A world where the players are free to act out with limits, is ironically limited by the amount of script available. Sure, the Hosts respond to changes in the storyline brought about by guests, but after twenty four hours, they relive the same day. It’s an awfully finite story loop, but that’s what the park gets when it has only one writer.
4. Keep the players coming.
While the Westworld experience might feel like a videogame, it’s less of a product and more like a service. Narrative designer Lee Sizemore is under pressure to create new narratives and experiences to ensure guests keep coming back, if not spread the word. Just like contemporary videogames, which are transforming into long-term entertainment services filled with monthly events and new content.
3. Adventure finds you.
While guests of Westworld are encouraged to discover their own entertainments, the park’s designers leave nothing to chance. All manner of Hosts call out to them to guarantee they get their money’s worth. In today’s video games, quest givers draw attention to themselves to pass on adventure, while other diversions are always a short distance away.
2. Achievement unlocked.
Park director Robert Ford says the appeal of Westworld is more than just story and fantasy, but about noticing the subtle details. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the exploits of the Man in Black. His seemingly random behavior is actually his quest to unlock the park’s hidden mysteries. You could say that while quests are for noobs, the hardcore gamers look for ‘what’s not meant to be found’.
1. Discovering yourself.
It’s easy to write off videogames as mere escapist folly. But just about any gamer can tell you that there’s something more. Games aren’t just for acting out, and neither is Westworld. Like a good videogame, Westworld gives you the chance to be what you aspire to be, hero or villain. As Ford puts it, guests keep coming back not to learn who they are, but for a glimpse of who they could be.
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