Since the premiere of its first season in 2016, I’ve always felt like the Westworld TV series made particularly compelling commentary on video game preferences. Like many other sci-fi movies, the show uses futuristic technology and far-fetched ideas to delve into the matter. But at its core, it’s still a show about the psychology of playing a game and how that game is really all about life and the decisions we make to shape that life. Westworld may not borrow long-standing video game licenses. Still, with its insightful and often surprising perspectives, it has emerged as the best show about video games, their potential, and their threat I’ve ever seen.
SPOILERS follows the entire Westworld television series, up to and including current episodes of Season 4.
Anyone who has played an MMO can grasp the setup presented when the show’s first season begins. Real-life player characters are dressed in period-appropriate costumes and plunge straight into a world filled with people for quests, side objectives, and free-form exploration. Westworld’s most important twist, of course, is the awareness and interest of those fledgling real-world NPCs and the pernicious effects of a group of people willing to ignore the suffering of others. to have a good time.
Aside from the recurring themes of free will that dominated those early episodes, I recall being consistently impressed by the show’s story, especially its understanding of game design and writing – and Good design requires a deep understanding of human psychology. Whether you’ve DMed a D&D game to your friends, or you’re part of a team building the next three-A console RPG, the truth is understanding your players’ desires is key. to create something interesting.
The first episodes of the current fourth season double down on the allusion to video games and are not so subtle about nods. Composer Ramin Djawadi helps open the season with another catchy orchestral cover of familiar songs, this time with “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey. The music plays to accompany Christina’s pensive musings, nun Dolores, as she ponders a new character in the game she’s writing.
That game was a product of Olympiad Entertainment, a fictional game company in the Westworld universe that initially seemed to share the same cache as today’s most prominent game studios, but perhaps even more exaggerated. The name “Olympiad” seems like a play on words to recall Mount Olympus, home to the capricious gods of Greek mythology who once ruled a powerless humanity, with recent episodes rich evidence for the case.
Here in the fourth season, Christina is appalled at her role in the world (as a writer of human destinies), Caleb’s difficult journey through multiple games across screens and revival, and even Bernard’s ability to seem to “cheat” by knowing the possible outcomes of every interaction choice – all of them clever variations on video game conventions. In each situation, episodes of Westworld exploit established aspects of the novel to create conflict for the main characters. But dedicated game players can enjoy an extra layer of explanation – each character is a player or creator of a vast and confusing game.
If so, why? Indeed, gaming is an integral part of the enthusiast and a fertile source of inspiration for future backward thinking. But I suspect the show’s creators have more of what they’re trying to say with the constant references to video games.
Video game insinuations over and over again emphasize many of the same feelings we experience while playing games. It is the feeling that our experiences may not be entirely real, and that we should question the nature of our own reality. Like players in a game, having a Westworld character experience is futile; Everyone is striving to achieve something but often find themselves simply having to start from scratch. Westworld leverages the gaming experience to make an existential requirement for its characters, so that they spin the wheel as they try to learn the rules.
Most importantly, it’s also a way to use the program’s mind-twisting settings to suggest that at its core, life is often no more than a game, albeit a complicated one. Like the show’s often tortured characters, the show’s writers seem to suggest that we all tend to get caught up in the conventions of the game of life we play every day. . We set goals and objectives. We pursue rewards that are fun, fast, and easy. We follow the rules, or break them. We initiate or manage conflicts. And, if we get too caught up in the game’s challenges and goals, Westworld’s novels show that we can lose sight of moments worth living.
My interest in Westworld is ingrained and flows through the seasons of its year. But throughout its narrative, I often smile as I watch its many twists and turns, imagining how its characters seem to be part of a vast and complex treatise on game design. play and player psychology. In whatever ending the player ultimately achieves, I’ll still love how the show speaks to my love of gaming, and I can’t wait to see if its characters finally win. are not.