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What's It Like to Go to Westworld? Turns Out, It's Real Easy to Get into Being a Black Hat...

By Seth Freilich | TV | March 11, 2018 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | March 11, 2018 |


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HBO brought Westworld to this year’s South by Southwest and fuck if it wasn’t a god damned blast. Here’s my favorite moment, showing the interactive fun you could have, before we dive in go through the whole experience…

I want all the robots to have all the agression!

Anyway, the setup was that after checking in at this bar, you go up to a sweet rooftop deck that they set up as the Mesa Gold Station. This is where you got your hat (along with some fruit water drink thing and a frito nacho concoction that was way better than it had any business being):

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Eventually, we were led onto a bus and, 30-odd minutes later, rolled into Austin’s J. Lorraine Ghost Town. Some Westworld coins in hand, it was onto the train and then into Westworld…

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HBO took the Westworld: Live Without Limits experience seriously. It took 4 months to set up with a 40-person crew, leading to some 60 actors and 6 stunt performers putting on a variety of scenes from a script that HBO claims was over 400 pages long. You could get drinks at the bar (whiskey or tequila … I’ll take both, thank ya kindly), pick up some mail waiting for you, and wander around wherever you’d like.

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What was in my letter, you say? Just a robot stalker what went a little crazy…

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In and of itself, the whole setup is neat. But where it got really fun was if you started to buy into it, interacting with the characters and trying to interject into the scenes. I got my first taste of that when I bumped into a technician and asked her why she wasn’t dressed up? “Cause I’m not one of them,” she growled at me.

But how do you know?

“Cause I got free will.”

…Yeah, but wouldn’t they say that too?

“…” She then turned and walked away in disgust. I made the character angry!

Cut to a few minutes later, and the video I posted above, where I later got that same technician to tweak up a robot’s aggression. Now that, my friends, that’s power. With the whiskey settling in, the black hat riding tall on my head, and the realization that you could have some fun, I went full bad. I tried to get a samurai (OH! HAI! Did I mention that a Samurai wandered in from another World?) to try to kill me…

There’s a great 10-minute set-piece that I happened to be in the right place at the right time for, such that I could try to get a character to commit murder most foul (and I will not tell you how it played out because some secrets stay in Westworld)…

That time I was the devil on his shoulder 😈 #sxsw #westworld

A post shared by Seth Freilich (@sethfreilich) on

And then there was my favorite moment when I think I maybe almost got shot for real…

Sheriff almost shot me LOL #sxsw #westworld

A post shared by Seth Freilich (@sethfreilich) on

I had previously had a good five-minute one-on-one conversation with the Banker, who was probably the best actor in the park, which is why I was ready to jump to his defense. But also, because I was feeling full black hat, and fuck the law.

Obviously, none of this was real. And yet, it was surprisingly easy to start buying into it and slipping into a character. One of my biggest complaints with the actual show was that it seemed almost unrealistic how many people went to the park and broke bad so quickly. But now. I kinda get it. We all know it’s fun to be the bad guy. And it turns out, it’s maybe a lot easier than any of us think to jump down that rabbit hole. Which is kind of terrifying.

But there’s still good in the Westworld. Because look where the Delos Company finds its goods…

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.



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