HBO’s $100 million re-imagining of a pair of Seventies movies as a 10-part television show came to a close on Sunday night, with a bloody conclusion that left the door open for a (perhaps) much less cryptic second Westworld season.
From the beginning, the parallels and references to games, gameplay – and even gamers themselves – have been front and center. Following the first episode, Glixel’s Simon Cox and writer/podcaster Chris Suellentrop chewed them over, noting that Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s creation was a comment on everything from open-world style role-playing games like Grand Theft Auto 3 to Gamergate. A lot has happened in the park since. Chris and Simon met again to compare notes on the finale and where Westworld leaves gamers.
Big fat spoiler warning for what lies ahead, obviously.
Simon Cox: Now that the season has ended, do we still think it’s a great big metaphor for games?
Chris Suellentrop: Um, maybe? I mean, mostly yes. The security team that’s out to stop Maeve in the season finale is still called “QA,” the Man in Black talks about going with Dolores to the “next level.” And as a writer at Deadspin put it, “The show built a genuinely fascinating world and populated it with characters who are by their nature unfascinating.” What could be a better metaphor for video games than that? I think the best summation of the first season of Westworld came from Laura Miller in Slate, who wrote, “Westworld is, among other things, an extended meditation on video games and the moral damage we do to ourselves when we behave cruelly, whether or not anyone actually gets hurt.”
Simon: You’re not that interested in Koopa Troopa’s backstory in Super Mario World? I’m not sure I agree the characters aren’t fascinating. I actually found the world the guests play in less fascinating as it’s really just this very on-the-nose recreation of every Western movie – but the world of Delos and the show – if that’s more what Deadspin was talking about, assume it was – is more interesting. The characters to me are really the whole show, which is how I feel about The Last of Us and, for that matter, the Uncharted series. Both suddenly very topical, too. Open world game comparisons aside, then – the magic of both those games is that the characters themselves are at least as fascinating as the world. The Ringer wrote that the show-as-game had moved from PVE – the player versus the environment or world – to PVP, fighting other sentient players. That seem about right to you?