The Gamification Of Westworld

Westworld Telegraph

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Hey Shat Crew,

I have to begin this with an admission.. Each week I would hope that you were wrong on your instacasts and that the episodes were actually really good, but we just didn’t realize it yet. Sadly, that was not the case this year. Some of these episodes were just… bad, including the season (series?) finale.

One thing that has really been twisting in my brain since mid-season is that the writers or showrunners appear to be taking this idea of “the game” way too literally. To be more precise, they seem to have settled on making a show based on video game tropes, rather than compelling drama. I recently finished Dying Light 3 just before the show finale and several things rang true to me.

The world- In video games, the world is small because opening it up creates too many questions that simply cannot be answered. This often applies even to games that deal with global events. In this season, we wanted to see what was going on elsewhere in the world outside of “New York,” but the writers chose to keep us inside this game space rather than open up questions they did not want to answer.

Game hints- In episode 6, “Fidelity” we have Caleb working his way through what is a prototypical video game scenario. Obvious clues like arrows, stripes and bloody handprints have been parts of video games since resident evil. In Dying light, boards, beams or pipes are colored yellow as a clue to players to find the way out. As I watched Caleb work his way through various clues, I felt like I was watching someone play a video game. The only thing that was missing was a little magnifying glass icon asking Caleb to “investigate.”

Dialogue- For the most part, rather than riveting, interesting dialogue, this season we’ve been treated to conversations that serve no other purpose than to be exposition dumps that move the characters and/or story from one place to another. It’s not good. It’s not particularly interesting and it’s certainly not of the quality one would expect from Westworld. While I laughed at MIB’s “fucking camper” crack, I couldn’t help but feel it was a little too on the nose.

Westworld: The Cut-scenes- The end of this season played out like the end of any number of video games, especially of the survival genre. It is all too common to spend hours finishing the game to be greeted by a series of cut scenes. Each detailing what happened to some of the key NPC’s we met along the way. “Raul’s encampment was overrun by zombies.” “Sarah becomes a warlord, ruling over her piece of a desolated seris.” Always, the last cut scene is the character you’ve been playing all along as you watch them, walking alone, towards their next great adventure (provided the game developer gets the funding for a sequel).

The message here is not that video games are bad, but a show like Westworld should strive to be more than a just a game. If you at games like “The Last of Us,” one can see that GAMES are striving to be more than games.

Thanks for your time! Regardless of the quality of this season, I hope there will be a season 5 if for no other reason than we get to hear you guys lampoon it.

Yours in Shat,
Mike Wooley

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