When in Westworld, you never quite know who can be trusted — and that includes yourself.
HBO’s interactive exhibit Westworld: The Experience, based on the hit drama, is headed to New York Comic-Con this week, and sure, it’s an expertly executed, immersive peek into the show’s namesake theme park — but it’s also a (mildly stressful) glimpse into your own inner psyche.
For those who haven’t seen the show, Westworld is the theme park of your dreams (or possibly nightmares): a no-holds-barred, free-for-all experience that allows guests to indulge in their wildest fantasies without having to reap what they’ve sowed.
Westworld is an Old West-style small town populated by bots that look and act just like real people. The park’s guests are free to interact with the bots (referred to as hosts) as much as they want — they can chat with them, kill them and even sleep with them with zero consequences.
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Before a host (or in this case, an actor portraying a host) can lead me into Westworld, I’m shuffled into a psych evaluation meant to determine whether I’ll receive a white hat or a black hat — basically labeling me as good or evil. No pressure.
I breeze through the questions with relative ease, though it’s hard not to overthink. Are my answers to these seemingly arbitrary questions about to reveal an inner evil streak I had no idea existed? Has the allure of Westworld already changed me?!
As it turns out, no. Though the host conducting the session hesitates and tells me I’m “unpredictable,” she opts for a white hat. Phew.
Now that I’ve established my role, it’s time to actually enter the park.
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We head to the Mariposa Saloon, the character’s go-to hangout spot in the show, and I’m delighted to find a well-tended bar with a slew of cocktails ready for the taking. If Westworld means indulging your every desire like this, I’m all in.
We’re served three signature drinks and given the chance to mingle with hosts portraying what appear to be different versions of Thandie Newton’s brothel madam Maeve.
Now, on the show, when hosts are pressed for information that extends outside of their scripted “loop,” they’ll typically respond with a vague answer meant to suggest there’s nothing out of the ordinary.
I test it out by asking one why there are blood stains on the piano clanging out a rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.”
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Right on cue, she tells me she’s never noticed that before, and pivots by asking when I think I’ll make my first kill in Westworld. Woah, there — can’t she see I’m wearing a white hat?! I tell her it’s likely a ways off, but now that I’ve begun fully embracing the park’s “life without limits” slogan, there’s no telling for sure. After all, I am “unpredictable.”
Comic-Con attendees 21 and over who want to explore Westworld for themselves should look out for appointment desks that will pop in a different location each morning at the Javits Center, starting at 9 a.m.
Check out the @WestworldHBO Facebook page and Twitter for clues as to the desk’s location. Slots will be filled on a first come, first served basis.
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