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How Can HBO's Westworld Set The Bar For The Next Generation of RPG Games?

What If Westworld Could Introduce a New Style of Gaming?

#HBO's newest ambitious epic series has finally arrived in the form of #Westworld. Combining science fiction and western genres into a truly beautiful fusion. HBO has brought to life the classic story written by #MichaelCrichton (Jurassic Park, Timeline, Congo). Westworld is a story of escapism and awakening, in the form of a theme park where guests can pay a pretty penny to interact with a slew of incredibly advanced human-like artificial intelligent beings.

As you can imagine, the park is set in a faux Western town where the paying guests or "newcomers" can interact as they choose with the AI characters or "hosts." We can't help but get a serious video game vibe from the concept.

Check out the trailer and see for yourself.

Through everything in the premiere episode, Westworld is ultimately a story of "what-ifs":

  • What if technology advanced far enough to introduce true Artificial Intelligence?
  • What if morality didn't matter because it relates to an AI experience?
  • What if the AI started making their own choices and changing the 'script'?
  • What if everything went to shit?

The "what-ifs" are what make Westworld what it is. Westworld follows in a similar vein to that of #GameOfThrones, but carries it's own unique tone because while Game of Thrones feels like an epic fantasy, Westworld feels more 'real'. It carries the significance and fear of what the future could hold for us as step into a world only imagined through film and television like The Matrix and Westworld.

Game of Thrones detached from #reality; Westworld pushes the boundaries of reality. It's an interesting topic to look at, and even more engaging on the screen thanks to the brilliant direction given by #JJAbrams, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy as well as the phenomenal acting.

Westworld drops the wall between what is real and what is fiction and leads us to the assumption that they are one-in-the-same.

What If Westworld Could Introduce a New Style of Gaming?

Image Credits: HBO

Westworld is, in the simplest form, an extremely advanced role playing game. It's a game where you, the human player, can step into a fully immersive world that is yours to control and experience. These experiences could range from buying a drink at the saloon to picking up a prostitute at that same saloon. Or if you're feeling more adventurous, you could take on a gang of outlaws in a gun fight or protect the town from an impending bandit - you can even become the bandit yourself.

Westworld is a game ripe with options for your entertainment or your depravity. It's a world of choices, and that's exactly what we need in a video game: choice.

Image Credit: HBO

Choice is something that often is merely eluded to in most video games, as there really is no choice because the story itself is predefined. It's one of the downsides to many games currently available, because the player is confined to following the script of the game itself, rather than being allowed to explore and experience the worlds that are developed.

Westworld shows how one character's choice can and will affect the outcome of the game itself, and with every following choice comes a new story.

What If Game Developers Used the Model of Westworld for Future Games?

Image Credit: HBO

The real takeaway for game developers from Westworld should be this: the reality of choice is paramount to character growth. Now that may seem like a mouthful, but bear with me for a minute.

Most games follow a straight story arc, and while you have the ability to pause the 'main story' and pursue side quests and missions, eventually you have to step back into the progression to find out how the story ends. This is the life we know when it comes to nearly every Role Playing Game, just look at any popular #RPG #Borderlands, #Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto, Dragon Age or even #DeusEx and you'll see the chapter-esque approach in terms of story-telling.

Just look at what Fable and Red Dead Redemption offered us. Each game brought us into a story that looked at how our choices affected our character's morality. That moral compass is what changed how the rest of the in-game world interacted with our character: did they run in fear or gravitate in adoration?

This is what it all boils down to, the ability of a developer to have the game change because of or in spite of our characters actions.

Image Credit: HBO

If game developers were to take the model of Westworld and create a game with a story that evolves as your character progresses through a variety of situations. More than just giving the character option A or option B, I'm talking about giving the player the ability to choose neither and create his own reality in the game.

Just imagine if a developer took the concept of Westworld, Red Dead Redemption and Fable and created a game that changed with every play-through? The more you played it, the more the non-playable characters changed because of your previous interactions.

What If Westworld Truly Became a Gaming Reality?

Image Credit HBO

This is what's really interesting, because our technological achievements are already progressing towards this as a reality in the future. The question isn't "if this is possible?" it's a matter of "when will this happen?" - #JonathanNolan said it the best in an interview with Vice, when asked if the growing capabilities of AI are good or bad for society?

We're just about at that uncomfortable moment in which we'll be able to create universes fully inhabited by nearly-AI creatures who will do our bidding and satisfy our every appetite. The honeymoon is probably going to last for about 18 months before one of them becomes sentient and wants out. I definitely think this is the story of our age.

If, as Nolan claims, this is the story of our age; could we be moving towards a game that incorporates the ideas of Westworld? In my lifetime there probably wouldn't be anything close to what we see in Westworld, but could we enter a virtual reality where all of our senses are utilized rather than just visual and auditory? Could we be in store for a Matrix-style fully immersive reality that we can affect by choice and the game reacts based upon those choices?

Image Credit: HBO

It's definitely exciting to think about, and slightly frightening that it's a possibility. But what do you think?

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