The makers of the HBO television series Westworld cite the Grand Theft Auto and BioShock franchises as some of the influences behind the show’s creation.
Considering the themes and motifs about existing in a virtual realm being explored within HBO’s serialized television adaptation of the 1973 film Westworld, it should come as no surprise that the program’s creators were inspired by video games in order to make the show a reality. As a matter of fact, Westworld‘s executive producers Lisa Joy Nolan and Jonathan Nolan recently discussed the issue during the TV show’s panel at New York Comic-Con 2016, revealing that its influences are drawn from such titles as BioShock and Grand Theft Auto.
Interestingly enough, Westworld‘s creators explained that they played the aforementioned games, as well as Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption, in order to do research on the medium. This, of course, makes plenty of sense due to the fact that Westworld is about a Western theme park where the “hosts” are essentially humanistic robots equatable to non-playable characters (NPCs) with whom visitors can interact in myriad ways, be it to go on an adventure fueled by the promise of treasure, or even to act out dark fantasies such as murder.
While speaking during New York Comic-Con about playing video games in the research process for Westworld, Jonathan Nolan declared that his wife Lisa was “the world’s most boring Grand Theft Auto player.” However, she countered his statement by saying, “The city looks beautiful if you just slow it down and take your time,” describing her methods of playing in an open world video game to simply be more contemplative so as to appreciate every detail.
Beyond the styles in which they play their video games, the Nolans went on to explain how they are intrigued by how people use gaming as an outlet to explore violent fantasies that are totally incongruous with who they may be in reality. The Westworld executive producers elaborated by saying that such personality types can be equated to the Man in Black (Ed Harris), as Jonathan Nolan says, “It really speaks to the game-like aspect of it. The way that we act in our simulations is not [. . .] how we act in the real world. That binary aspect of his personality is something we’re exploring.”
Nolan then described BioShock as being “amongst the most literate and thoughtful pieces of entertainment [he’s] seen in the last ten years.” The Westworld creator went on to point out a particular piece of footage that inspired him in which BioShock creative director Ken Levine talks about writing complete conversations between NPCs that most casual video game players may not ever notice if they only play through it with the intentions of shooting everything in sight.
Taking all of this into account, while Westworld definitely has its influences rooted in some of the finest video games crafted to date, it’s safe to say the HBO program certainly won’t be the last TV show to draw inspiration from gaming, as both worlds are starting become more and more intertwined. Of course, should the Nolans do further research into the medium, their series’ plot might be impacted even more so by some of the video game theme parks more dangerous than Westworld.
Westworld airs Sundays at 9:00 PM ET/PT on HBO.