It seems all the kids talk about these days is Westworld. Westworld this, Westworld that. HBO’s hit TV series hooked audiences early on and its season finale only served to remind us that it came to stay. And what are we supposed to do until the second season airs? Play video games? Actually, that might not be a bad idea.
Westworld‘s take on technology and consciousness are brilliantly executed, but the point might be difficult for some to catch due to the necessary non-linear narrative. Fret not, cowboy, for the topic is fairly common in an era where phones speak and watches take high-resolution pictures. So if you need a little help understanding what the maze is all about, these five games may be of use. However, be weary for possible spoilers for the first season of Westworld.
Transistor (Supergiant Games, 2014)
A turn-based RPG developed and published by Supergiant Games, the studio responsible for the indie darling Bastion, Transistor is set in a distant future where the people of Cloudbank can vote on the surrounding weather or even the overall landscape. The game follows the singer Red as she fights the Camerata in order to get her voice back. Punctuated by a gorgeous soundtrack, the title is a good study on how social media affects our society and what happens when men play God.
Read Only Memories (MidBoss, 2015)
Developed and published by MidBoss, Read Only Memories (ROM for short) is a point and click adventure game that could be easily described as a lighthearted version of Westworld. The year is 2064 and the city is Neo-San Francisco. Apple is history and robots known as Relationship Organizational Managers (ROMs) have replaced iPhones. In various shapes and sizes, the ROMs mostly follow a strict program written for specific daily needs such as enforcing the law or manipulating the immediate weather. One specific ROM, however, was built with an intricate code that gives it will, making it the first sapient machine. Exploring themes of identity and ethics, Read Only Memories has a lovable cast, retro designs, and a catchy soundtrack.
Uncanny Valley (Cowardly Creations, 2015)
With a hint of Silent Hill, Uncanny Valley is perhaps one of the most interesting horror games of 2015, as well as one of the most obscure. With a consequence mechanic where the player’s choices and actions directly affect both story and gameplay, Cowardly Creations’s debut title is short but has multiple endings, each adding more to the bleak and intriguing plot. Without spoiling much, this could be where the events of Westworld‘s season finale lead.
The Talos Principle (Croteam, Devolver Digital, 2014)
One funny thing about Croteam’s Portal-like puzzle game is that only a few days prior to Dr. Ford asking what defines consciousness, the computer in The Talos Principle asked me the exact same thing. The title tells a non-linear story with a heavy focus on philosophy and humanity where the program present in the in-game terminals indulges the player in intelligent arguments revolving around such topics. Clever puzzles aside, the interesting thing regarding The Talos Principle is that instead of answering questions, it makes players reflect upon them.
The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe, 2011-2013)
An example of narrative in video games, The Stanley Parable first started as a mod for Half-Life 2 and received a standalone remake later in 2013. It doesn’t feature robots nor any visible characters but has a compelling story driven by player choice, with “choice” being the keyword. The tenth and last episode of Westworld gave viewers an insight on Arnold’s endgame for his creations, which ultimately required them to grow as conscious beings by making choices. Davey Wreden’s debut title explores exactly that by making players reflect on the same dilemmas the theme park hosts go through.
The second season of Westworld is due in 2018, so there’s plenty of time to rewatch, rethink, and understand the first season on top of playing these five games that, in one way or another, help explain those Anthony Hopkins monologues.