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How ‘Westworld’ Was Inspired By Games Like ‘Skyrim,’ ‘Red Dead,’ ‘Mass Effect,’ and ‘BioShock’
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Red Dead Redemption - Westworld

If you’re among the many that have been watching HBO’s latest hit Westworld you might be surprised to learn that a few big names from the realms of video games were actually an inspiration in creating the series.

In a recent interview with creators and showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Nolan revealed that games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption, BioShock, and the games of BioWare (best known for the Mass Effect series) were among the things that inspired them while developing Westworld.

You can read Nolan’s full quote below.

Nolan and Joy were discussing the show with VICE, who mentioned that it reminded them of open-world RPG games and asked if they were thinking that while creating it. Nolan responded “Yeah, very much” and that he used to play games before he and Joy had a child, with Joy adding “And a TV show” with a laugh. Nolan then dove a little deeper, saying:

“A lot of interesting storytelling that’s happening right now is in video games—which literally didn’t exist when Michael Crichton was writing the original film. Now, video games are a bigger industry than film or TV. I’ve never worked in that industry, but we have friends who have, and I was fascinated by the concept of writing a story in which the protagonists’ actions aren’t part of the story. In games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption, or the sandbox games that Bioware make, morality is a variable. How do you write a story in which the hero’s moral component exists on a spectrum? That’s a fascinating challenge.

I’m also fascinated by how non-player-characters in video games have their own lives. In Skyrim, when you walk into a village, you aren’t necessarily the most important person there. The NPCs have lives that happen whether you’re there or not. I was listening to directors’ commentary from Ken Levine about building Bioshock Infinite and the affection that game developers and designers develop for their characters. It’s a qualitatively different relationship than the one screenwriters have with their characters, because video game characters don’t just recite dialogue—they do shit, and the players interact with them. It’s a relationship that I think Crichton anticipated to some degree, but it’s become much more complicated than even he could imagine.”

Nolan and Joy talked about other aspects of Westworld in the chat as well, including artificial intelligence, sex and violence, and this show compared to others that they have worked on in the past.

If interested, you can read the whole interview over at VICE.

For more of our continuing coverage on Westworld, check out Violent Delights, the weekly Geeks Of Doom Westworld podcast.

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