DIY-VR: Westworld

I watched the first two episodes of the new HBO series Westworld. Originally to take a break from school work, but quickly realized that it provides and interesting case study for immersive reality.

In WW, an unnamed corporation has created a “fully-immersive” theme park known as WW. The line between what is “real” and not real is razor thin. From what we can tell this early on, the physical space that’s the park’s location is a real place, most likely out in America’s Western Region. WW is an augmented reality that has constructed sets and filled with constructed objects…and constructed people. Even at this future date storytellers (Mr. Sizemore in the show) are still trying to figure out how to craft fully immersive experiences. The mixture of both real and imaginary (yet physically tangible), is enough to make everything feel like a vivid dream.

What makes WW feel real more than anything else are the robots who are designed to appear human but still retain an unreality to their gestures and words that “real” people have no problem raping or killing them.There are no consequences to their actions, at least at the moment. How do the human guests decide to draw the line morally? Just like the video games we’re familiar with today, visitors to the park get to pretend they’re someone else, in another time and place. But as characters keep repeating through the show, the main draw of WW is for people to find out “who they really are”. The assumption being that without the confines and rules of society people will act out their hidden desires (very Freudian). So, it seems very appropriate that the setting of the park is the wild west (which at first puzzled me as overly anachronistic) but of course, “The Wild West” as an idea has always stood for a realm where all things go and there are no rules. It’s a descriptor used with the early internet, suggesting in its early days that this same attitude was pervasive on the net.

Returning to desires, I watched the trailers and read through descriptions of several of the other movies on the list and was interested to learn that David Cronenberg’s films (two of which are on the list) are entirely about repressed/fulfilled desires. This line of thinking ended up inspiring what I worked on this week.

EDIT: Interestingly enough, there was a Westworld VR experience at comic-con: http://mashable.com/2016/10/08/westworld-hbo-nycc-virtual-reality/#j3WtDBKi3qqt

Also, conversation about Westworld, and the advent of higher immersion games in VR: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/is-hbos-westworld-really-about-video-games-w443910

A couple of choice quotes:

“Yet the park in Westworld, like virtual reality will someday be, is so realistic that we recoil at his actions. This immersion is the difference. In VR, you’ll kill someone and see their blood on your hands – and they will really be your hands – and watch the light leave their eyes. What will that do to us?”

“He talked about how no player would want to be as affected by killing a video game character as a Real Live Non-Sociopathic Human would be affected by killing a real person.”

“Once we spend more time inside these systems, we’ll realize that VR is a virtual space, not a corporeal one, and we’ll start to play with the spaces in a way that we’re kind of afraid to do right now. “

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17. October 2016 by zoe.bachman.itp
Categories: DIY-VR | Leave a comment

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