My day job, in lieu of teaching creative writing like a normal person, is writing scripts for blockbuster video games. Last summer, while I watched a play-through of the then-unreleased Gears of War 4, for which I was the lead writer, something odd happened. The game's story called for a massive plane crash, out of which a single robot, operatically aflame, was intended to stride toward the player. Within the game's fiction, robots have hitherto opposed the player, but we wanted this particular burning robot to pose no immediate threat. The game programmers had thus switched off the hostility driven by the robot's artificial intelligence, allowing the player to walk past the hapless robot or shoot it.
"This story line will make Hieronymus Bosch look like he was doodling kittens," Lee Sizemore brags. He's the head of the "narrative department" at Westworld, a frontier-themed vacation park where customers act out their darkest fantasies. A special little something I call the ourobouros." Self-cannibalism and the snake that eats its own tail: that's a fair description of "Westworld," a come-hither drama that introduces itself as a science-fiction thriller about cyborgs who become self-aware, then reveals its true identity as what happens when an HBO drama struggles to do the same. Created by the husband-and-wife team of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, "Westworld" is explicitly, and often wittily, an exploitation series about exploitation, full of naked bodies that are meant to make us think about nudity and violence that comments on violence.