There's Only One Rule In 'Westworld'

Every amusement park has rules, from height restrictions on the guests to the guidelines and protocols that keep the rides safe. The park at the center of the new HBO series Westworld is a place where high-paying customers can come to fully immerse themselves in the Wild West of the 1800s — complete with all the violence and bloodshed that entails. Naturally, you might expect that there is a plethora of rules in place to safeguard the guests from harm in such an unpredictable and uncivilized world. But things work differently in this fictional funland, and the rules of Westworld may surprise you.

There's only so much we can guess about the operation of the park before the series debuts this Sunday, but we can draw some inferences based on the trailers and the 1973 film by Michael Crichton that inspired the HBO series. The wealthy citizens of some unspecified future date are able to shell out thousands of dollars per day to visit Westworld, which goes a step beyond virtual reality by immersing them in a real and tangible fictional world. When they enter the park, guests are welcomed into the town of Sweetwater, a meticulously recreated outpost populated entirely by incredibly lifelike robots that exist to serve the humans' every desire.

Throughout their stay in Westworld, guests are allowed to explore Sweetwater and the surrounding environs to their heart's content; they're free to partake in interactive events like bank robberies, bounty hunts, and shootouts; and they can do whatever they want with their mechanical hosts, including having sex with them… and even "killing" them. The whole park exists to grant the guests a sense of complete control and power they may be lacking in the real world.

And that brings us to the rules of Westworld, which are pretty straightforward: for the guests, there are none, and that's kind of the whole point. According to this website designed to look like an advertisement for the fictional park itself, it is "the first vacation destination where you can live without limits."

Westworld is a meticulously crafted and artfully designed park offering an unparalleled, immersive world where you have the freedom to become who you’ve always wanted to be—or who you never knew you were. Exist free of rules, laws or judgment. No impulse is taboo.

Additional buzz words on the site proclaim that, "The blood is real," "We offer complete discretion," and "There are no safe words."

However, for the park's mechanical attractions (called "hosts"), there is one cardinal rule: they cannot kill their guests (whom they refer to as "newcomers"). Guests can kill hosts and hosts can kill each other — but no one is supposed to kill the guests. "The only person truly safe is you," the Westworld website proclaims.

Of course, that's like boasting that the Titanic will never sink. We all know that rules are made to be broken… and anyone who has seen Crichton's other theme-park-gone-haywire story, Jurassic Park, knows that it's only a matter of time before the attractions turn on the paying customers. Then Westworld, like the real Wild West it's based on, will truly be a world with no limits, rules, or guarantees of safety.

Enjoy your stay.

Images: John P. Johnson/HBO (2)