SXSW Park Experience Brought Sweetwater to Austin
BY OLIVIA ARMSTRONG AND KATIE LUCAS
Attendees of SXSW 2018 ventured beyond the limits the moment they stepped foot in Sweetwater, the main town of HBO’s drama Westworld. A replica of the park’s key attractions gave newcomers the opportunity to mingle with “hosts,” interact with unique narratives, and preview the conquests and characters that might come into play in Season 2 of the hit drama series.
Here, some of the most buzzed-about elements of the experience.
Guests were given the Mesa Gold treatment.
Starting with a Delos questionnaire (“You are in control of your future: True or False?”) and concluding with a telltale white or black 10-gallon hat, registered guests were given a taste of the Mesa Gold lifestyle before embarking on their park journey.
Artisanal cocktails were served in space where recognizable models of host faces hung on a wall reminiscent of Dr. Ford’s office and, just like in the series, a player piano set the mood with covers of hits by The Rolling Stones, Radiohead and others. Fans were shuttled off in luxurious buses, entertained by a video teasing the possibilities that awaited.
A new reality took hold.
Upon arrival, guests stepped into a train car — the same space William and Logan ventured through in Season 1, Episode 2 “Chestnut” — acclimating guests into their new reality. After onboarding, guests made their way into the Western world into a custom-built, completely interactive replica of Sweetwater.
Once inside, guests could mingle with over 40 park hosts, each of whom moved through their own narrative loop. Every detail of the experience ensured authenticity: horses trotted along the town roads, bandits roamed the streets, and countless other “hosts” seamlessly played their parts as the narrative crescendoed into a bloody showdown.
Live Without Limits Weekend
by the Numbers
14: Total number of luxury shuttles, cars and flights arranged to transport guests.
40: People who spent five weeks building the park onsite in Texas.
58: Vendors who had a hand in the production.
66: Participants scouted from Austin area (not including horses!) .
444: Page-length of the final script.
There were opportunities to indulge and explore.
If getting away from the real world was the intent, one could chat with the working women of the Mariposa Saloon, play a game of blackjack, grab a meal at the Coronado hotel, get a shave at the barber, and pose for old-timey photos, among other distractions.
The local post office had personalized mail ready for pickup for every guest, and postcards were also available to send to those who missed out on the action.
And inside info for those who were paying attention.
For fans of the series aware of the more menacing elements at play, there were plenty of clues. Certain letters in the post office contained darker messages, warnings and even Maeve’s sketches of the Shade. Hosts glitched during their loops, shutting down in front of crowds of newcomers. After the narrative’s climax, Delos techs came in to remove the host cadavers.
There were chances to scratch the Season 2 surface.
The most adventurous fans found plenty to explore deeper in the park: Eerie, nameless buildings housed even stranger characters, never-before-seen in Westworld.
Share your escape at #SXSWestworld. For more on Westworld at SXSW 2018, follow @WestworldHBO on Twitter or read what the cast and creators had to say about Season 2.