Essays

Here’s Your Chance to Experience Westworld at SXSW

On the eve of SXSW, we took a little tour of the massive, meticulous, and very impressive Westworld: Live Without Limits experience. Here’s your chance to check it out.
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By  · Published on March 9th, 2018

On the eve of SXSW, we took a little tour of the massive, meticulous, and very impressive Westworld: Live Without Limits experience. Here’s your chance to check it out.

As dusk set in over Austin, Texas on a Thursday night, with the official start of South by Southwest (SXSW) looming the next time the sun was set to rise, our bus adorned with a massive Westworld decal made the final turn toward Sweetwater. But before we — a group of weary journalists who’d been plied with booze and (mostly) black cowboy hats — could disembark, our bus had to make a fateful turn onto a gravel road. This turn very quickly became a bus-stuck-in-a-ditch situation, about which our very on-brand, boot-clad driver stated, “We’ve got ourselves a pickle.”

This is what happens on preview night. Your mileage as an attendee when the “real” Sweetwater exhibit opens will ultimately vary and likely be ditch-free. That’s why they try it out on the press before bringing in the general public. To the credit of HBO, a studio notorious for going all-out on brand activations at SXSW, this year’s Westworld experience represents their most ambitious outing to-date. A 15-20 minute bus ride drops attendees off right inside one of the biggest, most impressive activations available at this year’s robust festival of commerce. Inside, there’s a walk through a meticulously re-created version of the show’s park, complete with actors deep in character, secret nooks and crannies that expose the wires of Westworld‘s famous marionette show.

Most impressive in its scale, the Westworld experience is also notable for its level of detail. You can play blackjack at the Mariposa Saloon, strike up a conversation with the town banker, and if you time it right, maybe get to watch some “robot” on “human” violence that ends with hazmat suits dragging away the deceased. The immersive experience doesn’t put you in the role of a Westworld patron but leaves you in the role of an audience member. In its own way, you walk through Sweetwater as the camera moves through the hit show, experiencing the lives of hosts and patrons with intimacy. It’s quite a thing to behold and as impressive as we’ve seen in our decade-plus covering the behemoth of SXSW.

Below you’ll find some photos of the park, the hosts, and some of the nooks and crannies that make the Westworld: Live Without Limits experience special. But first, a few facts about the “park”:

With Westworld headed back to HBO on April 22, it’s a nice way to get away from the hustle and bustle of SXSW and get excited for a return to the wild world(s) of HBO’s second most prominent fantasy show.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the upcoming One Perfect Shot TV show (HBO Max, 2021) and the co-host of The Storm: A LOST Rewatch podcast. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)