The Glimpse of Who We Could Be

The Glimpse of Who We Could Be

It will probably be no surprise to anybody that I am a big fan of Westworld.

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I appreciate what you are saying in this column. However, I used to work security on an overnight shift. While people don't go around killing each other. Sometimes that happened within a few blocks of where I was working. Most people will do things they think they can get away with. Their attitude that they have when I bust them are incredulous. They just don't understand why they shouldn't be allowed to get away with they were doing.

I believe everybody do have a dark, selfish side to them. It's really a matter of how much they believe they can get by with behaving in such a way.

I blew up Megaton in my second run in Fallout 3. I felt so awful that I couldn't keep playing the game (and the game showing the still optimistic surviving ghoul Moira as comic relief didn't improve my mood). In Mass Effect 3 I couldn't even shoot Mordin on the back. I agree with the notion that in a consequences-free environment, people can be drawn to the worst aspects of human behavior. But I think everyone has a personal line of self-respect that determines at which point they restrain themselves without the need of feedback from the outside (it's just that how low the line is varies radically between different people).

*spoilers ahead for Westworld*

I agree, when I watched the show I wasn't entirely convinced by the characters in it.

There is NO chance that everybody would turn into murderous psychopaths in Westworld. Sure, there will be a few but I think there would be more people who are kind, helpful and avoid the really dark, disturbing stuff. William was that character to begin with. He wanted to help everybody and experience the world as an immortal savior but the big reveal of him being the Man in Black ruined it. He turned into a murderous psychopath just like the rest of them.

It just irked me a bit. I play a lot of video games and I normally choose the virtuous path. The writers of Westworld seemed to me to be non-gamers and based their writing on a stereotype that gamers use games to live out their violent tendencies. See also, the film GAMER. Which actually offended me as a gamer.

I think one point that needs to be clarified about the world of Westworld, is that it's stated the outside world is basically perfect. It's some idealistic utopia, and so humans have no way to test themselves or whatever. Take the statement with a grain of salt, as I seem to recall it was the Man in Black that said it. But basically, it's implied that this is the only place to indulge those violent tendencies. And so people that come here are usually the kind of person who wants to indulge in that type of behavior. I don't think it's a statement about society, as the people who can afford to go to Westworld are the 1% of the 1% of the rich, given how costly it is. So it's not like Average Joe is taking a vacation in Westworld. It's the bored elite, which have a history in media of indulging in the darker impulses as a way of breaking the monotony of their daily lives. That's pretty much the only type of person that comes to Westworld. It's not a broad slice of humanity and society, it's a finely focused microscope of one type of person in our culture. Basically, you could say it's a video game, specifically made for the people who do want to "Go Renegade" on their first playthrough, etc.

KissingSunlight:
I appreciate what you are saying in this column. However, I used to work security on an overnight shift. While people don't go around killing each other. Sometimes that happened within a few blocks of where I was working. Most people will do things they think they can get away with. Their attitude that they have when I bust them are incredulous. They just don't understand why they shouldn't be allowed to get away with they were doing.

I believe everybody do have a dark, selfish side to them. It's really a matter of how much they believe they can get by with behaving in such a way.

And I work in healthcare and see how people grit their teeth, take a deep breath and accept another 10 hour shift regularly, because the alternative would be that someone they don't know might get hurt or die due to a lack of medical or nursing staff. It is perception bias on both of our parts, security guards and police tend to see the worst people have to offer, while many health care professionals tend to embody the best.

But most people are indisputably leaning towards "good", in so far that even when they can get away with stuff they don't do it. Most people won't take an unattended purse or rape a passed out woman or kill a hobo during the final hour of their stay in a country with no extradition agreement. We all have selfish sides, but they are rarely as dark or as big as they are portrayed in West World. It would be entirely possible to imagine that Westworld could be the complete opposite series, where people go there to feel like important heroes. To get away from the dreary monotony of their day-to-day and pretend to be the brave Cowboy that saves the farmer's daughter, helps the prospector find gold and who enjoys a night at the salon being toasted for hir bravery. Because pretty much all of us nourish those kinds of desires too.

Gethsemani:

KissingSunlight:
I appreciate what you are saying in this column. However, I used to work security on an overnight shift. While people don't go around killing each other. Sometimes that happened within a few blocks of where I was working. Most people will do things they think they can get away with. Their attitude that they have when I bust them are incredulous. They just don't understand why they shouldn't be allowed to get away with they were doing.

I believe everybody do have a dark, selfish side to them. It's really a matter of how much they believe they can get by with behaving in such a way.

And I work in healthcare and see how people grit their teeth, take a deep breath and accept another 10 hour shift regularly, because the alternative would be that someone they don't know might get hurt or die due to a lack of medical or nursing staff. It is perception bias on both of our parts, security guards and police tend to see the worst people have to offer, while many health care professionals tend to embody the best.

But most people are indisputably leaning towards "good", in so far that even when they can get away with stuff they don't do it. Most people won't take an unattended purse or rape a passed out woman or kill a hobo during the final hour of their stay in a country with no extradition agreement. We all have selfish sides, but they are rarely as dark or as big as they are portrayed in West World. It would be entirely possible to imagine that Westworld could be the complete opposite series, where people go there to feel like important heroes. To get away from the dreary monotony of their day-to-day and pretend to be the brave Cowboy that saves the farmer's daughter, helps the prospector find gold and who enjoys a night at the salon being toasted for hir bravery. Because pretty much all of us nourish those kinds of desires too.

I understand that you have a different perspective on this, because you have seen more positive aspects from people than I do. However, to deny that people don't ever do bad things is really naive. People do. They do it more often than you would like to admit it does. I am not saying everybody is a bad person. Yet, we do have the capacity to do evil things. It doesn't take that much for someone to do something bad to another person. Especially, if that person finds some justification to do so, or just simply believe that they can get by with doing it.

I only have seen one episode of Westworld. Even though, it has a good cast. I don't have much faith in the creative team of the show to deliver a quality series. So, I can't argue with you about what happened on the show. About human nature, trust me, I have seen a lot of negative actions performed by people from all walks of life. Most people will do horrible things if they think can get by with doing it.

KissingSunlight:

Gethsemani:

KissingSunlight:
I appreciate what you are saying in this column. However, I used to work security on an overnight shift. While people don't go around killing each other. Sometimes that happened within a few blocks of where I was working. Most people will do things they think they can get away with. Their attitude that they have when I bust them are incredulous. They just don't understand why they shouldn't be allowed to get away with they were doing.

I believe everybody do have a dark, selfish side to them. It's really a matter of how much they believe they can get by with behaving in such a way.

And I work in healthcare and see how people grit their teeth, take a deep breath and accept another 10 hour shift regularly, because the alternative would be that someone they don't know might get hurt or die due to a lack of medical or nursing staff. It is perception bias on both of our parts, security guards and police tend to see the worst people have to offer, while many health care professionals tend to embody the best.

But most people are indisputably leaning towards "good", in so far that even when they can get away with stuff they don't do it. Most people won't take an unattended purse or rape a passed out woman or kill a hobo during the final hour of their stay in a country with no extradition agreement. We all have selfish sides, but they are rarely as dark or as big as they are portrayed in West World. It would be entirely possible to imagine that Westworld could be the complete opposite series, where people go there to feel like important heroes. To get away from the dreary monotony of their day-to-day and pretend to be the brave Cowboy that saves the farmer's daughter, helps the prospector find gold and who enjoys a night at the salon being toasted for hir bravery. Because pretty much all of us nourish those kinds of desires too.

I understand that you have a different perspective on this, because you have seen more positive aspects from people than I do. However, to deny that people don't ever do bad things is really naive. People do. They do it more often than you would like to admit it does. I am not saying everybody is a bad person. Yet, we do have the capacity to do evil things. It doesn't take that much for someone to do something bad to another person. Especially, if that person finds some justification to do so, or just simply believe that they can get by with doing it.

I only have seen one episode of Westworld. Even though, it has a good cast. I don't have much faith in the creative team of the show to deliver a quality series. So, I can't argue with you about what happened on the show. About human nature, trust me, I have seen a lot of negative actions performed by people from all walks of life. Most people will do horrible things if they think can get by with doing it.

I disagree with your statement of "most people". Sure people will, but the reality is that people generally don't act like complete shitheads to each other. They've even done studies that back this up. And about human nature, I've seen a lot of positive actions performed by people from all walks of life. In my experience, most people WON'T do horrible things even if they think they can get away with it. Great, we've just stated two contrary, anecdotal statements about human nature. Which basically says nothing about the situation directly.

I think the point is that by sheer number of people in this world, the vast majority of people aren't raging assholes who go around doing shitty things to everyone they meet, simply because they can. Yes, there is a percentage of the population that do, but they are vastly outnumbered by the relatively decent people in the world. And thus, in a show like Westworld, where it shows nothing but shitty people doing shitty things, it implies a false premise, on the nature of..well, human nature. I think the issue is that the decent people, who don't like indulging their sadistic, violent natures, are simply not buying a visit to Westworld. They do other things with their time. If you opened a theme park, that let anyone that showed up, punch anyone they meet in the face, and it was 100% ok with everyone there, I would never go. Because I have no desire to engage in that activity. So the park, is already thinning out it's occupants to the people who would embrace that behavior. I don't think it's a big stretch to say that everyone who showed up to the "Face Puncher" park, were there with the desire to punch people in the face. Same goes for Westworld. Everyone that's showing up there, are already curious about the "do whatever you want" nature of their advertisement stuff, and are thus the kind of person who would decide to stab a random guy in the hand for interrupting his dinner conversation.

Though I personally feel that the show isn't really making a comment about all of humanity, but more about the 1%ers out there. Which I still think is relatively inaccurate based on reality, but entertainment and reality have never had a close relationship. But again, and this is something I think people miss from the dialogue of the show. The world of Westworld isn't our world. One of the characters flat out describes the outside world as some kind of utopian society, with basically zero problems for the world. So they are indulging their base desires in Westworld, because there is no need for it out in the real world. So all of the societal pressures are vastly different from our society, implying that the whole population is just bored and listless, because all of their problems have been solved. So they go to Westworld for a...well not cheap, given the daily cost, thrill.

In the full list of 45 games, only 17 titles are what could be considered violent, and some of them (such as Skyrim) could be considered debatable.

I'd be interested in hearing the debate that Skyrim isn't a violent game.


It's rare indeed that you have a questline where you don't kill someone. Even if you pick the good option, it usually means you're going to be killing monsters or evil men. There's a murder counter built into the game so you can keep track of your civilian kills, for Talos' sake.

Happyninja42:
I think one point that needs to be clarified about the world of Westworld, is that it's stated the outside world is basically perfect. It's some idealistic utopia, and so humans have no way to test themselves or whatever. Take the statement with a grain of salt, as I seem to recall it was the Man in Black that said it. But basically, it's implied that this is the only place to indulge those violent tendencies. And so people that come here are usually the kind of person who wants to indulge in that type of behavior. I don't think it's a statement about society, as the people who can afford to go to Westworld are the 1% of the 1% of the rich, given how costly it is. So it's not like Average Joe is taking a vacation in Westworld. It's the bored elite, which have a history in media of indulging in the darker impulses as a way of breaking the monotony of their daily lives. That's pretty much the only type of person that comes to Westworld. It's not a broad slice of humanity and society, it's a finely focused microscope of one type of person in our culture. Basically, you could say it's a video game, specifically made for the people who do want to "Go Renegade" on their first playthrough, etc.

This is a great point. I am really hoping they go to Romeworld so they can get really on the nose with the Caligula references. There are some people who are clearly going for a regular vacation (like the family that finds Dolores painting by the river), but it seems like a lot of the guests are young men who are spending a ton of money to cut loose with their friends. They're the rich kids, media stars and tech millionaires who in our world drag race on city streets and trash Vegas hotel rooms, because they have the money to make it right afterwards.

Thunderous Cacophony:

This is a great point. I am really hoping they go to Romeworld so they can get really on the nose with the Caligula references.

Have you watched the full season yet? Because they kind of did in one episode. At least, the set design and motif seemed to be screaming Romeworld when I saw it. It felt like it was an homage to that part from the original. It was one of the later episodes, near the end, but it very much felt like they'd stepped onto a Caligula set from the design and costumes and such.

Happyninja42:

Thunderous Cacophony:

This is a great point. I am really hoping they go to Romeworld so they can get really on the nose with the Caligula references.

Have you watched the full season yet? Because they kind of did in one episode. At least, the set design and motif seemed to be screaming Romeworld when I saw it. It felt like it was an homage to that part from the original. It was one of the later episodes, near the end, but it very much felt like they'd stepped onto a Caligula set from the design and costumes and such.

I have seen the full season, but I don't recall that scene. Can you spoilertag some more detail to jog my memory?

To everyone who likes Westworld: watch Person of Interest. To me it's the best network TV show ever made, even though much of the first season is a bit procedural. After that the writers got free reign and it shows. The second season two partner finale will blow your mind.

Happyninja42:
snip

I guess the problem I have with the idea that people are "good" by not being violent to each other. At best, people are morally neutral. People don't behave in violent ways, because of consequences. Most people will hold themselves back, because of laws, how other people will view them, and their religion. People don't do bad things, because they are intrinsically good. They are afraid of being held accountable for their actions.

Like I said, most people are morally neutral. There are very few people who will make an effort to be good. However, there are a lot more people who regularly do bad things. They always find some justification and rationale to do so.

I kind of question some of the studies mentioned. I can point to the Observer Effect. When I observed people on my overnight shift, they are not aware that I am there. While, these people are aware that they are part of a scientific study. Also, something needs to be said about the time of day as well. While most people don't do things during the day, because most people are awake and also around. However, at night, there is less light and less people. The very same people who wouldn't think of doing violent and criminal acts during the day are more embolden at night.

So, if there is a hypothetical place where people can spend money to do whatever they want where they won't suffer any physical or legal consequences. Most people will do all kinds of violent and immoral acts there.

I'll be honest. I don't like arguing this position. It's kind of like telling a kid that Santa Claus doesn't exist. It's a good thing to think positivly about humanity. However, if we are going to have an honest conversation about human nature. We shouldn't be willfully blind to the negative aspects of humanity.

Have you seen the shit people do in games like GTA? Like piling bodies up and throwing explosives at the pile, just to see the ragdoll behaviour? Are those people psychopaths? Or is it just the game?
Of course in Westworld there is the ever looming question, if the hosts are sentient, feeling beings (don't spoiler me please, I have not watched it very far), but from the perspective of a guest, it is just a game, where they can try things out. So I would say, that there is a high probability, that such an experience would in fact draw out the worst in most humans.

 

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