If Westworld were real, we’d all be fucked.
That much was clear when I attended New York Comic Con’s Westworld: The Experience, an immersive activation that makes guests feel like they’re visiting the fictitious park that encourages you to “live without limits.”
In part of the experience set up to look like the Mariposa Saloon, a “host” asked one of my fellow attendees what they planned to do first in Westworld.
“Shoot someone,” this person said.
It was a joke, and the spectacularly poor timing, given recent events in Las Vegas, didn’t strike me until later. In that saloon, it really felt like we were part of Westworld, and the reality outside didn’t exist. Out here we have our rules, our codes of conduct, and still we struggle. On HBO’s Westworld, the park brings out people’s darkest impulses…so perhaps only a taste of Westworld is safer for now.
Westworld: The Experience opened Thursday in conjunction with New York Comic-Con. It’s at a secret location (not terribly far from the convention center), and can only be booked by appointment. The appointment desk itself moves around too; every morning it’ll be somewhere different near the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Hudson Yards, but the official Westworld Twitter account will have hints.
Inside, we were greeted by a big ol’ Westworld logo and a host — an actor, I reminded myself, although I forgot that pretty quickly — who checks you in.
The atrium was full of actual weapons and costumes from the show, as well as more hosts standing by. A series of screens on the walls played clips from the show, including a Season 2 teaser that echoed disconcertingly in the high-ceilinged warehouse space.
As we took this in, another host emerged from a hallway on the side.
“Proma?” she asked, blinking a little slower than normal, and not as often as a human should.
“Are you ready for your appointment?”
“I guess,” I said, following obediently.
The hallway was small, but detailed down to the signs outside the doors and their on-brand Westworld logos (there was also a locked door to Samurai World — sneaky). The host led me to a small room, where I was to complete my personality assessment with a… host? Scientist? Psychic? As the probing questions (“You can press a button that will end all the world’s problems but halve the population. What do you do?”) and subsequent analysis proved, she might have been all three.
“I think this is where you live,” she said, pointing to a white hat. To my surprise, I felt almost instantly crestfallen. “But you need to explore this.” She lifted a black hat off a hook on the wall and I stood up to receive it. (It looked awesome.)
Yet another host led us to the elevators and on our way up, another reporter asked her: “What if I said ‘Cease all motor functions’?” (Tip: Don’t do this). She deflected skillfully and let us out at the doors to the Mariposa Saloon.
“Enjoy your stay at Westworld.”
If you attend this or any similar activation, do yourself a favor and commit; once I stopped reminding myself that the hosts were actors and that we were actually in Manhattan, everything was immediately more fun. I couldn’t help moving a little slowly, a little dramatically, as I pushed open the doors to the Mariposa while sporting my swaggy new black hat.
Inside the saloon, guests receive three cocktails: A sweet sherry punch, and two extremely strong cocktails (the whiskey drink is 100 proof and the rum in the milk punch is “overproof”). There isn’t time to do more than sip unless you chug, which means accepting that you’re going to be properly drunk for a little while.
As I admired the self-playing piano and chatted with the hosts (“I’m taking a video — oh, you don’t have those, do you?”) the lights flickered and turned red. Delos security guards in protective gear came into escort us out through the freight elevator, and back into the harsh light of day.
As brief as it was, Westworld: The Experience was just the right amount of cool and creepy. I stepped outside with every appearance of a ~normal human~, but I couldn’t bring myself to take off that hat right away. Because Westworld and its titular park are all about giving you an unforgettable adventure — and for a few brief moments, I was one step closer to it.
You might not be able to experience Westworld for yourself just yet, but you can get a taste thanks to the three drink recipes we tried — here’s what you’ll need:
1 oz. Manzanilla Sherry
1 oz. Amontillado Sherry
½ oz. lemon juice
1 oz. Mallorca tea syrup
¼ oz. pineapple vinegar
2 oz. water
2 oz. Westward Single Malt Whiskey
Barspoon of Demerara sugar
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 dash Abbot’s Bitters
1 oz. cognac
1 oz. overproof rum
1 oz. cold brew coffee
¾ oz. spiced Demerara sugar
½ oz. heavy shipping cream
Westworld: The Experience is now active at New York Comic Con through Oct. 8.