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Where Would You Set Your ‘Westworld’-Like Theme Park?

HBO/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but we love Westworld. Or maybe we don’t. It’s hard to know just yet — but we are fascinated by the idea of robo-theme parks. So we decided to take the "west" out of Westworld and make our own parks, from the awesome to the terrifying. What’s your dream park?


Main Character: Michael Phelps as The Mariner
Big Bad: The aliens from Signs
Main Attraction: The whole world is water

Ben Lindbergh: It takes about 20 years for old fashions to return to the runway, and pop culture often runs on the same cycle. That means we’re in mid-’90s mode: Independence Day just got a (regrettable) sequel, Jumanji is getting a remake, The Ringer wrote about Romeo + Juliet, and the Indians won the pennant. The time is ripe for a reappreciation of Waterworld, the critically panned big-budget bomb from 1995, and there’s no better way to do that than to make that fallow IP the foundation of a fully interactive, Westworld-style theme park. "World" is right there in the name.

The problem with Waterworld wasn’t its setting or premise; Roger Ebert praised its "great sets" and "intriguing ideas." Heck, the concept is already theme-park-proven. Mix in some Delos-quality campaigns and robot actors less robotic than Kevin Costner, and the thing would mint money. But I wouldn’t want to go to Waterworld just to sail the (extremely) high seas, wear tattered vests, and climb Mount Everest the easy way. I’d visit for the sake of self-preservation. Arctic sea ice covered about 2 million fewer square kilometers at its 2016 minimum than it did in 1995, so we’re already closer to living in Waterworld than we were when the movie came out. Might as well get the lay of the Dryland before we’re all actually fighting to find it.


Main Character: Russell Simmons (contemporary)
Big Bad: Brian Dennehy as an obsessive NYPD beat cop à la Javert
Main Attraction: Heroin

Justin Charity: I figure since no one will ever shut up about how real and gritty and dangerous and smelly New York was in the 1970s, it’d be great if we could have a bankruptcy-era NYC playground for multigen natives and Gen X reactionaries to get their rocks off. In Kochworld, visitors can tag a B train and run into a young and fanciful Madonna on the Lower East Side. They can break-dance and rob pedestrians in any given park. They can eat street pizza, grilled pigeon meat, and whatever else ancient New Yorkers dined upon before the Great Foodie Migration overwhelmed the city with Tex-Mex, sushi, and decent (never great, it’s only ever decent at best!) soul food. Kochworld visitors can smoke cigarettes in an exceedingly confident public manner. They can pay reasonable rent in any given borough, even while living out their wildest, pointless punk dreams. Feel free to shower less.


Main Characters: The entire NBA
Big Bad: Guest’s choice of NBA player
Main Attraction: The Arena

Jason Concepcion: Dunkworld is an entirely bespoke experience. Every prop, building, and host in Dunkworld is scaled to the guest’s height in order to simulate the experience of being a 7-foot NBA player. For instance, if you’re 5-foot-8, the rim is set to 8-foot-8, and the Dunkworld LeBron James host is calibrated to 5-foot-4. Ceilings, cars, hotel beds, everything is adjusted to the guest’s height to create a fully immersive simulated NBA experience.

Dunkworld has numerous, fully customizable scenarios available for guests:

  • Top Pick in the Draft
  • Game 7 of the Finals
  • The Underdog (No One Believed in Us)
  • Date with a Kardashian
  • Dunk on [Hall of Famer of Your Choice]
  • Bust Michael Jordan’s Ass at Cards
  • 1992 Olympics
  • Comeback From Down 3–1
  • Night on the Town
  • Chandler Parsons Recruiting Trip

And many more!


Main Character: Elisabeth Moss as The Sweet Secretary Becoming Woke to the Patriarchy
Big Bad: January Jones as The Mean Wife Who Doesn’t Want You to Have Fun
Main attraction: The nascent counterculture — Greenwich Village poetry readings for the dabblers, Palm Springs getaways for the truly hard core. The Esalen Institute is basically The Maze; you get there, you break the game, setting the robots (but more importantly, YOUR SOUL) free.

Alison Herman: Look, the Deadwood comparisons are already flying free and fast, so let’s just do our best Sheryl Sandberg (just like Theresa!) and lean into them. Westworld is like 30 percent live-action video game, 40 percent robot-sex emporium, and 30 percent live-action prestige television show: The smart visitors/viewers can go wide and use fancy words like "problematize," while the average Joes ’n’ Janes — but if we’re being real, mostly Joes — can be like "Don Draper seems like a great role model. Why is Betty so pissed off all the time?" It’s a big tent!

So for Westworld’s next expansion pack, it stands to reason that MadMenWorld should be first on the to-do list. (New Jersey MafiaWorld would be an acceptable substitute; PrisonWorld just … doesn’t seem like very much fun.) Maeve’s Saloon would become a sleek midcentury bar filled with single ladies to tempt you into extramarital affairs. The thrill of shooting a dude would be replaced by the thrill of landing a massive account. The breathtaking vistas of the American West would become the breathtaking, miraculously not-like-pee-smelling heights of Manhattan skyscrapers. It still costs $40K a day, though, because capitalism stays capitalism.


Main Character: Southern Californians
Big Bad: Mickey Mouse
Main attraction: The Nightly Parade

Juliet Litman: The first town we see in Westworld looks familiar. It looks like a set piece from a Western, yes. But it also looks like the setting for a try-hard music video, or a destination for a date on The Bachelor, or Main Street at Disneyland. There’s already a theme park inviting hordes of people to spend a wild amount of money on temporal thrills. It has the requisite artifice, replete with a narrow thoroughfare lined with shops. The rest of Disneyland — Tomorrowland, Splash Mountain, etc. — will be shut down, and the former rides and attractions will become ghost towns for guests to explore. The food court near the Cars ride in California Adventure will remain open, offering fountain sodas and turkey legs to anyone who ventures over there. Think of it as Disneylandworld’s Pariah analog.

The first eager guests will be Southern Californians who have a bizarre infatuation with Disneyland. It will not be difficult to convince them to attend. They feel a wonder and excitement for Disneyland that Americans from the other 49 states are impervious to. These Californians will become crazed evangelists who will drive prices up even further.

Guests won’t be prepared for the version of Mickey Mouse that they might encounter. He finally realizes that he does not exist. Mickey is just an elaborate costume worn by an actor in the most literal sense. Mickey, disabused of his own myth, is depressed and angry. He spends his time trying to convince the other characters that they aren’t real either, but they don’t listen. Minnie still takes pictures with children.

The big draw is the nightly parade. Sure, people love the rides at Disneyland, but they won’t be missed in Disneylandworld. It’s all about atmosphere, and the disarmingly buoyant parade that takes over Main Street every evening is what the guests really come for. Put every color on display in the gaudy floats that cruise by. The marching band will play loudly for an hour. There will be dancers with streamers. It’ll be a sensory overload so complete that guests are confused into believing they’re happy.


Main Character: Alexander Skarsgård as Kristaps Porzingis
Big Bad: Peter Dinklage as James Dolan
Main attraction: Madison Square Garden (and the rest of Manhattan)

Sam Schube: Westworld, the idea goes, gets stranger the farther you get from the center of the park. You can drink and sleep around and shoot things up at the saloon, or you can … drink and sleep around and shoot things up even more out on the edges of town. That’s too easy. If Westworld is an open-world game like Red Dead Redemption, KnicksWorld — a vaguely fictionalized version of Manhattan — is the career mode in NBA 2K, blown to smithereens. And forget the geographical levels of weirdness — KnicksWorld is weird everywhere, and nowhere more so than at its beating heart: Madison Square Garden. There, guests can join up with Good Boy Kristaps Porzingis, play basketball, and attempt to lead the Knicks back to the playoffs. Or they can link up with Mr. Potato Head and switch everything on defense. Peter Dinklage’s Jimmy D strolls the premises, fedora affixed and kazoo in hand, trying to get in your way (or at least show you something cool on his phone). And if guests aren’t interested in playing or watching sports, there’s plenty of trouble to get into down the road at J.R. Smith’s Greenhouse — a nightclub that puts Westworld’s bars and brothels to shame.

Cashmere World, Brought to You by Nancy Meyers, Eileen Fisher, and Crate&Barrel

Main Character: Emma Thompson as Joan, a fiftysomething who wears linen and wakes up each day excited to finally finish the extension on her beach house
Big Bad: George Clooney as the neighbor protesting said home extension
Main Attraction: 60 exact copies of Ina Garten’s East Hampton home, all lined up in a row, with a stocked kitchen and a robot Jeffrey

Amanda Dobbins: Every day Joan wakes up with one goal: to finally pick out the tile for the new bathroom in the extension on her beach house. Then she’s going to host a dinner party for her book club, which includes three brand-new members, two of whom swear they have actually read the book. (The book is The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson.) It will be a perfect early summer day in South Devon.

Anyway: Joan is prevented from choosing tile because the home-goods store (sponsored by Crate&Barrel) is overrun by Cashmere World guests who are just running around shoving Le Creusets up their shirts and fucking on the display beds. Then Joan’s book club is crashed by Sancerre-drunk guests who definitely did not read the book but who keep wandering into random rooms of her house and touching all the (Eileen Fisher) clothes in the closet. Joan begins to develop a sense that she didn’t always care about book clubs and bathroom fixtures; she wonders if there might be more for her outside the confines of South Devon. But before she can figure things out, George Clooney (time-traveling ex-husband) shows up in her backyard with a hand-painted "NIMBY" sign and a megaphone and starts yelling about how she is not following local extension ordinances.

Will Joan persevere with her renovation? Or will she seek a life beyond linen dresses and hand towels and topiaries and little jars for all her pasta? Find out next week on Cashmere World, Brought to You by Nancy Meyers, Eileen Fisher, and Crate&Barrel.

Real World: America

Main Character: You
Big Bad: Donald Trump (and/or Hillary Clinton?)
Main attraction: America

Kevin O’Connor: What I’d desire more than anything else is an experience that bends, distorts, and blends the lines of reality and fiction — something that makes the environment feel as familiar as the hosts themselves. The world I’d want to explore is an artificial version of our own planet, countries, and societies.

Real World: America is a place that replicates modern society in the United States with hosts based on public figures — from politicians to entertainers — and places — from the Grand Canyon to Madison Square Garden — as well as the artificial intelligence of the people you pass by each and every day walking the city streets, the people you stand behind in line at Starbucks, and the people you sit next to in class. While visitors to the park might treat it like Grand Theft Auto, I think more than any other park based in a historical time, this would be a place where people would find out who they really are and what they could be.

FiveThirtyEight Presidential Forecast World

Main Character: Nate Silver
Big Bad: Nate Silver
Main Attraction: American democracy

Riley McAtee: You wake up. It’s November 8, 2016. Election Day. It’s time to do your civic duty. Over breakfast you consider the choices on the ballot for a final time. They say you’re in a swing state — North Carolina — so this one counts. Can’t get too cute. Obviously the top of the ticket matters, but you know that real change starts from the bottom. The down-ballot races could determine the political future of the state. Finally, you’re ready. You make your way to your voting location, an elementary school in Wake County. Lines are long — you wait over an hour to cast your vote — but it’s worth it to exercise your right as an American.

This is the most masochistic world. North Carolina goes red this time — as it does 49.7 percent of the time. But Florida goes blue, along with Virginia and Pennsylvania, allowing the election to be called before 11 p.m. ET. Maybe next time N.C. will go blue with it. Maybe next time the election will end in an electoral tie, as it did a few hundred simulations ago — 0.6 percent of the time. Or in a recount — 8.8 percent. That scenario is even less fun. Maybe next time you’ll just say "fuck it" and vote for Gary Johnson. But today’s election is over, it’s time for bed.

You wake up. It’s November 8, 2016. Election Day. There are 7,273 more simulations to go before Nate Silver’s latest election forecast is complete. You’re in hell.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.