Summary: The popular HBO series Westworld has a new voice first companion drama on the Amazon Alexa platform. Westworld:The Maze employs the technique of “memory test” to drive the interactive experience forward. The memory test is an interesting twist on the traditional choice-driven branching narrative.
HBO has partnered with the advertising/media agency 360i to create a Westworld-themed voice first drama. Newly launched on Amazon Alexa, the interactive audio drama aims to build brand awareness for the HBO series and engage loyal Westworld fans.
Angela Watercutter of Wired provides an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at the Westworld: The Maze voice skill. She visited the offices of 360i and at one point came face-to-face with the 250-page script that drives The Maze’s many narrative paths.
Westworld: The Maze bears the hallmarks of a category of voice first fiction that I’ll call “high-production quality interactive audio drama.” Those hallmarks include:
The recently released Jurassic World: Revealed skill, that I wrote about last week, falls into this same category of voice first fiction.
Interestingly, Westworld: The Maze offers a very different experience. The difference lies in the fact that creators of The Maze have chosen to make the drama into more of a game, or test, than a classic choose your own adventure.
The drama consists of three levels. To get past each level, a player has to correctly answer questions asked by various characters. Answering these questions is impossible, unless you’ve played the game several times and taken notes about names, places, and occurrences.
As your character is immersed in any particular scene, you’re forced to pay careful attention to what’s being said. Writing down what you’ve heard is important, so you have the answers handy whenever the question pops up. Novice players end up dead after a brief interaction. They’re reincarnated immediately and dropped back into Westworld to start all over again, but typically in a brand new scene.
I haven’t memorized my way out of the second level of The Maze yet. I have to say that the challenge is both intriguing and somewhat frustrating. But this mental act of unraveling a complex mystery very much mirrors the narrative style of the actual Westworld series.
The use of a “memory test” as the key driver of this interactive drama is innovative. I can imagine that many listener / players will enjoy the challenge of finally breaking out of one level and getting to the next. Personally, I find this sort of challenge more compelling than a standard choice-based branching narrative.
Since the memory-test technique mirrors the challenging narrative twists of the Westworld series, fans of the series should enjoy the voice first experience. We’ll keep an eye on user reactions to the skill to see if this style of interactive drama “game / test” resonates.