Last weekend, Westworld’s executive producer Jonathan Nolan told a group of fans at New York Comic Con that the show was inspired by video games like Grand Theft Auto and BioShock. As a fan of the games and an admirer of designer Ken Levine’s work, it looks like Nolan and his team may be have paid the game some homage in the most recent episode.
In Sunday’s episode, there’s a scene where Bernard is following Dr. Ford around the workshop office space, talking about the theme park. You can see a variety of artifacts scattered around the workshop, and eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed a white-faced bust sitting atop a small table. There’s only a quick glimpse of it, but Redditor Raptoropteryx and others have pointed out that it looks eerily similar to BioShock’s Sander Cohen, the resident artist and thespian that ruled over the Fort Frolic area of the underwater city of Rapture. The only thing missing is the mustache.
The first image below is of Sander Cohen from the first BioShock game. The photo below that is an image that a Polygon reader sent in showcasing the head in question. There are certainly quite a few similarities, and considering the fact that Nolan unabashedly adores the games, calling them “the most literate and thoughtful pieces of entertainment” he has seen in the past decade, there’s reason to believe he drew some influence from Sander Cohen.
Nolan also added an interesting tidbit about a conversation he had with Levine while doing research about games for Westworld. Nolan said that what he loved about Levine’s work was all the backstory the BioShock creator would give to NPCs and the dialogue he would write for them, even knowing that most players wouldn’t spend the time going around to each background character and engaging with them.
“In a scene, I think I had just run through and shot everyone and kept going,” Nolan said, as reported by Vulture. “And he was talking about how much craft had gone into all the conversations that the non-player characters had, and all their dreams and aspirations. And I just thought, ‘Oh, isn't that tragic? Isn't that sad? And the player just ignores it all. The bastards.’”
Like Levine, Nolan is someone who appreciates the background characters and the little Easter eggs that fans can discover if they pay enough attention. The producer admitted in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that the show would also have some Easter eggs for fans of the original movie, so it’s a concept that Nolan is familiar with.
The idea that Nolan paid tribute to the main thespian of BioShock by turning his head into a host’s — an army of artificially intelligent robots designed to essentially act out different scenes with visitors — is pretty great. Polygon has reached out to HBO for confirmation.
Westworld airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.