“You’re not going to make it out of here alive,” a woman said in a salty tone as I exited the train car at Sweetwater station in the dead of night.

Actually, I was about 14 miles outside of Austin, Texas, where HBO and agency Giant Spoon had built a two-acre theme park mimicking its returning TV series, Westworld, at the South by Southwest annual tech conference.  The HBO show, based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie, is set in a fictional park inspired by the old American West, where the ultra-rich can live out their wildest fantasies with humanoid robots. [SPOILERS] The androids turn on the visitors and begin killing them. The park is run by a fictional company, Delos Incorporated.

The park at SXSW was a spot-on recreation, down to The Mariposa saloon, The Coronado hotel, black and white hats, blood-stained player piano, cemetery, and saloon brawls. Instead of the robotic “hosts” from the show, which can be shot, beaten, raped, or loved without repercussions, real people played the parts. HBO had two rules: Don’t touch anyone, and don’t break anything.

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