A few years ago, the Axis of Awesome released their “Rage of Thrones.” I got a hearty chuckle out of it upon first viewing and quickly forgot about it, but lately it’s been popping to mind kind of frequently.
[Explicit language warning]
The phenomenon of “book to screen” is nothing new, but it feels like in recent years it’s being increasingly rewarded by moviegoers. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent – popular literary series that have been serialized by Hollywood into easily digestible, regularly released titles. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all; many of the aforementioned films were quite entertaining and well-produced.
So far as the smaller screen goes, the buzzword has been “Game of Thrones.” I have to say it took me by surprise. What would 10 or 15 years ago have fallen unquestionably smack dab into super nerd territory has become a mainstream staple. Before it came to TV, can you imagine telling your “normal” friends (or heaven forbid, a girl) about this fantasy series, with its spate of characters, nonstop political intrigue, subtle hints of magic, and, er, incest? Chances are their reaction wouldn’t have been “Sounds cool – sign me up!”
And yet this is where we are. Well, good on George R. R.
Personally, I’ve only watched the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. I did like the books better. Though I enjoyed the show, I found myself not quite satisfied with things like casting decisions or ways the original story was edited. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the gratuitous nudity and sex (in an HBO show? Surprise!). The books aren’t exactly rated G, but I felt like Martin didn’t devote an especially excessive amount of words to the sex scenes; nor did they strike me as especially salacious.
Most of the fans I’ve talked to haven’t read the books, including my sister and a number of friends. I get it – not everyone has the time, and these aren’t exactly compact novellas. And not everyone is a reader, as unfortunate as that is. Still, I hope the show will inspire more people to eventually pick up the books.
Myself, I haven’t felt compelled to do any rereading of late, and who knows when the next installment will be out. Perhaps another half-decade, George? I have found Telltale’s latest effort to be quite fun, however.
In case you’re unfamiliar with their previous titles, Telltale games are kind of the spiritual successors to the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. I’m always a little hard-pressed to describe them, because saying they’re dialogue and choice-driven (though they are) tends to do them a disservice. I haven’t tasted all the flavors; I played through the first Walking Dead game and have gone through all the Game of Thrones episodes (installment-modeled pieces of the first game) thus far, and both have played similarly.
Neither game as been “fun” in the same way that it is to mow down hordes of zombies or lay low enemy footmen in similarly themed titles. Playing Telltale’s GoT is fun akin to watching it on HBO. Except imagine you could direct Sansa Stark whether or not to trust Tyrion Lannister. Likewise in Walking Dead, suppose you could tell Rick to accept a stranger into the group, or to execute him before a new threat develops. These are the types of choices you make in Telltale games.
Sure, there is some “gameplay.” Periodically you’ll have to click an enemy’s head to brain them before they can do the same to you, or quickly tap some keys to dodge incoming projectiles. You’ll die, but the game is forgiving and lets you try again without sending you very far back. These moments add to the games’ already considerable sense of tension and make for some nice pacing of the stories.
But the real draw is how good Telltale is at, er, telling tales. Well, would you look at that. The plot and voice acting are top-notch, and even the art style, which may seem a little odd at first, will grow on you.
In the Game of Thrones flavor, you’re tasked with guiding the actions of the Forresters – honorable bannermen to the Starks who have fallen upon difficult times (Red Wedding mean anything to you?) and must make many hard and fateful decisions. Will they be able to save their House? Tough to say so far, but the story is certainly compelling and suspenseful, and there is a certain thrill from interacting with the likes of Tyrion and Cersei now and then. And oh that terrible Ramsay Snow. What a bastard.