Entertainment TV Why the whole world is playing a ‘Game of Thrones’

Why the whole world is playing a ‘Game of Thrones’

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· Dummies guide to Game of Thrones Season 4 

Millions of people around the world will be approaching the next 24 hours online with trepidation. When to turn off phones and lock the bedroom door? When to disconnect from social media, the internet and all human contact in order to ensure a pristine Game of Thrones viewing experience?

It may already be too late. It seems Game of Thrones‘ season four launch hasn’t just become a part of the news cycle, it has become the news cycle.

Sure some news outlets are restraining themselves admirably, publishing as few as three news stories on the topic each day but others are really getting carried away.

While the sort of magazines that the ABC likes to make mini-series about are getting excited about the future King visiting Australia, GQ magazine’s editors in the US took one look at their monthly options – the future Queen of Westeros talking about her new hair cut or Miranda Kerr talking about how sex keeps her fit – and knew instantly which was the story to promote up top: The hair cut is (be)coming…

Photo: GQ
Natalie Dormer, who plays Queen-to-be Maegaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones. Photo: GQ

Tragically with two big interviews, GQ were barely able to afford any clothes for either of their subjects to wear.

What about the news outlets? Well, no one can accuse the world’s media of not taking the new season of Game of Thrones seriously. Quite the opposite. Interviews and previews have been the number one featured story on the major Australian newspaper sites at several points over the last week. In fact a case could be made that the Westeros-based HBO series has united news outlets more successfully than King Robert ever did the seven kingdoms.

For example, over at Not On Our Watch, George Clooney wants you to know about and react to the recent burning of more than 400 shelters, after bombs wreaked havoc in urban areas of Darfur in the last week. It’s a story with big star power, a far sprawling conflict impacting millions of innocents, and it’s all set in a country that many people couldn’t find on a map. But, you see, there are no dragons. So Time magazine went with an infographic explaining the complex power struggle in Westeros instead better luck next time George.

The Ukraine doesn’t have dragons either, but they do have combat dolphins, so the internet is interested. Sadly those within the Ukraine have jumped on the wrong pop culture bandwagon, with authorities forced to reject a presidential bid from Darth Vader. Of course they did! Star Wars is so 1999/2015. If it had been Tyrion Lannister announcing his candidature things might have been different. A Ukraine that always repays its debts might prove a more daunting prospect for Russia.

Sadly the Ukrainians didn’t think to apply Game of Thrones to their present situation … so CNN did. Helpfully explaining that real world flash point in the George RR Martin terms we all understand. It’s just a pity they couldn’t manage a useful infographic of the important conflict, like this one.

Photo: HBO
Emilia Clarke’s character’s names ‘Khaleesi’ and ‘Daenerys’ have become popular baby names in the US and UK. Photo: HBO

It’s not just geopolitics setting sail en masse for Kings Landing. In the world of finance we’re used to bear markets and bull markets, but a direwolf market seems a stretch. Yet at the click of a link you can learn what Game of Thrones can teach us about life, leadership, politics, business communications, and of course business.

In fact the business world is so excited to have a pop culture reference more recent than Wall Street or The Godfather, they’ve sat down and worked out the economy of Westeros and the wealth of its players in pounds sterling.

On the tech side, Game of Thrones isn’t just dominating social media – and it really is, look at this social media graphic – but is also used to explain it. Twice. HootSuite got so much joy last year out of explaining the wars between Facebook and Twitter via a laboured ‘Winter is Coming’ metaphor in infographic form that they have done it again! This year as a video. Next year’s ice wall ice sculpture metaphor will undoubtedly be another hit.

Even sport has got in on the act. In the UK, the Premier League is delivering one of the tightest competitions in years, so thankfully the football writers are spending their time translating Game of Thrones into soccerisms, complete with some impressive photoshop work. While over in the US, the college basketball event that is March Madness hasn’t prevented one sports network from planning live video coverage of their office before AND after the first episode airs so people can watch them preparing and recovering.

Photo: Grantland
US sports website Grantland’s promotion for its journalists Game of Thrones coverage. Photo: Grantland

Not concerned yet? How about the church using Game of Thrones to try and get you to contemplate spirituality? There’s the people doing PhDs on Game of Thrones, those who believe it’s a great history lesson, those who are naming their children Khaleesi in the US and in the UK, and speaking of Great Britain, one of their most illustrious speaking engagements was given to 21 year old actor Jack Gleeson, who plays King Joffrey, and he was good!

And don’t worry if you’re in the presumed minority of the world who don’t speak fluent Hodor. If like Jon Snow you know nothing, you’re not alone, which is presumably why “Game of Thrones” is the most popular “Dummies guide to…” search on the internet. “Dummies guide to the Ukraine” returns … fewer hits.

So while it remains unclear who will win the Game of Thrones in Westeros, in our realm it is clear the king of all the media realms is George R.R. Martin – long may he reign.

Oh wait. Given the evidence, I suppose I haven’t written this in the right terms. Hmmmm. Well, if Rupert Murdoch is Littlefinger, then Fairfax is Varys, and I guess as an entertainment journalist I’m … an imp dressed as a knight riding a pig. And yet for some reason, lately I’ve been appointed to the small council! Got it? Great.

Back to the pig then.

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