When you combine my love of video games with A Song of Ice and Fire (known to the Unsullied as Game of Thrones) I do a happy dance. It involves a lot of arm flailing, Irish jigs and high-pitched squealing.
Even better, it’s coming to us courtesy of Telltale, which is known for tight story-focused games such as The Walking Dead series and The Wolf Among Us.
So the big question is this: what story is Telltale gonna… tell? (I know, I’m sorry.) As an ASOIAF supa-fan, here are my theories:
1) Robert’s Rebellion
I didn’t know how desperately I wanted this until it walked into my mind, covered in wildfire and screaming Targaryens.
For all ye unknowing, Robert’s Rebellion is the entire set up for A Song of Ice and Fire. It denotes a period of time in which the reigning family, the Targaryens (known for dragons and incest, woo!), were deposed and almost annihilated by Robert Baratheon. Robert’s fiancée, Lyanna Stark (our dear Ned’s lil sis), was abducted by the dastardly Rhaegar Targaryen (next in line for the throne) leading to an all-out brawl.
Not only would this scenario involve some of the best and most complex characters in the series – Ned Stark, Catelyn Tully, Jamie Lannister, Robert Baratheon, (possibly) Littlefinger, the Blackfish, STANNIS – but it would also allow us a glimpse at some of the most influential characters leading up to ASOIAF: Rhaegar Targaryen, Brandon Stark, Hoster Tully, Jon Arryn, Rickard Stark, Howland Reed, Ser Arthur Dayne, Lyanna Stark, and the Mad King.
For people who neither watch the show nor read the books, this means some crazy characters. Just take Aerys Targaryen, the reigning king.
This guy not only married his sister, he grew out his hair and fingernails and developed such a fascination with fire that he could only, uh, get it up if he was watching someone burn to death. He’s also a little paranoid and generally known as “The Mad King” or “King Scab.”
On the other hand, you have Robert Baratheon, a young studly sort who likes to drink, boink and smash things with his hammer. Did I mention he likes to smash things?
He’s played by the hilarious Mark Addy on the show as a drunk bro who’s aged out of his six pack on a diet of wine and cookies. But never fear: the bravado and self-delusion would still be on full display in a prequel. He’s pretty awesome.
Plus, if anyone’s concerned, there’s precedence for Telltale using main characters: while The Walking Dead showcased a side storyline from the comics’ (and TV show’s) main plot, The Wolf Among Us stars main character Bigby Wolf and other major Fables characters such as Bluebeard and Snow White in a prequel to the comic series.
Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weis have also said that they will not show flashbacks on the TV show, giving an opportunity for Telltale to provide in their stead.
It also helps that this would be a major draw for ASOIAF/GOT fans who are not gamers. My mother, who can’t watch Helm’s Deep in Two Towers without hiding her face, said without hesitation she would buy the game in a heartbeat. (And make someone else play it. Yes, we are related.) This means another huge demographic for Telltale who, when they see the quality of the game, might take a peek at Telltale’s other offerings. Hey, that’s how I found The Wolf Among Us.
But, of course, there are…
An issue Telltale would have to dance around is the potential spoilers they might inflict. There are certain major theories (R+L=J) whose entire existence center around what happened before and during the rebellion. Whether or not GRRM wants to reveal these major plot points in a video game is something that could impact Telltale’s ability or willingness to use this storyline.
There’s also the small matter of knowing how this all turns out. It’s not a secret that Robert wins, the Targaryens are murdered, and Ned loses almost all of his family. As many of Telltale’s games focus around unpredictability (The Walking Dead) and mystery (The Wolf Among Us) this poses a narrative problem. What is the gamer working toward? What mystery will they solve?
And then there’s the…
This could unfold in several ways.
First we have what seems the most logical, emotional path: Ned Stark. As the heart of A Game of Thrones (first book), Ned acts as the moral compass of Westeros. He is an honorable but fallible man, fighting to protect his family as much as his friend, Robert.
Ned’s storyline would also bring other compelling characters into the fold: his older brother, Brandon Stark; Brandon’s intended, Catelyn Tully; father figure Jon Arryn; erratic Lysa Tully; strange Howland Reed; and young Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger). As a primary proponent of Robert’s Rebellion, Ned would not only deal with the complex family drama that unfolds, but also ride into battle, hunt down Rhaegar and Lyanna, and make complex moral decisions that impact the course of Westerosi history.
Also, he fights Ser Arthur Dayne, known as the ‘Sword of the Morning.’ Dayne is also known as the best swordsman of their generation. So there is potential for some seriously epic showdowns.
But, of course, this POV deals with some of the most spoilery elements of Robert’s Rebellion. There would need to be some ‘fade outs’ especially when it comes to the Tower of Joy. Promise me, Ned!
Another option is to show different POVs for every episode, as Telltale did in The Walking Dead: 400 Days. This could avoid spoilers and also be used to show the most compelling parts of the Rebellion. Be Ned as he fights with Robert and searches for his sister, but also be Stannis as he holds off the Tyrells at Storm’s End, be Jaime Lannister as he is faced with protecting a king who would do harm to everyone he loves, be Brandon Stark as he negotiates a complex betrothal but also tries to save his father.
The only drawback is that it cuts off the emotional resonance at its knees. The Walking Dead is so compelling because we are Lee and we come to love Clementine because of Lee. By tying different episodes to different protagonists we might lose those connections.
2) Aegon the Conqueror and other Targaryen-y Plotlines
If you vaguely follow what GRRM is up to, you know he’s got an obsession with his fire-loving, dragon-riding rulers. Starting with Aegon and his two sisters/wives (yeah) we’ve got a long history of incest, burning, backstabbing and general chaos.
We’ve even got someone who drank wildfire because he thought it would turn him into a dragon. If you thought the Mad King was an anomaly in the Targaryen dynasty you were wrong. As Barristan Selmy says: “Every child knows that the Targaryens have always danced too close to madness.”
- The Princess and the Queen: a novella by GRRM outlining the “Dance of Dragons,” a bloody conflict that occurs between Princess Rhaenyra and her stepmother Queen Alicent. We’ve got dragons, bloodshed, duplicity and a lot of people dropping like flies.
- Bloodraven: a legitimized bastard of Aegon IV Targaryen who has a birthmark that looks like “a raven drawn in blood.” He is rumored to be a sorcerer and goes through enough violence to be in the ‘missing-body parts department’ with Lee. He’s also got a thing for his half-sister Shiera Seastar, who his half-brother Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers also desires. Family drama!
- Aegon the Conqueror: his quest to conquer Westeros, along with his sisters. Woo?
- Blackfyre Rebellion: touches on a similar point in history to Bloodraven, but with more of a focus on the rebellion of the bastard Targaryen line with Bloodraven serving as a supporting character.
Everyone’s character model is going to have white hair and purple eyes.
Telltale’s going to find out just how many shades of white there are.
I kid. I’m sure they’ll figure something out.
There are actually a few problems to consider, the first is that the source material for the “Dance of Dragons” is some of the least compelling works written by Martin. Styled as a historic account written by a maester, The Princess and the Queen recounts but does not emotionally involve the reader. It’ll be extra work on Telltale’s part to make characters compelling enough for the audience to invest in. (Besides, they all snuff it so quickly not even The Walking Dead fans will give a shit.)
Furthermore, the Targaryens – while fascinating – are not an inherently likeable bunch. They practice incest with gusto, boinking sisters, half-brothers, aunts and uncles until they kill each other out of jealousy. It’s a little hard to empathize with someone when they are smarting because their brother is also courting their sister. C’mon, guys. It won’t be too much of a problem for fans of the books, but newcomers might be put off.
You’ve also got the same problem as #1: it’s history, with an outcome that is easily googled.
3) Dunk & Egg
Okay, I’m going to admit this now: I haven’t actually read these books/comics. I know, I hang my head in shame. Still, the Tales of Dunk and Egg are known for providing rich history as well as fine writing. Hey, we’re off to a good start!
The Tales of Dunk and Egg revolve around the adventures of a knight, “Dunk” (the future commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Duncan the Tall) and his squire, “Egg” (the future king Aegon V Targaryen). I know, another Targaryen. I told you they are unavoidable. I have it on good authority that Egg is pretty great though.
Aside from the historical problem, same as options #1 and #2, you’ve got the problem that George signed a contract with HBO for the Dunk & Egg series, so it looks unlikely to say the least. Oh well, we can still dream….
4) Foot Soldier, and other random people
Telltale might take different route entirely and go more of a Walking Dead route with the plot occurring the same time as the events of ASOIAF. This would, of course, preclude any major characters aside from brief cameos (like Glen in TWD).
There are several options here – they could pick up with a common foot-soldier, a farmer or an orphaned child. We could be a man of the Night’s Watch, roaming the burning countryside in look for recruits.
They might even be able to pick up with minor characters that disappear from the books. What happened to Hot Pie?
I’m just kidding, no one wants to play a 10-hour game on Hot Pie.
They could take it elsewhere: set the game in Asshai or the Dothraki Sea. It’s really up to what George provides them.
While this would get rid Google-able spoilers problem, the option presents its own unique issues. Whatever character/situation Telltale would use, it would have to be someone who cannot affect the main storyline. This means that, if you want the game to be set in Westeros, the characters better be minor and will be, in all likelihood, predominately low-born.
While there’s nothing wrong with that, a significant portion of what makes ASOIAF so compelling are the events like the Red Wedding and Blackwater. The meat of the books is in the powerful (monetarily, linguistically, physically) characters who emerge in positions of authority and play chess with the lives around them. You can’t have a siege of Blackwater without the game-changing forces behind it.
It doesn’t help that there are already several GOT games out where you play a foot soldier or minor lord in Westeros. Give me something new. Give me the conquerors. Give me the kingmakers. Give me somebody who makes a mark on the world.