The Game of Thrones Effect: how antiquity enriched modernity

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It may be the characters that we follow in a movie or TV show, but the setting and directorial style tells the story. Every detail depicted is a choice made to best convey the director’s vision. Thinking back to Alfred Hitchcock’s emotive use of color in Vertigo, there’s no doubt that visual stimulation plays a large part in audience satisfaction. This applies even more so to an epic fantasy story, like Game of Thrones. The magic of this show is in its use of actual locations, the sets that often outshine the actors only needing some physical and CGI adjustments to recreate George Martin’s universe. By cleverly combining the real world with the fictional, Game of Thrones has become a cinematic sensation that continues to capture the imagination and conversation of the entertainment industry.

What maps narrate

The enigmatic changes to the title sequence is now common knowledge among the show’s fans. They were intended as a way to help viewers understand where the events of each episode would unfold and to remind or foreshadow important moments in the saga’s history. What would be just as useful, or simply desirable, is a map in the same style of all the real-life GoT locations for geeky travellers and lovers of architecture to make use of. As the Architizer elaborates, we already know that Croatia was one of the producers’ most popular choice. The medieval town of Šibenik became the harbour of Braavos. 2,000-year-old Klis Fortress near Split supposedly housed the rich citizens of Meereen, while a monastery on the island of Lokrum was used to embody the rich gardens of Qarth. Scotland’s Doune Castle, which also appeared in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, perfectly captured the austere grandeur of Winterfell, as did the medieval and gothic architecture of Northern Ireland’s Castle Ward.

These eclectic choices say something about the priorities of the GoT creators. They weren’t just delivering a series, but an experience, an adventure of the senses capable of inspiring the same mind-expanding feelings as fantasy literature is praised for. Terrence Malick, director of The Thin Red Line (1998) and The Tree of Life (2011), is an example of the impressive cinematography such values can yield. His aim for intense visual, conceptual and psychological impact is shared by GoT’s directors, who place their actors against beautiful backdrops chosen for their emotional effect, as well as their style and texture. The knowledge that these places are real and not entirely constructed on a computer almost gives the show a metafictional aspect. At the very least, it adds depth to the imaginative world of Westeros. Regardless of the show’s divisive ending and the occasional forgotten coffee cup, what can’t be disputed is the thought put into each scene’s combination of narration and aesthetics. It’s not only GoT that benefits from its effective production, but other industries too.

Fantasy helps reality

Tourism has grown in countries where filming took place. Iceland, Malta and Spain are three more destinations enjoying an increase in visitors since the show began. Game of Thrones Tours in Northern Ireland offers bus and trekking journeys through all the filming locations for Winterfell, the Iron Islands and even King’s Landing in Dubrovnik. Apart from boosting local economies, fans are also compelled to exercise by exploring up to 2 miles worth of wilderness or urban landscapes simply because they appeared on GoT. This is a boon on an individual and multicultural level.

Video games are always involved with every new trend in entertainment. PC developer Cyonide has made two attempts at sharing some of the GoT limelight with A Game of Thrones: Genesis (2011) and Game of Thrones (2012). An online slot game by the same name also exists, courtesy of Microgaming. The houses of Westeros spin on 5 reels, accompanied by the trademark music and visuals. The gaming industry is making its own efforts in recreating and embellishing on the epic universe consumers and businesses simply can’t get enough of.

Fashion has felt no less of an influence. The world has gone from admiring the characters’ costumes to clothing lines being created in their image. John Varvatos sells a range of GoT-themed clothes, including a Dragonstone linen jacket for $1,498 and a traveler bag for $798. Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry wore white dresses identical to Dany’s Valentino-style gown. Now that the show has ended, fans are clearly not satisfied with re-watching their favorite episodes. In order to keep its memory alive, living and dressing in the styles of Westeros is the next best thing.

Thanks to Game of Thrones, reality has never been more imaginative. George Martin’s books evolved beyond a fun TV series into a global phenomenon, valued for its cinematography and use of real-life places. This was quite the investment from the part of HBO, one usually found in prestigious productions like Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, which drew inspiration from Japan, Sweden, Australia and more. The immediate popularity of GoT was also due to its marketability that benefitted many, from industries to entire countries.

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