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Game of Thrones deserves to be a great video game like Elden Ring

After the generational success that Game of Thrones brought the overall HBO brand, the face of original premium TV has begun a broader expansion of the dark fantasy world of author George R. R. Martin with House of the Dragon. The prequel has reinvigorated the strengths of the flagship show, with more projects underway — including the Jon Snow-led sequel series. But aside from more TV prequels and a sequel, as ambitious as that all sounds, the video game medium should be something else that’s at least on HBO and Martin’s radar.

Given the tumultuous merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery, it’s hard to say what the likes of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment will look like in the near or distant future, but the world of A Song of Ice and Fire is teeming with a mythology that would lend itself well to gaming. Whether it’s through the roleplaying or real-time strategy genres, there are plenty of avenues developers can take this IP.

The Elden Ring factor

Elden Ring still of the Tarnished fighting the dragon Agheel on horseback.

Before delving into the world of Ice and Fire, it’s worth noting that potential growth in the video game space wouldn’t be George R. R. Martin’s first foray into the medium.

Game director Hidetaka Miyazaki and the rest of the team at FromSoftware teamed up with Martin to lay the groundwork for the universe of Elden Ring. For those at all invested in gaming, it’s almost impossible not to have heard about the open-world action RPG’s emphatic critical acclaim.

It was publisher Bandai Namco and developer studio FromSoftware’s most successful game both critically and commercially. And while Martin’s creative contributions to the game were limited to the early world-building and lore, that’s all that would be needed of him in a hypothetical video game adaptation — or adaptations — of his own fantasy universe.

FromSoftware’s pioneering titles like Demon’s Souls, the Dark Soulstrilogy, Bloodborne, and now Elden Ring are excellent showcases for the kind of work that can be done with the dense lore and mythos of Game of Thrones. Aside from the fact that gaming creatives like Miyazaki mesh seamlessly with Martin’s brand of fantasy, the author’s experience with Elden Ring could prove valuable should he and other relevant HBO/Warner executives weigh their options for potential ventures in this arena.

Bringing unseen lands and stories to life

King Viserys and Alicent sitting next to his model of the Valyrian Freehold.

For as long as Game of Thrones was part of millions of audiences’ lives — and as long as House of the Dragon seems poised to be — not nearly as much of Martin’s world has been brought to life when taking the scope of the books into account.

That’s not inherently a fault on the TV shows, considering fantasy franchises naturally have continuities grander than what could ever be adapted to screen. However, video games have the potential to flesh out the universe without spreading the TV medium too thin.

There have been many places that were both described at length and only tantalizingly referenced in Martin’s novels and lore compendiums, and the hardware horsepower of the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and modern PCs could help developers flex the creative muscles that a TV production might not allow. Whether it’s because of budgetary, logistical, or creative reasons, the more grandiose and fantastical locales of A Song of Ice and Fire might even translate better in a game.

Daenerys' dragons Rhaegal and Drogon in Game of Thrones season 8.

One example of such a setting is indirectly relevant to the ongoing hit prequel series, as the opulence of Old Valyria and the Valyrian Freehold have only been told to fans by the likes of King Viserys I Targaryen as thrilling bedtime stories, without any visual accompaniment.

Old Valyria in general is a place spoken of in almost mystical reverence, and since it doesn’t look like (at least currently) Aegon I Targaryen’s conquest of Westeros will be adapted into live-action or otherwise anytime soon, it seems even less so that we’ll see the Freehold at the height of its power. That makes video games an exciting alternative with their own great possibilities to capture the visual splendor of that time and place.

Seeing a time when the Targaryens were just one of many Dragonlord families could be compelling to adventure through, but what the medium allows could bring experiences outside of the legacy house and their mascots. Essos has a wealth of unseen opportunities to let would-be players explore, like the ominous Shadow Lands of Asshai and the supernatural and occult practices prevalent there.

More than anything, gaming would allow the most fantastical elements of Martin’s world to finally take center stage.

Virtually endless possibilities

Split image of Dark Souls, The Witcher 3, and Skyrim promo art.

Aside from the content, the next most important factor in bringing Martin’s fantasy universe to a fresher medium is what its various genres can provide. Fantasy, by nature, is an incredibly versatile genre regardless of the medium it is featured on.

The first no-brainer would be the RPG, as time and time again it’s paved the way for some of the best fantasy games. FromSoftware’s aforementioned dark-fantasy RPGs are just a few, but CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher games (which are adaptations of Andrzej Sapkowski’s books), Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls, and others have also proven to be excellent showcases for the genre’s depth in gaming.

Part of that could be credited to the success of tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons back in the 1970s and ’80s, which pioneered how engrossing player choice is in an interactive fantasy experience. An open-world RPG set in the Valyrian Freehold — or at least a slice of it — is an enticing thought, especially when taking into account the prominence of dragons and House Targaryen, as well as House Velaryon. The hypothetical tie-in marketing with House of the Dragon almost speaks for itself.

Outside of that corner of the world, past ideas that didn’t pan out in the TV format could also see a revival here, including the canceled Bloodmoon prequel series that was set to star Naomi Watts in a leading role and would have chronicled the events of the first Long Night.

Split image of Dune: Spice Wars and Warcraft III.

Likewise, real-time strategy games would be another natural fit for this world. For reference, Shiro Games’ upcoming Dune: Spice Wars or the classic Warcraft games could be looked at as a template. There’s more than enough war to go around in Westeros’ history and beyond, and a strategy game could justify playing in or out of continuity to create a worthwhile premise. Perhaps players could play out the famous War of the Five Kings from Game of Thrones their own way.

Graphic adventure is a genre that one of the franchise’s few gaming exploits has dabbled in, and while Telltale Games’ episodic game didn’t earn a particularly great reception, it had a solid foundation for how such a game would work mechanically. One of the biggest appeals of these shows and the source material is the dark political machinations and character drama in the narratives, so it’s easy to see how a graphic adventure game could simulate a similar interactive, “choose-your-own-adventure” experience to the TV shows.

Wherever the executives at the top steer the IP going forward, it should be clear enough that video games as a platform have more than enough potential to warrant adapting this rich universe elsewhere on the small screen.

The first season of House of the Dragon is currently streaming on HBO and HBO Max, with the entirety of Game of Thrones available on both platforms.

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