The internet worked itself into a tizzy recently? Why? Well, this time it was because of an alleged Game of Thrones video game. A listing allegedly went up at Target for a Bethesda Game of Thrones title. Target responded that it was not a real product, never existed, and our dreams of wandering through a Westeros similar to Skyrim went down in flames. But there’s another reason this stung so bad, and that’s because it gave us false hope of a good Game of Thrones game.
In case you haven’t been following along, the A Song of Fire and Ice series hasn’t exactly gotten its proper due in interactive media. The books are amazing. The TV show is pretty great. Even some of the board games, companion guides, and comic books are good. But by and large, the games suck. It makes you wonder why companies can’t get it right and properly represent the series in a way that lets us actually wander through Westeros.
I mean, let’s go over what we’ve gotten so far. Game of Thrones: Genesis was a real-time strategy game that looked bad, had unappealing and bad gameplay, terrible voice acting, and a poor story. The action-RPG, simply called Game of Thrones, had an interesting enough concept, but had bad gameplay, didn’t tell its story well, looked terrible, and included plenty of bugs. Game of Thrones Ascent was a social strategy game, which meant pestering your friends to actually play. Of everything so far, the Telltale Game of Thrones series was probably best, as it only focused on telling a story within the confines of events we already knew happened. But even then, it faltered because we knew we weren’t impacting the actual series events, just that of one family’s.
So what keeps going wrong? A lot of this seems to be about not capturing the essence of the actual novel and show. The only games that have come close to getting elements right are the Atlus and Telltale Game of Thrones game. Both because the story nailed the actual atmosphere, where there are all sorts of political overtones, grave decisions, and engaging characters. The strategy games fall flat, because while war is a big factor, it is more the one-on-one conflicts that keep people enraptured, as well as the grand plans specific people lay and pull off. The games we have so far almost seem like standard strategy or RPG affairs with A Song of Fire and Ice overlay, which doesn’t work.
I think a big part of the problem is A Song of Fire and Ice is unfinished. When a saga is in the state that it is, an interactive version can’t keep up. It isn’t like a developer or publisher could go with an established hero or heroine. While the books and TV series are long, what’s actually happening would go pretty quickly in a game if we followed Dany or Jon Snow. It’s only in the sixth and seventh seasons of the show that we’ve made actual progress and resolution. And following along with side or original characters doesn’t have that same punch. We don’t connect with them as much as the people we know and love.
Perhaps there will be hope for a good A Song of Fire and Ice game someday. I feel like it will only happen after the TV show ends. Then, a company could come along and really build something that covers all the events of the world. Maybe we'll be able to actually play through the entirety of Arya or Jon Snow's story, as both are so tightly focused. Perhaps we'll see a strategy game where we can guide Dany's army as she conquers the world. A great Game of Thrones video game could happen, but it just isn't the right time yet.