#10: Game of Thrones
Is it cheating to include the game based on the television series based on the novel? Well, maybe. But this is still an important game especially for for the fans of the books. The game has two main characters, a Red Priest called Alester Sarwyck, who has the power to manipulate the fire, and the skinchanger Mors Westford, who can penetrate the mind of his fog. Alester was the heir of a wealthy family which is now in trouble and he has to return and save his family from his pious exile. Mors is a guard of the Night Watch. He is someone who has sworn to guard the Northern border of the country, which is very cold, and savage tribes and monsters roam beyond it, but it is now in dire need of money, and people keep deserting.
Now, none of these characters are from the book. The events are parallel to the events of the first novel A Game of Thrones and the first season of the TV series, and you do meet some of the main characters, including the Old Bear Mormont, the Queen Cersei, and Varys. Even George R. R. Martin himself has a Cameo appearance as Maester Martin in Castlewood. Since Martin himself oversaw the writing of the script, there are some questions and the theories of the fans which can be answered by the game, such as (the following paraphrag includes spoilers so don't read it if you haven't read the books or watched the series:
Did Cersei really order the killing of Robert's bastards? Well, we see her give the order here.
As a fan of the book series, this game is mandatory.
However, it is not a very good game, and not a very good story in itself. The game fails to grasp the complexity of Martin's world, and therefore overall it's a failure. It's more interesting for the trivia and the giggles than anything.
Now there are two sides to the world of Westeros. Fantasy, and politics. If you enjoy ASOIAF (acronym of A Song of Ice and Fire), then it is plausible to assume that you enjoy a world which combines the magic of fantasy genre with the darkest aspects of power and war. We'll get into these games. But first, let's separate them and talk about a fantasy game and a political one separately. Let's now focus on one side of that coin: ASOIAF has a vast carefully constructed fantasy world which feels completely real and yet it is imaginative you can feel you are exploring a land of wonders while you read the books. Is there a game which does the same- constructing a beautiful fantasy world with all its ups and downs and dangers and wonders and beauties and- of course- dungeons and dragons? Of course there is. There are many. Diablo fits, World of Warcraft fits, many games fit. But here I have chosen Baldur's Gate series.
You have to agree that the world of BG is quite cool. The world includes cities, mountains, plains, forests, and seas. The geography is very similar to that of ASOIAF, with the city of Baldur's Gate similar to the great cities like Winterfell and King's Landing. There are, like many great fantasy games, many classes and you fight a large variety of monsters and enemies. Just like ASOIAF, (and admittedly many other great games), these games provide a plausible experience of life in a fantasy world.
Now let's look at the other side of the coin. ASOIAF is also a very political book with clear messages, and in that aspect the closest game to the series is the spy fiction and sci-fi series MGS. Both works are anti-war, as we can see it in MGS in the scenes dealing with the horrific past of some enemies like The End or The Sniper Wolf, and in the book when Brienne visits war-ridden towns and other characters witness the horrors of war. Both works are very skeptical about the inner wokings of the political world. ASOIAF shows characters like Varys and Littlefinger and Doran plot in the shadows withour really thinking about the effects on the people, and we have the shadowy works of the Patriots in the game. In both works, we see the how fanaticism can destroy the world, as in the characters of Vamp or Mellisandre. Also, in both works we are shown that power is a corrupt entity which drives people insane, as in the character of Liquid or Cersei.
Also, in both works we are shown that heroism is not meaningless, and even though it might take you life, and although they might be flawed, ultimately the world is full of real heroes, maybe Jon and Samwell and Arya or even Solid Snake or Boss or Raiden.
So if you liked the political messages of ASOIAF, you're going to love MGS.
We tend to forget that GRRM is also a great science fiction writer. His first works were science fiction, and he has also edited Wild Cards, a science fiction and superhero steampunk anthology series set in a shared universe, composed of either individual short stories with a shared theme or mosaic novels. A virus infects the world and it either kills people or turns them into monsters or grants them super powers (somehow like the magic bestowed upon Corvo). The books are inspired by superhero comics, and many of the authors play with the conventions of the medium.
Actually, think about it, a superhero story set in a dystopian bleak sci-fi steampunk world? What more do you want to think that this is exactly like the world of Dishonored. Like Corvo, the superheroes of these books are usually a deconstruction of normal superheroes and their awesomeness, and the bleak side of these abilities are pictured. Both works portray poverty and how it affects the people who live under it and the celebrities and how rich feed on the poor. So the books and the games also share a strong social theme and commentary.
If you know GRRM only by ASOIAF, I really recommend Wild Cards. Also, the game.
One of the central themes of ASOIAF is the fact that heroism is impossible, that idealism is useless in the real world, that our heroes need to take a cue from Hobbes and the pragmatism of Machiavelli. This is a theme these books shares with this incredibly sad and solemn game, which follows its lonely hero who fights alone and is accused of the crime he had never committed, and disappears without us knowing what happened to him in the end. Vagrant Story is a requiem for heroism, a game which deconstructs the normal RPG themes and tropes to create a bleak reality. The same can be said of ASOIAF. Both works are one of the best examples of their respective genre, and both turn its conventions on their heads and undermine the tropes to create a more realistic and pessimistic version of it.
They are different in tone though. ASOIAF seems to be more gritty while VS is more sad and serious. ASOIAF takes place in epic proportions and deals with many characters while VS deals with an individual hero and villain and few supporting characters and everything is minimalistic. Also, I have always find the story of VS lyrical, so maybe this game is also very close to the world of Cormac McCarthy and surely I will add this game to his list when the time comes.
I'm leaving this entry short because to elaborate would spoil the books and the game.
I talked to many people about this list series before embarking to write it, and they all seemed to agree on one thing: Skyrim should be on this list. And the reason is completely clear. Both Skyrim and ASOIAF have a very vast and detailed world. Both of them make the life in a fantasy world completely authentic and both of them are long. ASOIAF is a famous door stopper which is already 8000 pages long and two more volumes (at least) are in the way. As for Skyrim, I personally have spent 1500 hours of my life in that universe (so far). In addition to authentic fantasy experience and length there is thematic similarities too. A side story of both works are a civil war, the war of the Five Kings and the war between Nords and Imperials. [If calling the war of the Five Kings a "side story" seems strange to you, remember that ultimately the series is about the dawn of winter and the Others]. In both of these side stories the morality is gray and gray and each side has its own weaknesses and strengths. You might remember the debate between me and Blue Gunstar Hero in Gaming Symmetry about which side we rooted for in the Civil War, and you might also remember that I was completely right and he was completely wrong. Haha, kidding, actually we were both right and we both had our point and I believe the whole point of that debate was to illustrate this point. And if you look at the forums of Westeros.org you will see how readers have rooted for different characters - Stannis, Danny, Lannisters, Starks, etc, and how they all find textual evidence to support their characters. The books and the games are also similar because you can't go to some parts of Skyrim and NOT think of the Wall, and also Dovakiin reminds me of Danny somehow in her quest to perfect her Dragon abilities.
There is one crucial difference between the two works though. First off, Skyrim is not as realistic as ASOIAF. While people who dislike fantasy love ASOIAF, Skyrim goes to the other extreme and indulges in all manners of fantasy and supernatural. ASOIAF thrives by undermining fantasy tropes and expectations and Skyrim thrives by adding as many as possible. Although both works are great in their own place (greatest of their in my humble opinion), their philosophy of existence is radically different.
Another central theme of ASOIAF is this: power is evil, power corrupts, it corrupts people and nations alike, it destroys good men and women and bad ones equally, that the quest for it is mad and stupid and to desire power is a sure path to one's doom. And the exact same can be said about these games. Now this section will be full of spoilers. Don't read the second paragraph if you haven't read the books (all five of them) and don't read the last one if you haven't played the game.
Robert Baratheon was a good brave man who was in love with Ned's sister and helped people a lot. But when he became King the power took its toll on him and he became some fat dude who abused his wife and didn't care for his children and spent his time whoring and drinking and hunting. Speaking of his wife, what would Cersei be if not a loving mother if she was not Queen, and the power led her to be increasingly paranoid until she created enemies in everyone even her own uncle and her ultimate (possible) downfall? Why would Ned lose his head if not for the politics of power? Why would Jon do things against his own conscience if he had not become Lord Commander? What about the tragic fate of Theon? And while it's true that characters like Joffrey and Ramsey are evil by nature, they would never have an opportunity to commit their cruel deeds without power, or at least the scale would be less horrifying. A psychopath without power is at worst a serial killer, one with power becomes someone like Idi Amin or Hitler.
And the same is true about the game. Arthas was a good prince, a brave man, but he made a pact with the devil to gain more undead powers, and he makes that deal only because he is blinded by his own prejudice against Orcs and the Undead, and he ends up massacring an entire village, killing his own father and mentor, and then he BECOMES an Undead, the very thing he had tried to fight against. He then moves on to become the Lynch King, a classic case of hero turned villain.
All these examples support real world evidence - you can easily compare Cersei and Arthas to real world dictators, and it is one area that fantasy is never as absurd as reality. So these works are similar because they are both fantasy works supporting freedom, by deconstructing the evil of power.
There are many characters in both works. In both works, it's hard to decide who is the main hero (although the best answer is none). In both works each character has his/her own philosophy of life, which come to clash in the context of the novel/game and there is never a clear winner. Ned has his stoicism and honor, Stannis his rigid idea of justice, Renly believes in the popular voice, Tywin is a fascist who believes in nothing but his own power, Tyrion is a pessimist who believes the world is an ugly place.... and so on and so forth. Ramza Beoulve is a free spirited heretic, his free-thinking attitude is symbolized in him being a mercenary- belonging to no creed, just a man of himself. Delita Hyral, another major character, is a commoner who has turned into a hero, and his ideas clearly represent those of a democrat. There are also many supporting characters who represent social Darwinism, aristocracy, etc. There are tons of characters and tons of ideas. Both works ultimately embrace all differences and accept that we all have a share of truth.
The setting is also similar, an authentic medieval world which actually deals with the modern preoccupations of our time rather than medieval topics. A country with a rich history and mythology of its own - Ivalice and Westeros. Both works also strongly emphasize the role of power in their world. Also, both works undermine the expectations of the reader, someone you thought is good turns out to be bad, vice versa, also character development is always in progress and people change from hero to villain all the time. In both works anyone can die and people drop like leaves.
Yeah, they're quite similar.
Now this is interesting. There are few works which share more thematic similarities with ASOIAF than Dragon Age. Both works deal with the world of politics, although ASOIAF is more political in nature. While ASOIAF deals with the inner workings of a political system with excruciating detail DAO merely deals with some corrupt power grabbers. An exception to that rule is the side quest which deals with solving the issue of Dwarves and who gets to be their king. Like ASOIAF, these kings have no moral superiority to each other, one stands for tradition and one for modernity, while both are not beyond sneaky means to obtain power and both are tyrannical, so this particular side quest is pure political struggle with a gray and gray morality. Apart from this, if ASOIAF doesn't dramatically change course in the upcoming books, it seems both works deal with the surge of a mighty amoral race of supernatural beings who threaten to destroy the world and in both works these races are very symbolic.
Both works deal extensively with religion, and in both of them the religions mirror the real world religions to an extent. The Faith of the Seven and Chantry; are the organized clergy-based and hierarchy-structured religions which are reminiscent of Catholic or Orthodox Christianity and Orthodox Judaism and also Fiqh Islam. Old Gods; of the books are like the Old Gods; of the game (which is rather obvious by the name) and they reflect the pagan animistic religions. There are also atheists in both works, such as Morrigan in the games and Stannis in the books. Both books and the games leave the question of religion largely unanswered and leave it to the reader/gamer to decide for him/herself.
Also, both works have a fantastic supporting cast. I remember few other books with so many memorable greatly written supporting characters, and DOA is the same. Both have memorable and great dialogue, both are fantastically written. Finally, both have gray and gray morality with characters you can root for and/or hate, based on your own choosing. Personally, I think many individual characters can be even compared, including Morrigan and Tyrion, scarred traumatized individuals who are really smart and have questionable moralities but we love them for their wits and snarks, Zevran and Jaqen H'ghar, lovely assassins who refer to themselves with 3rd person, Alistair and Renly, foolish fabulous young men with ideals in their hearts, and the list goes on.
Seriously, if you love ASOIAF, you love DAO.
Both Witcher games are great pleasures for anyone who loves ASOIAF. The similarities are so many that they could be easily written by the same authors. First off, both worlds are very realistic when you compare them to the other works of their genre. Secondly, they both deal with the political intrigues and the corruption of the the world of politics behind the shadows, especially in the first game. Thirdly, both deal with sexuality in rawness and with no shame, and although in the first game this could get ridiculous at times, in the second games all sex scenes advance the plot and help build character. Fourthly, they both have a gray and gray morality, and you have to choose between two sides that are not completely right. While in the second games the Elves are slightly more right than the other side, in the books the same can be said of the sides opposing Lannisters. Fifth, in the both works we have a compelling cast of characters, which is less large in the games.
Sixth, in both works you choices have unexpected real consequences which shape the series. Seventh, both works are gritty and violent and this violent serves to prove their point. Eighth, both works have social themes like poverty and how powerful people exploit the poor. Ninth, both works are anti-war at heart, showing the negative horrifying images of war and destruction. Tenth, both are superbly written and emotionally powerful.
They say McCarthy writes anti-Western. If that label is accurate, then Martin writes anti-fantasy and The Wicther games are the anti-fantasy of video games. No more similarity is possible. Not only in theme and style, but also in spirit these works are brothers. Play the games and enjoy.
Well that's it. I began with GRRM because I thought he was the easiest to find games for. There are endless great authors and this list series could go on forever. Who would you like to see next? PM me or post in the top 10 board in GameFAQs, or comment in Gaming Symmetry. Until the next episode, bye!
List by Nazifpour (02/11/2013)
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