Monday, August 1, 2011

Will the Game of Thrones Fad Give Fantasy Gaming a Bump?

I noticed in my Sunday ritual reading of the NY Times that George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons hit the number one best-seller seat for both hardbacks and e-books in the U.S. this week, selling a whopping 650,000 copies in its first week. Similarly riding the high of the Emmy-scrabbling TV series, Game of Thrones itself retook the number one seat for paperbacks too—15 years after its release.

I know the series takes some lumps in old school gaming circles, still I remain a fan of Martin's genre-bending epic-low fantasy—at least for now. Now a little over 800 pages plowing through the book, my head is coming around to the conclusion that's it only marginally better than the last novel suffering from the same bloat of ever-increasing povs with a glacial pace of resolution for the rapidly-proliferating sub-plots.

Still I remain far more absorbed than I do with most fantasy, which I still maintain is pretty sub-par on the whole even compared with most genre fiction. (Maybe it's because I was raised on a steady diet of meandering 19th-century Russian novels and I have a tolerance for such things?)

One plus from the hoopla around the series is that it really has kicked off a bit of a good deal of buzz in my own personal circles, largely people among people who wouldn't touch a fantasy book with one of our proverbial 10-foot poles. 

Currently, I have all four of the preceding novels in the series loaned out, and excited talk about the ends and outs of things Westeros have trumped talk about debt ceilings, San Antonio patronage politics, and all things baby—a big delighted shift for me.

The best part is watching the same people who snicker a little about my dark, little tabletop rpg secret start exhibit real interest in sitting down at one of my home sessions. Opportunistically talking up my domain-level work (“yes you too can be a swaggering, back-biting bannerman in my game”) I think may even have recruited three of them to come out and roll some funny dice with us in the next couple months. I am ever the optimist. 

Probably a flash in the pan as a fad, but anyone seeing, feeling, or expecting a bit of bump on this?


  1. On it's own, I don't see it generating a bump, really. However, I think it might create an opening (like in the example you give) that gaming might slip through.

    While I might agree that fantasy is sub-par genre fiction (strictly on the average) when compared with maybe Mystery, but my attempts to read both Westerns and "Men's Adventure" sorts of genre suggest that pretty much all non-tie in fantasy fiction ("serious" fantasy novels) is superior to that sort of stuff by quite a distance. I suspect the same is true of genre romance, but I'm not gonna find out.

  2. Without the tolkien revival of the 60's70's there would have been no fantasy supplement to chainmail...

  3. Well, with GoT, there will definitely be a bump for the Game of Thrones RPG, and they're coming out with a second edition of the board game, which I'll probably pick up, this Fall.

    I'm not so sure the TV show will necessarily translate into more generic gaming sales, though. Bear in mind that while GoT is really good, it's hardly alone. Has there been a bump in Superhero gaming from the very successful Batman or Marvel Universe franchises?

    So put me in the "maybe, but it's a stretch" category.

  4. The best part is watching the same people who snicker a little about my dark, little tabletop rpg secret start exhibit real interest in sitting down at one of my home sessions.

    You must rebuff and chastise them. Remember how they hurt your feelings.

  5. @Kent
    They don't do tongue-in-cheek in Ireland?

  6. @Trey
    A good point on both counts. Opening does sound more accurate, it implies some effort.

    Very true about the western, it's telling that the best examples of this kind of fiction are from writers who consciously position themselves not to get pigeon holed as being western writers: Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurty, etc.

  7. @Joseph
    That's for sure. I have to admit that I picked up the pocket edition myself a couple weeks back. The domain-rules are clearly derived from Birthright, though have some interesting developments like the house creation rules.

  8. Perhaps too much. I was kidding.

  9. I agree with Trey basically.

    I'll add though that with the Great Recession and all, the cheapness of gaming is a real plus. Its not a bad hook to use especially with lapsed gamers.

  10. I should have gotten that Kent. A little tone deaf I am tonight.

  11. Definitely seeing a bump in interest in fantasy in general. I think we might see a small bump in interest in RPGing, especially if yes, you can be a backstabbbing bannerman and people can find games that aren't just analog WoW.

    What I find most amusing is, if they can, this might be better for RPGs than Harry Potter was.

  12. FWIW, it was reading Game of Thrones (maybe 2005-2006?) that got me back on the hobby horse after years of not thinking about gaming at all.

  13. @Ragnorakk
    That's funny I read it too for the first time around 2005 and I was completely out of gaming and fantasy at that time too, so I imagine it played a gateway drug for me as well.

  14. I would like to hope so. And I certainly agree with Trey that it might give some openings on a case-by-case basis. But it seems that the LotR films didn't really drive a ton of folks to tabletop RPG's, nor did Harry Potter. Just more things competing for our attention, maybe.