I Should Have Gotten You Hyped For A Couple Of Things

2011 April 19

This past Sunday, Game of Thrones debuted on HBO and since then has already re-aired countless times across the HBO series of networks. Last night (or early morning, depending on your country of residence) Portal 2 was released and PC gamers around the globe anxiously watched a bar slowly note the progress of the ever-mysterious Steam decrypting process. This was the first week of the year where I was awaiting any entertainment release, nevermind two.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Game of Thrones by now, considering there have been ads during baseball games, basketball games, and plenty of other television shows not featuring professional athletes. Going only by the commercials, one would think it’s possibly Lord of the Rings with sex thrown in, especially since Sean Bean stars in both. It’s closer to a re-imagined medieval political drama. I’ve heard The Sopranos + LOTR, but I really don’t get where the hell these people got The Sopranos from this series. I definitely think The Wire, Deadwood, and Rome would be better comparisons, considering the ensemble casts and power struggles — not that I’m qualified, considering I’ve never seen The Sopranos. But I don’t think I’m wrong when I assume the show focused greatly on Tony.

While Sean Bean is undoubtedly the central character of A Game of Thrones (the extra “A” means I’m talking about the book), there are way too many other important and powerful characters, signified by each chapter featuring one of eight narrative viewpoints. Not to mention that Sean Bean is as close to a traditional hero as you’ll see on TV nowadays, what with his old-fashioned honor and loyalty. Yeah ok, he has a bastard son, but it’s not like he’s a emotionless vigilante serial killer of other serial killers, an angry U.S. Marshal who likes to shoot people whenever he can, or a sarcastic animated secret agent who has an unhealthy relationship with his mother. Bean’s Eddard Stark is the character that gives some sort of noble center to the treacherous goings-on in the world of Westeros, the fictional continent where A Song of Ice and Fire takes place (that’s the name of the entire book series).

I had been hearing about the book series for a few years due to the nerd-filled places I frequent on the internet, but I never got around to reading the first book until last month. I figured I needed to prepare for the TV series premiere, even though I don’t subscribe to HBO. My plan was to possibly milk three free months out of FiOS like my parents seem to do once a year, and with the Optimum Online $69.95 triple-pack offer that came in the mail today, I might have my leverage. I won’t even need to lie!

I’d recommend everyone to read the books before watching the series, but that’s just my stock advice when it comes to these types of things. Reading before watching might be particularly helpful with A Game of Thrones, though, as it is lengthy and filled with so many characters and details that it’ll undoubtedly be tough to keep up if you jump right into the show. The book doesn’t have spectacular prose, and the world is misogynistic, but I’m not sure George R.R. Martin is. He might paint some female characters in a terrible light and describe some rough sex, but the ending of the book does feature the climax of a young woman finally coming into her own. Man, that sounded so wrong.

Anyway, the book is just what it sounds like — a struggle for the throne of Westeros. Of course, it’s only the beginning of an still-unfinished seven-part series, but many of the arcs are wrapped up while also laying the framework for the bigger battles that undoubtedly come in later books. There are betrayals and murders and twists and beheadings, but not all that much magic or supernatural forces if that’s what you’re worried about. Although, there is plenty of talk of dragons since they at one point actually existed in this alternate medieval world (if you’re a Japanophile, imagine them as mechs or gundams). And if you watched the following preview, you probably thought LOTR + zombies, instead of The Sopranos. So I would just like to drive the point home that this is basically Rome set in a Christopher Nolan-esque “grounded” fantasy world.

Game of Thrones Exclusive Preview

Then there’s Portal 2. By now you undoubtedly heard of how the cake in the original was a lie, but the puzzle-solving done in the first-person was what set Portal apart from just most games of the past few years. It was a short ride, but a shockingly inventive and entertaining one. After only an hour with its sequel, I’ve already experience much of the same, even if the puzzles so far are extremely simple to a veteran of the original. The same dry, but playful sense of humor pervades each game and the graphics are crisp on even middling PCs such as mine, due to the Source engine being immensely scalable, and most of the action taking place within fairly plain enclosed areas — testing chambers that have the aesthetic of a laboratory playground.

There’s not much of a point in me going on about Portal or its sequel at this point. You should have already played the first, and if you haven’t, ask someone who pre-ordered Portal 2 for a Steam copy. I’m off to play with my portal gun.

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