Last year Danish media scholar Rikke Schubart and her colleague Anne Gjelsvik asked me to contribute to an upcoming anthology on the representation of women in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV and video game adaptations. I happily complied and wrote a piece on how female characters are represented in three different Game of Thrones video games. The book has not been published yet, but today you can pre-order it on Amazon.com.
Here is what is says on the blurb:
George R.R. Martin’s acclaimed seven-book fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire is unique for its strong and multi-faceted female protagonists, from teen queen Daenerys, scheming Queen Cersei, child avenger Arya, knight Brienne, Red Witch Melisandre, and many more. The Game of Thrones universe challenges, exploits, yet also changes how we think of women and gender, not only in fantasy, but in Western culture in general.
Divided into three sections addressing questions of adaptation from novel to television, female characters, and politics and female audience engagement within the GoT universe, the interdisciplinary and international lineup of contributors analyze gender in relation to female characters and topics such as genre, sex, violence, adaptation, and fan fictions and fan reviews. The genre of fantasy was once considered a primarily male territory with male heroes. Women of Ice and Fire shows how the GoT universe challenges, exploits, and reimagines gender and why it holds strong appeal to female readers, audiences, and online participants.
My own contribution to the anthology is entitled “Sworn Swords and Noble Ladies. Female Characters in Game of Thrones Video Games” and here’s the abstract:
George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (and its adaptation as the HBO series Game of Thrones) has received some critical attention among media scholars, most notably for its social realism and the way it represents strong and multi-faceted female protagonists. While this may hold true for Martin’s novels, the TV show, and – to varying degrees – related comic books and fan fiction, little has been said about the way the increasing number of Game of Thrones video games represent female characters. As transmedia expansions tend to alter the form and content of storyworlds originating from another medium (cf. Jenkins 2006), it is to be expected that the video game’s specific mediality (cf. Ryan 2004) likewise affects gender representation and the way female characters are integrated in the interactive gameplay.
In the proposed essay, I will discuss the medium-specific representation of female characters in three Game of Thrones video game adaptations: the real-time strategy game A Game of Thrones: Genesis (Cyanide/Focus Home Interactive 2011), the action/role-playing game Game of Thrones (Atlus/Focus Home Interactive 2012), and the Facebook game Game of Thrones: Ascent (Disruptor Beam 2013). Drawing on a model of video game analysis proposed elsewhere (cf. Schröter/Thon 2014), I will argue that not only ‘diegetic’ aspects of video game characters as fictional beings have to be taken into account when addressing issues of gender representation, but also their status as game pieces with certain ‘ludic’ properties and game-related functions. Thus, while all three games adhere to the storyworld’s mythos and ethos and the respective gender representations (cf. Klastrup/Tosca 2004), they differ widely in the way they integrate female characters into the game mechanics and rule system: as supporting/opposing non-player characters (in the role-playing game), as ‘gender-neutral’ game pieces (in the Facebook game), or as deindividualized ‘commodity’ (in the real-time strategy game). Hence, the games rely more strongly on stereotypical gender representations than the books and TV show, sacrificing ambiguity and complexity whilst stressing the more conservative aspects of gender, ideology and politics in GoT.