Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on television currently, airing on HBO since 2011. The show is an adaptation of a book series by George R.R Martin called A Song of Ice and Fire. The fantasy drama takes place in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos in an “alternate world of Earth,” focusing on three predominent story arcs and their battle to the Iron Throne. Throughout the series, the opening title sequence changes based on what locations and kingdoms are focused on in that particular episode. In spite of the location changes, the design elements remain consistent in creating the dramatic political tone of Game of Thrones.   

The most dominant design element that contributes to the plot is the movements, or cinematography. In the official opening credits, created by computer animation, the camera pans fluidly over a map of Westeros between the three most dominant factions, starting with the main focus- King’s Landing, the kingdom that is trying to remain in power, albeit defending themselves against the political battle for the throne. Then, the camera pans through the continent to The North, which is home to Winterfell and The Wall, which are allies in The North. The camera quickly pans back to King’s Landing because it is the main point of reference for all three locations. Finally, the camera glides east past Westeros, over The Narrow Sea to Pentos, that is located on the coastline of Essos, where the third and final character arc takes place. Throughout this sequence, there are multiple quick cuts to an image of a glowing sphere surrounded by bands, which represents the sun, while the bands are a metaphor for the legend of the land. Movement is also represented by the sigils that stand in each place, representing the family that rules that land. This style of movement is essential to this particular show because it aids the audience in understanding the location, travel time, vastness, and similar elements of the show that otherwise may confuse the audience on what is happening in the plot. The sigil, once raised, triggers the animation of the map. These animations come in both large and small forms, for instance, once King’s Landing’s sigil is raised, the kingdom rises from the flat map, while one of Winterfell’s animations features blooming leaves. This design element is supposed to represent the theme of “clockwork” by the animations being a metaphor for the intricate mechanics of the show’s political inner workings between each family.

The bands that showcase each house’s representing animal 

The use of imagery in the Game of Thrones opening sequence is designed to represent each kingdom or place, and the atmosphere of each setting. This would include aspects such as the climate, values and beliefs, development and more of each place. With King’s Landing, we see that the setting is mild and temperate, as represented by the dull greenery surrounding their kingdom. The style of the buildings are much more elegant and opulent, as they are mostly colored in gold. This is contrary to the preceding places that are in much harsher climates. Winterfell is placed in a land that is just below the lands of snow, where the people of The Wall reside in a permanent state of winter, as displayed by the large ice blue wall. Both Winterfell and The Wall are very rustic and plain, with dark brown being the main color of the buildings and mechanics. Although, The Wall is much more barren. Finally, Pentos is very bland, colored with a range of beige, exemplifying its midditeranean climate. These aspects affect the viewer’s perception of the show because of the underdog effect that favors kingdoms with the harshest conditions, thus creating antagonist and protagonists.

An overview of the map, focusing on the connecting between Westeros and Essos 

The typography is an essential the opening sequence, because it conveys a lot of information the audience would otherwise not be privy to. This design element blends well with the movement aspects because the map is designed with the names of the places so that the viewers are able to make the connection between the kingdoms and places in relation to one another, thus providing an easier understanding of the plot, which largely centers around travel.

The front, First Order, is used directly on the map, while the Trajan Pro, the classic Roman letter forms, are used for the opening credits. Although the show is not considered to be medieval, the atmosphere is of an Old English based on the typography, which is the same font within the show that would have been used on scrolls. The font choices of the show appear to be very minor, however, they do serve a larger purpose that contributes to the tone of the show.

Winterfell’s label and font shown on the map 

The opening sequence of Game of Thrones is strategic, subtle, and intricately created. With an attentive eye, a viewer is able to notice minute and evident details about the plot of the show. With the design elements of movement, imagery, and typography the universe of Game of Thrones is well developed and guides the viewer in the comprehension of key environmental and situational elements of the show.


Discussion — One Response

  • Brogan Williams 03/31/2019 on 2:18 PM

    This is a lovely analysis of a very intricate title sequence. As a book lover, I read the book series of Game of Thrones before the show was created and remember being full of awe when I was first exposed to this wonderfully complex title sequence because it reflects the narrative style of the story so well. The plot is amazingly complex, with a web of characters that are all vaguely connected to each other, and the map that explains locations and families and regions is crucial to understanding pieces of the story. The style of the animations are also very telling, but sometimes feel out of place in context with the era it’s set in. Do you think that the animation of the map should have been more realistic to give a more accurate feel of the setting, or do you think that the more cartoonish, blocky style is effective? I think that the style they chose is fitting because although the setting is very broad and has great variety, the animation style gives it a fictional flair that reminds the audience that this world is very different from our own.

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