Well, there are many reasons for its popularity... but Game of Thrones is doing something specific to hook us in and keep us dangling without our realizing it. Yes, we're now trained to watch and wait; trained like a dog. Here's how they do it (woof woof)...
GoT is rewarding us intermittently (that means continuously but at infrequent and random intervals). Every once in awhile, we get something we've been craving - a reward - tossed into our bowl. Because we have no idea when (or even if) it's coming, getting such a treat makes it that much more exciting, special, and addictive!
That's why every blue moon, seemingly anyway, (could be every 2 or 3 episodes or once per season) we get the following...
- A gloriously gory battle scene with steel and blood and some poor bastard dying horribly up close and personal.
- Sex! Yeah, that naked stuff we're not used to seeing in a TV show. But let's be honest, every time we see boobs it's like the first time. Am I right?
- Fantasy: dragons flying overhead, a spell being cast, or some kind of supernatural event taking place.
- A major character dies. What if that one night you decided not to watch, Sansa or Margaery died?!?
- Victory and defeat - you can't have one without the other, so usually one side gets victory and the other gets the shaft.
- Tyrion's wit, eviscerating some deserving fuck with just a few words.
- Revenge/justice bestowed upon the worst of the worst in Westeros.
- Receiving more than a clue about what's really going on - who's doing what to whom and why!
The rest is just a big tease. It's medieval Machiavellian foreplay! Sure, we get to look at beautiful countryside, amazing sets, dirty old men, heroes, maidens, etc, but a lot of the time we're also subjected to banking problems, traveling delays, the schemes of petty bureaucrats, cleaning bodies, traipsing through the forest, highborns being dicks, etc.
Yes, GoT is all about the waiting. And once we get our particular fix from the above list, we're all that much eager for more. Unfortunately, that requires more waiting. But we can't stop watching! Oh no, what if we miss that thing we've been yearning for? They just showed it two episodes ago... that means we could get the good stuff tonight! Or, if not tonight, then next week. Come on, man. Just one more... just one more fix!
Yeah, the life of an addict. Face it, folks. We're not going anywhere. You see, GoT knows the secret - that an intermittent reward is stronger (hence, more addictive) than a regular and reliable reward. Don't blame them, blame the human condition.
Since this is a RPG blog, I'd be remiss for not suggesting this strategy in your own tabletop fantasy campaign. Incidentally, I talk about this technique and a hundred more subtle secrets of Game Mastery in my book: How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss. Also available on Amazon.com and CreateSpace.
What's your favorite thing about Game of Thrones? Is there something special that you wait for each episode or season? Some aspect of GoT you love, that they don't do enough of? Comment below with what that is...
See you at the Westeros methadone clinic,