How “Game of Thrones” embraces the mass intelligent
This post originally appeared on The Economist’s Lean Back 2.0 blog.
In a previous post, I discussed the “rise of the mass intelligent” and its implications for high-quality media. It’s increasingly acceptable to be a nerd - or, at least, to proudly enjoy things normally relegated to the world of the nerdy. Andrew Rashbass, chief executive of The Economist, has expounded on this high demand for intelligent media, citing examples such as the popularity of operas screened at movie theatres and the long lines for the recent Leonardo DaVinci exhibition at the National Gallery in London. All of this bodes especially well for The Economist, which brings intelligent content to a mass audience.
As someone with strong “nerd” tendencies, I have been reflecting on other examples of this mass intelligence phenomenon. One obvious candidate for nerdiest show currently on TV is HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” based on the popular books by George R.R. Martin. For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s a medieval fantasy set in the fictional world of Westeros and featuring dozens of main characters and complicated plot lines. There are warring families, power struggles, fantastical creatures, aristocratic lineages and (quite a lot of) sexual intrigue.
Prior to its debut on television, “Game of Thrones” already had a legion of loyal fans devoted to the books. I think it’s safe to say that most of these devotees fall into the nerd demographic. What the TV show has managed to do so well is to nurture these superfans, while also attracting a larger mass audience. And perhaps one of the reasons for the success of “Game of Thrones” is that HBO recognizes the mass intelligent demographic. The show has not been “dumbed down” from the books. Instead, HBO has capitalized on the series’ intelligence and complexities.
Take, for instance, what happens when you watch “Game of Thrones” on your iPad through the HBOGo platform. If you want to enhance your experience watching the show, you can follow along on an intricate map of the entire Westeros universe. If you’re confused about the dizzying array of characters and their corresponding family allegiances, you can pull up a guide to help keep them straight. All of these extras are guaranteed to make nerds like me even more excited about the show.
The success of Game of Thrones may thus hold a lesson for many publishers and content creators. Don’t ignore the nerdier aspects of your brand; embrace them and enhance them. The mass intelligent will thank you.
What other TV shows, magazines, movies and events do you think capture this mass intelligence phenomenon? Respond in the comments section below, or tweet your response to @LeanBack2_0 using the hashtag #massintell.
Image: “Game of Thrones,” as experienced on my iPad.