Enthralled academics obsess over Game of Thrones

Knowledge is power. HBO

If you think you’re Game of Thrones’s biggest fan, well, you may want to reconsider. For the past few years on The Conversation, academics have proved that they are a serious breed of superfan. We let them run riot and it’s been epic fun. A couple of them even fact-checked House Stark’s “Winter is coming” motto.

So here is your indispensable series six companion to Game of Thrones.

Who will sit on the Iron Throne?

A mastermind. Sky Atlantic

House Varoufakis’s expertise in game theory would certainly give Greece’s real-life former finance minister the edge over several of the competing fictional Houses. Especially now that Tywin Lannister is dead and buried. Game theory illustrates the importance of some diplomacy. It assumes that intelligent leaders make choices based on the value of resulting outcomes.

Tywin tried to inculcate this notion in his grandson Joffrey, explaining how a give-and-take approach would strengthen his grasp on the Iron Throne. But obviously the evil brat was never one for negotiations – and look how that turned out. Then again, proponents of game theory may not get decent deals if others don’t follow the rules – as Varoufakis and Tywin both found out. One big question for this season is whether Lord Littlefinger follows the rules?

Follow the money and you’ll get the answer

Varys knows … Sky Atlantic

Power lies where the money is. And the money is in the Iron Bank in Braavos. The Iron Bank combines all the best, or worst, characteristics of an investment bank, the IMF and the Cosa Nostra. And it has remained more or less in the shadows for now, exactly as many banks prefer.

But the Iron Bank is very much turning its balance sheet into power. Let’s not forget this telling line from the books:

When princes defaulted on their debts to lesser banks, ruined bankers sold their wives and children into slavery and opened their own veins. When princes failed to repay the Iron Bank, new princes sprang up from nowhere and took their thrones.

That said, a revolution is overdue in Westeros

Why don’t we have flying cars? Blame this guy. HBO

Not to mention, necessary. While the powerful scheme, back-stab and go to war, the people are suffering. Despite all the riches of its leaders, Westeros is still waiting for its industrial revolution, which could create jobs and lift millions out of poverty.

Maybe that’s what Daenerys will start

Weapon of mass destruction? Check. HBO

Daenerys does, after all, have three weapons of mass destruction – albeit on the other side of the world and surrounded by a Dothraki horde. Turns out, Dothrakis have a lot in common with history’s Mongols and some informed speculation can tell us a few things about Daenerys’ season six future.

Meanwhile, Arya is changing our world

Game-changer Arya. HBO

We emulate characters we like or with whom we identify. And we feel sympathy for them, especially when bad things happen – such as going as blind as Arya. Research has shown that fiction can change attitudes and intentions of readers and viewers.

More surprising perhaps is that we even let the bad guys influence us. And we forgive them rather easily. Tyrion, for example, drinks, gambles and sleeps with prostitutes, but is still one of the most popular characters – an indicator that he’s probably going to die soon.

But forget the Iron Throne, winter is coming

You know nothing about meteorology, Jon Snow. HBO

Oh really, Ned Stark – did you ask an actual meteorologist? Because we did and it’s clear that the weather in Westeros is as absurd as Jon Snow being dead.

But the weird weather patterns do show us how climate can affect people. As Westeros’s alarm bells are rung in vain to warn about the coming winter and the impending arrival of the bone-chilling White Walkers, here on Earth climate scientists are helplessly warning us about man-made climate change and its frightening potential impacts … in vain.

Also, Hodor is back this season!

Hodor, Hodor, Hodor. Bruna Schenkel, CC BY

Poor Hodor – it seems that his affliction is actually a real neurological condition.

And if you’ve watched the season six premiere …

Oh my God, what is she doing!? HBO

Then you really, really want to know more about Melisandre. Thankfully, we’ve got her covered.

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