Skip to main content

Game of Thrones: The Maester's Path

I have traveled to Pentos and the Inn at the Crossroads.

Thanks to HBO (and Campfire)'s new immersive experience The Maester's Path, I've accrued the first link in my maester's chain. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then you haven't read George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones," the first in the author's multi-volume novel series which is about to hit the airwaves next month as HBO's Game of Thrones.

Last week, I tweeted that I had received an ornate wooden box from HBO containing scrolls, vials of various scents (from incense and pear brandy to wood beams and salt harbor). Following the instructions (lovingly embodied in a series of hand-tied scrolls), I was directed to mix the scents to create two blends, each one embodying two locations within the world of Game of Thrones. Pear brandy, wooden beams, and crusty bread combined to form the heady perfume of the Inn at the Crossroads, while salt harbor, incense, and spice market formed Pentos.

Over at Cultural Learnings, Myles McNutt discusses his thoughts on the transmedia implications of sending out these immersive kits to critics, bloggers, and fansite webmasters, all "opinion leaders" whose experiences here all help to promote the series to their followers. Personally, I find it refreshing to receive a press kit that is thoughtful and which ties into the program on offer, rather than more junk to stuff away in a closet, free swag that's neither in keeping with the tone or tenor of the show it's meant to be promoting nor something you want to keep in your house. (American Idol TV tray, I'm looking at you.)

What HBO has done is create an expanding array of experiences to actively engage the user, transporting him or her to Westeros directly.

Rather than send an stock object, HBO's marketing team has commissioned a series of uniquely authentic experiences, each of which serves to bring the user into the world of Game of Thrones by engaging their various senses. This one, which comprises the first link in the maester's chain is meant to get the user to use their olfactory senses, to engage with the material in a way that goes beyond the normal screener and press notes. Instead, you're invited into the world itself, to participate in the atmosphere, to engage directly and perform proactive tasks: mixing perfumes, reading maps, deciphering clues.

The scent bottles each contained a specific symbol on the "aged" glass bottles. Fansites such as and Winter-Is-Coming.Net spent much of the last few days attempted to decipher clues in their meaning, or unlock hidden messages contained within the maps. Today, HBO unveiled its tie-in website for The Maester's Path, adding a further layer of interface to the user experience. Those symbols unlocked the first link in the maester's chain, as users had to use a rubric to match up the symbols to their scent blends for four locations in the kingdom of Westeros.

The site promises several more experiences yet to arrive, likely tied to each of the four remaining senses (I'm holding out hope for lemoncakes for the "taste" portion) and an opportunity to grab another link in the maester's chain each Monday. I'm curious to see just what turns up over the next few weeks on my doorstep. Will there be Dothraki verses to translate? Weirwood branches to touch? Lemoncakes to eat? (Pretty please?)

While I've been on board with HBO's Game of Thrones since I saw the original pilot last spring, events such as these serve to separate the series from the pack of numerous (and countless) offerings on television. Not because The Maester's Path is an inclusive experience, per se (it's not, unfortunately, due to the cost involved with sending out these custom-designed boxes), but because there's a thought to quality and overall satisfaction here.

This isn't just swag, but an opportunity to extend audience engagement beyond the linear broadcast, to get viewers to ask questions, theorize, discuss, and engage, all with the intention of pushing awareness of the show and its launch in April. It's both canny and informative, and it reduced even this jaded critic to the gleeful curiosity of childhood fascination.

(Meanwhile, you too can join the Maester's Path and play along as well. Click here to begin your own journey to Westeros.)

Game of Thrones premieres April 17th at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO.


Eric said…
How do I get lucky enough to score one of these? Sounds amazing!!!
Chanah said…
Eric, you and I are thinking exactly the same way. I want one of these neat and nifty kits for myself, too!
Joshua C said…
Amen to that! I would love to own one of these.
Unknown said…
So, how do I get an orante wooden box from HBO?

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BuzzFeed: "The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now"

The CBS legal drama, now in its sixth season, continually shakes up its narrative foundations and proves itself fearless in the process. Spoilers ahead, if you’re not up to date on the show. At BuzzFeed, you can read my latest feature, " The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now," in which I praise CBS' The Good Wife and, well, hail it as the best show currently on television. (Yes, you read that right.) There is no need to be delicate here: If you’re not watching The Good Wife, you are missing out on the best show on television. I won’t qualify that statement in the least — I’m not talking about the best show currently airing on broadcast television or outside of cable or on premium or however you want to sandbox this remarkable show. No, the legal drama is the best thing currently airing on any channel on television. That The Good Wife is this perfect in its sixth season is reason to truly celebrate. Few shows embrace complexity and risk-taking in t