1 The time before reckoning
You never thought it would happen to someone as worldly and wise (read: lazy and snarky) as you. It might, as Huey Lewis always assured us, it's hip to be square these days, but isn’t Game of Thrones the preserve of block-quoting nerds in egg-stained Red Dwarf t-shirts and earnest girls with henna tattoos? We’re none of us strangers to the box-set/Netflix-dump/dodgy download, but whereas The Sopranos was cask-aged in gushing claret and “family” values, and The Wire made us feel all “word” and “street” and “legit,” surely GoT is just an excuse for Brit thesps to mess around with the Lord of the Rings dressing-up box. And yet. And yet… You’ve heard rumors that there’s the occasional flash of skin and that someone is graphically deprived of a limb/head/codpiece/loved one every ten minutes. So it is that you find yourself happening across a random episode while flicking around during an ad break in Family Guy. Maybe just give it five minutes. Can’t hurt, can it?
2 A song of vice and ire
It’s three weeks later. You’ve steadily caught up on all the precious episodes you have missed. You find yourself in increasingly animated debate over Friday-night drinks with colleagues you’ve never really bothered with before. The depth of knowledge exhibited by your fellow Throneheads (your term) makes you realize how little of the Seven Kingdoms you have explored. There’s nothing else to it. You need to learn more. This means reading the big, thick source novels. Which means reading. Crikey. Yet this is the path you have chosen. George R. R. Martin’s original books may be staggering in both imagination and scope, but they are also stodgier than mammoth pie in places. Long chapters are filled with aimless trudging about or dream sequences. Dream sequences, for fuck’s sake! Yet you plough through them. Then, one day, you find yourself pricing up a full-size replica of Sean Bean’s sword on the Forbidden Planet website. If anyone were to walk in on you right now you’d prefer to tell them that you were surfing mammy-ramming porn than what you’re actually looking at. But it’s still a fad, that’s all. A craze. It’ll soon be out of your system.
3 A cat of a different coat
While the "fad" passes, you might occupy your time by picking out a House with which to ally yourself. In real life you are a blurry whirl of showbiz gossip, sweaty pits and wanky little coffees, but the high tables of Westeros offer you a chance to better yourself. A bit. Do you perhaps fancy yourself as a Stark or a Lannister? A grimly heroic, flinty-eyed martyr or a golden-haired, glory-shitting warmonger? You opt for neither and instead settle on House Targaryen. Now everything from your hand towels to your wallet has a dragon on it and it is here that we meet the pointy end of fandom: to tattoo or not to tattoo? Maybe just a little one, yeah? On the shoulder blade where you got the dolphin or that Chinese symbol for… something… back in the ‘90s. You’re skipping engagements, letting your friends down and neglecting work. You’re in trouble, friend, but going back doesn’t seem to be an option.
4 Beards, barrels and bellies
You eventually go for a little tattoo of the Targaryen crest on your ankle, but what does the rest of your general lifestyle say about your devotion to the cause? If a man's home is his castle, then it’s time to hoist the nutty flag and string some bunting from your mental buttresses. You look into the legal ramifications of renaming your house Winterfell. You grow a beard (ladies, you’re just going to have to do your best here), burn all your IKEA crap on a pyre on the front lawn, and fill your home with animal hides, church candles, and barrels. You now eat only pies, which you call “pie.” You also call beer “ale” and have your own pewter tankard behind the bar of your local. Neighborhood children have made up a song about you and former drinking partners fall into a respectful hush every time you enter the pub. Such is the price of majesty.
5 Sex & violence
It isn’t just your appetite for pie, ale and sheepskin that has increased. You’ve stopped going to badminton and enrolled instead in a six-week fencing class at the local leisure center. It’s hardly broadswords at dawn, but it’s a start. You’re the oldest person there by some margin and one of your classmates’ moms has already given you a telling off for calling her daughter a “vile strumpet” in the heat of battle. By the end of the course you’re the only one left. You whack the pommel horse until the cleaner turns the lights off. And it’s not just your bloodlust that’s up. Sex used to be a furtive, lights-off experience on Sundays. Now it’s a wine-drenched bacchanal! You roister and bellow in the flickering torchlight beneath an old-timey parchment map of Dorne. If only there was someone there with you.
6 This time, it's war! Sort of...
You now have friends all over the globe. A bloke you’ve been Skyping in Germany has invited you over to hunt wild boar with him. You both know you’ll never do it, but it’s nice to chat about it. A woman in South Africa keeps sending you erotic poems in which Jaime Lannister’s severed hand features prominently. It’s all very safe and remote, but deep down you yearn for the gore-streaked camaraderie of war. So it is that you find yourself recreating the Battle of Blackwater in a car park. You’re screaming foul-mouthed death-or-glory allegiance to Stannis Baratheon into the face of a portly traffic warden and it’s not even lunchtime. Yes, you’re using broom-handles for swords and all the arrows have suckers on the ends, but the Westeros Reenactment Society is as close as any fan can get to the pageantry and fury of battle. You have risen through the ranks to Master of Coin, but it is real power you crave. You bide your time.
7 You've bought a what?
You’ve finally gone the whole hog and bought an actual wolf. A mangy-looking thing purchased at a Latvian zoo foreclosure auction, it patrols your semi-detached house with barely disguised malice. The police have been round, it’s eating you out of house and home and the downstairs bathroom is a complete write-off, but you have now ascended to the very pinnacle of GoT fandom. All the tattoos and tankards in the world cannot compare to this. Leave the masses to their box-sets and pub quizzes, for your devotion to Game of Thrones cannot now be surpassed. Unless… You don’t happen to have a brother or sister, do you?