Belfast Telegraph

Game is on to spoil the plot for Thrones downloaders

By Grace Dent

As the first four episodes of Game of Thrones Season Five leaked online over the weekend, it was little surprise to me that UK pirates downloaded - or stole, to put it bluntly - more copies than anyone else in the world. Reports say 9.8% of all illegal downloads recorded were from the UK.

We are madly in love with the fantasy saga where biting winters provide a backdrop to smutty serfs and nigh-constant treachery and torture. It all means there is nothing quite as British - oddly enough - as the American-owned (but Northern Ireland-shot) television powerhouse Game of Thrones.

So, I laughed when tech experts said the leaking of four brand new Game of Thrones episodes would provide a moral dilemma. Morals? On the internet?

As downloads of the Game of Thrones plunder reached more than 800,000, it was evident that the internet had the morals of a bloke you meet in a Happy Hour and promptly steals your credit card.

Fans wanted to see all-new Game of Thrones right now. The fact this was plain theft, or that it might offend lots of actors, producers and TV bigwigs made no difference.

It was the weekend, time for some "me time", and Game of Thrones fans - with Britain topping the list for thievery - wanted to shove all four episodes instantly into their snaffling eyeholes.

So what if HBO lavish around $10m making each episode, which is precisely what makes it such a peerless TV experience in the first place? And, no, of course we wouldn't run into a cinema without paying, watch four movies back-to-back without paying. That would be illegal.

This is the internet: millions of us believe we have the right to take whatever we want. And if we're pondering on world history, it's rather fitting that the British come top of the charts in the Game of Thrones smash-and-grab.

After all, one of Martin's greatest creations, King Joffrey, is a petulant, bloodthirsty child sociopath with a cut-glass British accent. This acidic little toff wants everything instantly.

When international audiences go wild for the privileged, plundering Joffrey, part of me feels proud, certainly, that we still corner the market in creating world-beating fictional baddies. But, it's not doing a great deal to shake our reputation.

Still, one good thing about internet users losing sight of the definition of "theft" is that we're putting in place other strict moral boundaries. One of the worst moral crimes one can commit among the internet today is dropping "spoilers".

We might turn a blind eye to someone robbing four whole episodes of a very expensively made TV show, but if the thief then sidles up to us tomorrow to blurt out that Sir Wotsit is strangled in episode two, our wrath will be unyielding.

Spoiling Game of Thrones, for even the most fleeting of fans, is akin to stealing charity boxes for sick orphans off shop counters. You just don't do it.

We have grown so thoroughly precious about our lives being "spoiled" that mentioning EastEnders, or a Bond film from 1977, has become socially tricky.

So, it's rather ironic that viewers who have downloaded the new Game of Thrones episodes without any guilt are now in their very own modern purgatory, not able to speak a single word about them. For the braggard and the big gob, surely this is punishment enough.

If I were HBO, I'd employ a team of professional spoilers, who instead of suing, or looking for prison terms, would simply spend the next 10 years tracking what individual downloaders were watching, allow them to get engrossed, then send anonymous messages, revealing whodunnit and spoiling the big plot twist.

It's not five years in Wormwood Scrubs, but to a lot of people it really would be punishment enough.

Belfast Telegraph


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