The Game of Thrones Companion

For $0.99 and an iTunes account you can download a Game of Thrones Companion. This iOS application is already up to version 2.3, weighs in at 1.7 MB and was put together by Jason S. Rosenblum.

The app is ideally placed for people watching the new HBO series or wanting to refresh their memory before fiving into A Dance with Dragons. There’s a catch though. This isn’t a terribly official app. It was put together from data sourced from Wikipedia under Creative Commons License and the maps come from Digital Attic.

Jason Rosenblum, creator of the the Game of Thrones Companion, has agreed to do a short Q&A for us here at Geek Native. Here goes!

Q: Was it a big decision to do build the app? Where did the idea come from?

I wanted to work on a side-project and start with something small. I’ve been a big fan of the series for years and I recognized that keeping track of all the details in “A Song of Ice and Fire” was nearly impossible. There are some great sources for data, such as Wikipedia, but the content has grown organically and information is fragmented across different pages. I wanted to build a dead simple product for ASOIAF fans like me.

Q: George R. R. Martin isn’t keen on fan fiction. How do you think he might react to the companion application?

I’m not sure about George R.R. Martin, but I received some great feedback from Bryan Cogman, one of the writers on the HBO series. Aimee Richardson, who plays Myrcella Baratheon in the series, also found it incredibly helpful.

As far as I can tell, George R.R. Martin has allowed a healthy ecosystem of products grow out of ASOIAF from board games to replicas of swords to content sources (like Tower of the Hand). Fan fiction is a slightly different story: as an author, I wouldn’t want people messing with my mythology and storylines.

Q: Do you think interest in the series will spike enough during the TV show that you’ll make any real money off all your hard work?

This is just a fun side-project for me. The money I make from it is a bonus and incentivizes me too push the app forward. I’m off to a good start though – 2,500 downloads in just three months.

Q: If publishers won’t produce modern interactive companions like yours do you think fans should muck in and produce them more often?

It’s already happening on a large scale. E-books are really forcing authors and publishers to redefine what a book is. One example I have seen is Shelfari, a community-based site for books. Amazon bought Shelfari last year and started integrated Shelfari data into Kindle books via the Book Extras feature. Lot of Kindle books now have information such as synopses, lists of characters, and memorable quotes – all of which is really valuable to readers.

Q: What sort of commitment does the Companion represent to you? How long did it take to program and how many hours do you think you’ll need to invest in it in the future to keep it fresh?

I have a day job, but I’ve been spending a significant amount of my free time on GoTC. It’s a great creative outlet for me and I really enjoy writing code. The challenge is that software development takes a long time – especially when I’m the only developer.

To get to market quickly, I try to find really simple solutions that I think fans will appreciate. The Maps section is a good example. I was considering creating my own maps of Westeros and I started down that path. I didn’t get far because I’m not an artist. I was also worried that tracing the maps in the books would violate copyright law as a derivative work. In the end, I simply linked to a public Web page that has published four incredible maps from the books with the permission of the publisher.

Q: Is there a risk that A Dance with Dragons will be ruined for you? Will your enjoyment of the book be weighed down knowing that you should probably read it, shift through the facts and update the Companion?

You read my mind! I am worried about spoilers. I’m just going to have read very quickly – and stay away from Twitter too!

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