Scientists have set out to discover what makes the doom and death-ridden epic franchise, the Game of Thrones TV series, so popular among viewers across the world.
An international team of researchers has devised a questionnaire for fans of the series to understand what it is about the show that people love, and cannot let go, despite key characters being killed off each season, or what has even annoyed and upset them about the programme.
The team will share what they learn once the research is complete. "We've sensed that Game of Thrones is significant, and important, a 'game-changer', but we're not yet sure how," said Professor Clarissa Smith from the University of Sunderland in the UK.
"All of us have been involved in previous audience projects, of different kinds. Some of us researched responses to the films of The Lord of the Rings and then The Hobbit a few years back," said Smith.
"Some of us are currently researching the revived Star Wars franchise. But Game of Thrones is different, clearly," she said. Over the past 25 years, many commentators argue that 'fantasy' has changed beyond recognition, with an increasing mixing of Science Fiction with fantasy, published fantasy has also expanded and become ever more complex.
"In film, we have seen the huge expansions in technical capacity to make 'worlds' look real," said Smith. The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and The Hunger Games have transformed the public face of fantasy, as well as in TV series like The Vampire Diaries, Outlander, Supernatural and True Blood.
"We're seeing worlds that have steadily become more present, and more varied," said Smith. "With Game of Thrones a new set of dimensions has been added. Not just that the book series is huge and unfinished. More, perhaps, that this is such a doom-filled series, where the moment you form affection for a character, s/he is likely to suffer horribly, and die," she said.
"Hanging over everything is the coming winter, the threat from the North, the White Walkers, all set in a world that is not ours, yet in a hundred ways reminds many people of ours," she said.
The questionnaire will be open until the end of the upcoming Season Seven, that is set to premiere on July 16 this year. Once the season ends in August, the team will report on what it achieved with a summary of the main findings.