Thursday, July 7, 2011

Alien vs. Predator… vs. Starcraft vs. Game of Thrones

After that Transformers-fueled negative tirade, let’s talk about something do I like. This post is about three things I like actually and some of the amusing and surprising similarities between them: Starcraft (it bears repeating every time, an amazing PC real-time strategy game and one of my favorite games ever), the Alien vs. Predator franchise, and the show/book Game of Thrones which just ended its first season on HBO.

Now I’m not saying anyone ripped anyone else off. Everyone is inspired by something and sometimes those influences are shared. Besides Starcraft was released in 1998, “A Game of Thrones”, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series and basis for the first season of “Game of Thrones” was released in 1996 and the Alien and Predator franchises have been around for so long that it’s safe to call most references to them “homages” rather than plagiarism.

However, despite their drastic differences, AVP’s approach to sci-fi is much more horrific than Starcraft’s while the low-fantasy Game of Thrones is in an entirely different genre, there are broad-level similarities and even a few micro-level ones I felt it would be fun to point out.

Mainly, each series as has three intertwining but fairly distinct components. AVP has Aliens, Predators, and Space Marines. Starcraft has the Zerg, Protoss and Terrans. Game of Thrones has far more than three factions but its plot roughly follows three groups of characters: Daenerys Targaryen and her Dothraki horde, the families competing for the Iron Throne, and the men of the Night's Watch protecting the continent from what’s north of the wall. These groups line up in some interesting ways.


The Alien (xenomorph) and Zerg similarities should be obvious. They are both these marauding, animalistic alien swarms that all agree are a menace to their respective universes. They are both vaguely insectoid, living in hive-like civilizations with queens and use infestation as a means of attack. Individual members of the species also don’t have much initiative of their own besides to propagate and destroy on behalf of their queen.

One thing that sets the Aliens apart from the Zerg is the presence of Sarah Kerrigan, the half-human half-zerg psychic queen of the swarm and major antagonist of the franchise. Kerrigan also has a few similarities with Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones.” Both were abandoned from their homelands and given over to savage, foreign enemy tribes, the Zerg and the Dothraki, only to be strengthened by the experience and become all-powerful singular leaders within their groups. They both have a powerful ability that only they seem able to control, Kerrigan’s psychic powers and Daenerys’s dragons, and (without getting into spoilers) both are using their growing hordes to conquer and seek to reclaim the land they feel is owed them.

Space Marines/Terrans/Seven Kingdoms

Once again it’s easy to see the Starcraft and AVP parallels. The Terrans and the Space Marines, sorry the “United States Colonial Marine Corps”, are both groups of humans trying to thrive in a harsh universe they are new to. Heck, the Terran infantry are called marines, and they are in space. The Aliens franchise was where the whole space marine concept really took off and Starcraft is hardly the only game to look at it for inspiration.

Now the different houses of the Seven Kingdoms in Game of Thrones may not be fighting aliens, or even some fantasy analogue like orcs or something, but like the Terrans they are mired in politics so cutthroat they’ll probably destroy themselves before anyone else can. Power is constantly shifting in both Westeros and the Terran Dominion and usually people are just lesser evils rather than good. Compare Jim Raynor and Ned Stark. Both helped in rebellions that led to rulers being overthrown and replaced by their friends only to have the new regime turn on them. King Robert Baratheon may not be as bad as Emperor Arcturus Mengsk but his “son” Joffrey sure is. Plus he’s got Valerian Mengsk’s smugness.

Ned Stark

This is Jimmy

Predators/Protoss/Night’s Watch

I’ve always described the Protoss from Starcraft as “Predators that had found religion.” Both are ancient, powerful civilizations with a penchant for pyramids and have technology advanced enough that a single Protoss or Predator could easily take down many Terrans, Zerg, Aliens or Marines. However, while they both have highly ritualistic tribal cultures, the Predators' sense of honor is ruthless and they exist only for the hunt. Protoss on the other hand have a warrior culture as spiritual as it is militaristic. Do you know why they always must “construct additional pylons?” It’s to maintain the crystal-based psionic energy matrix that powers the race.

At first it seems linking these two races to the Night’s Watch is kind of ludicrous and I’ll admit, the Game of Thrones connection here is a little weak compared to the other two. However, while these groups themselves may not be all that similar aside from maybe a strong yet detached sense of honor and morality, their roles within the respective stories do have some things in common.

The Night’s Watch exists to protect the continent of Westeros from what’s north of the wall. They are above the petty infighting that plagues the Seven Kingdoms and seeing as the Dothraki are across the narrow sea from Westeros they aren’t a big concern either. The Night’s Watch is about recognizing the larger threat and seeing the bigger picture. Again, not to spoil Starcraft 2 (part 1), but the Protoss’s role in that story is very similar in that they are mostly unconcerned with the other two factions and are instead investigating are much larger looming disaster. As for the Predators, hey they’re willing to team up with humans against Aliens when the time calls for it so they can recognize a mutual threat too. Again, this connection is a little shakier but you gotta try right?

So there you go. A fun thought exercise and exploration of hidden connections that exists only because I just finished watching Game of Thrones and wanted to write something about it besides “I like it.”

Next time we’ll look at the ties between Game of Thrones, Arrested Development,(just finished watching that too and appreciating how amazing it is) and Iron Man.

I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons


  1. AvPvSCvGoT? lol

    I like the Ned Stark/Jim Raynor comparison.

  2. Zergs are inspired also by the bugs of Starship Troopers: both are large overwhelming swarms with different specialized units and central cerebrates each controlling a swarm.

  3. Zergs are inspired also by the bugs of Starship Troopers: both are large overwhelming swarms with different specialized units and central cerebrates each controlling a swarm.

  4. Besides, Terrans are quite similar to the Space Marines of War Hammer, even more than the colonial marines of Aliens (altough the concept of a colony overrun by unidentified creatures is connected to that movie).

  5. Well, War Hammer 40.000 deserves more than a quote, see for instance how some Tyranid units look like: