Game of Thrones Studio Tour: exploring one of the greatest ever TV series
I’ve been a HUGE fan of Game of Thrones ever since the TV show began back in 2011. Despite it now being off the air (the series ended in 2019), my fandom hasn’t waned – a fact that isn’t lost on my wife who arranged a recent trip for us to Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, Northern Ireland to take part in the Game of Thrones Studio Tour.
The website promised visitors the chance to “explore how one of the world’s greatest ever TV series was created and brought to life on screen” through access to sets, costumes, props, concept art, etc.
The theming begins as soon as you arrive with a huge Game of Thrones sign dominating the modern-looking building and the haunting iconic music from the show drifting out from inside the attraction. After a quick and friendly bag check, you were in. Greeters in the lobby area were also very friendly and having scanned our tickets and explaining a little about the experience, then directed us to the start … the now obligatory green screen photograph which you seem to find at the beginning of every attraction in the world! Nothing here to really set them apart from others – no props just a bit of direction from the photographer to “look normal” and then “look scared”.
We were then held in waiting area before entering a large room containing 3 big screens on which we were told an introduction video would be played …. As it was, it developed a fault and we were all asked to return to the waiting area while they fixed the problem. 10 minutes later we re-entered the room and this is where the colleague interaction really went up a notch as the guy preparing us for the video made light of the technical difficulties by saying “how lovely to see you all for the first time! I have never met any of you before!” The video ran and grew the excitement for what was to come.
Most sections (around 10 in total) of the tour began in the creative world with numerous pieces of concept art and visuals/videos explaining how these were brought to life on screen. Sets and props relating to the area of the experience that you were in were, for me, the big USPs here and the tour laid them out brilliantly – using some of the actual film sets to recreate iconic moments from the show interspersed with the genuine costumes the characters wore, the goblets they drank out of, the swords and bows they fought with, the crowns and jewellery they wore, etc. These really immersed you into the world of Game of Thrones as did the ongoing background music and TV screens showing some of the show’s most memorable scenes.
In amongst all of this, the attraction made full use of digital technology to allow visitors to “get more involved” and do things such as fire arrows at White Walkers, dress up in the armour of a Gold Cloak of the City Watch and have their severed head displayed in the House of Black and White. These interactives were spread evenly across the attraction and complimented the museum-esque “no touching” parts of the experience very well. Also well spread around the attraction were the staff – with each area of the tour having its own dedicated member of the team on hand to answer any questions, explain how the interactives worked or simply reduce the number of selfies by offering to take pictures of guests. I spoke to a few of them and they were very knowledgeable about the show with some having actually worked on it during filming.
We spent around 2 hours in the attraction and that was us taking our time but at the same time not stopping and reading every single write-up on every single prop. In that respect, I’d say the Game of Thrones is akin to a Merlin Midway attraction – something like a Sea Life or Madame Tussaud’s – in terms of size and dwell time. Having recently worked on a guest experience project with the latter, it was interesting to see how some of the key things that came up in those sessions were also in evidence in the Game of Thrones tour, namely :
Friendly, knowledgeable and engaging colleagues from entrance to exit to provide information, answer questions, help with way-finding, take photos, etc.
Use of interactives to break-up the “museum” nature of the experience
Use of audio to theme different areas of the tour
Having a themed “rest stop” part-way through the attraction where guests can get something to eat/drink
The “green screen” photo point at the very beginning of the tour before guests have really had time to fully immerse themselves in the experience
In summary, a superb trip for me as a huge fan of the show – my wife, who was never watched a single episode, nevertheless enjoyed the experience and commented on how well the whole attraction had been put together. So whether you are a fan or not, the creative drawings, the sets, the costumes, the props, the audio, the visuals and the interactives all meant the Game of Thrones tour certainly delivered on its promise to allow guests to “explore how one of the world’s greatest ever TV series was created and brought to life on screen”.