Game of Thrones Wildlings and Dothraki are on my tail at SXSW

Depending on how the night goes here at SXSW 2019, this could turn out to be the world's most violent block party.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
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Erin Carson
3 min read

HBO and the American Red Cross partnered on Bleed for the Throne.


Am I ready to fight for the living?

Well, I suppose you can't walk into a war encampment and start preaching peace, love and understanding to a bunch of battle-hungry soldiers.

It's the night before the SXSW Conference and Festivals kicks off in Austin, Texas, and I'm at a Game of Thrones event -- the kind that drops you inside a real-life fictional world -- called Bleed for the Throne. I'm staring at the unsettlingly yellowed teeth of a Wildling who wants an answer to his question.

Sure, I tell him. I'm wiry and cranky. I'll be fine.

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Wildlings. Dothraki. The Unsullied. Knights of the Vale. Just about everyone from HBO's fantasy series is here, at what could be the world's most violent block party, depending on how the night goes.

A blacksmith hammers away at a sword. A couple of men practice fighting. Horses pass through the camp.

One Knight of the Vale circles the area, dispensing disses out of the side of his mouth.

"Wildlings may be good at pillaging villages but they're no match for a Northern man's army," he says after he's thrown shade on their sword-fighting skills and boasted about his new horse.

Watch this: Game of Thrones wants you to Bleed for the Throne at SXSW

Thankfully there's Shake Shack on offer in one of the tents, so things can't get too uncivilized.

Bleed for the Throne isn't just about pledging your aid against the White Walkers and all the Dothraki guyliner you can hope for. The experience starts in a space decked out like a giant old castle. There's an audio tour of some of the show's big moments involving characters like Jon Snow, Arya Stark and Cersei Lannister. The vibe is trippy art gallery exhibit meets ... suffering.

If you've ever wanted to walk directly through a massive projection of a nun's face yelling "shame" at you, this is your moment.

For those who aren't facing a 16-plus-hour work day, there's also a blood drive happening. The American Red Cross partnered with HBO on Bleed for the Throne. It's part of a larger event, that will bring blood drives to 43 states and 9 colleges and universities around the US, running from March 7 to 12.

American Red Cross Senior Vice President Cliff Numark tells me there's not enough type O blood available lately. Hundreds of blood drives have been canceled in the past two months.

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The blood drive sits off to the side inside the faux castle. Donors can give blood as they would at a normal blood drive. And then, you know, contemplate the struggles of Jon Snow.

Finally, donors are called up during a ceremony in front of the Iron Throne by a woman in a red dress. She has them bend the knee while she whispers "the Lord of Light has a purpose for you, for us all."

If the room smelled like incense instead of fresh hamster bedding, it would feel a little like a church service. There's even a choir involved.

Game of Thrones returns to HBO April 14. Whether the living can overcome the dead in the final face off remains to be seen.

But maybe they'll settle it all over Shake Shack.