Why Star Wars Makes For Better Games Than Films

Star Wars started as cinema and ended up as something else – lots of things, from pillow cases to theme park rides. But chief among them, the form that best captures the core of Star Wars now, is games. The last Star Wars I enjoyed watching was released two years after I was born, in 1983, but since then games have given me dozens of dogfights, blaster battles and lightspeed adventures layered with the nostalgia, hope and acceleration that is essentially Star Wars.

In his review of the re-released version of A New Hope, Roger Ebert wrote that to return to Star Wars twenty years on is “to revisit a place in the mind.” George Lucas’ film has, he said, “colonized our imaginations, and it is hard to stand back and see it simply as a motion picture, because it has so completely become part of our memories.”

The things that tumbled from my memory after I’d decided to write about Star Wars include: the precise tension of a top-loading VCR player, whose springs and sprockets are somehow one and the same as the mechanisms of the droids in the film, an evocative list of floppy disk passwords rattling inside the box for TIE Fighter (Ardent, Audacity…), and the confusing revelation of a dog-chewed Obi-Wan figure, retractable lightsaber visible through half an arm. To me, Star Wars means a sort of amniotic emotional warmth from before the dark times. Before adolescence.

Everyone who has any feelings about Star Wars has a similar list. This is Ebert being proved right – to engage with Star Wars is to engage with memory, especially since the first Star Wars games have now become part of the layered sediment of our minds. Ebert wrote that Star Wars “located Hollywood’s centre of gravity at the intellectual and emotional level of a bright teenager” and when we were bright teenagers we leapt into X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Dark Forces, Knights Of The Old Republic – games that both played on our existing yearning for Lucas’ world and planted the seeds of our future sentimentality.

Playing any Star Wars game now means moving through nostalgia, travelling fast through space and backwards into ourselves. Because as well as memory, Star Wars is about motion. As a teenager George Lucas was devoted to motor racing, tearing his Fiat Bianchina around courses in his hometown of Modesto, California. He once remembered the precise joy of racing to the film critic, Tom Shone.

“The engine, the noise… It was the thrill of doing something really well. When you drift around a corner and come up at just the right time, and shift down – there’s something special about it. It’s like running a really good race. You’re all there, and everything is working.”

“And there,” Shone says, “you have Star Wars.” Rewatch A New Hope now and – as well as the Special Edition alterations standing out like cheap, flaking paint on a classic car – it’s so clearly about a boy growing up in a desert farm town and aching for escape, about living slow and wanting to go fast. That’s why Modesto’s motto – “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health” – could just as well be Tatooine’s, with its moisture vaporators and dead sense of dusty, agricultural nowhere. It’s also why Star Wars is, as Shone says, “a movie consumed with motion blur and escape velocity, forward thrust and back blast.”

This motion did something, both to us and to cinema. It recalibrated the intrinsic tempo of the blockbuster, rejuvinating the very idea of special effects and launching Industrial Light & Magic (a brilliant name which strikes at the soul of both cinema and games). Some mix of its artifice, its speed and its worn futurism made Star Wars the founding stone of a new age of animation – literally, as Pixar was spun from ILM – and, in a deeper sense, of digital imagination. According to David Thomson, the aftermath of Star Wars “altered our scope of seeing and communicating, and with it our contact and contract with reality.”

That’s why the games worked so well. They existed in this newly-oriented reality, and they were about going fast. The games took the speed, the central preoccupation with motion that’s bigger than an idea and must be considered a philosophy, and they gathered up the film’s beautiful design and music – sense-memory splinters lodged in the minds of every generation lucky enough to catch Star Wars in the flickering glow of youth – and they made new adventures.

And to a certain extent that was easy because the films were never really about story, or people, or anything past this idea of speed (“I have a sneaking suspicion that if there were a way to make movies without actors,” Mark Hamill once said, “George would do it”). The games were a way for the car to drive itself. Lucas’ line about drifting a corner – “You’re all there, and everything is working” – that’s as good a description as I’ve ever heard for those transcendent moments that games sometimes give way to: that feeling of reverberating legitimacy I felt when walking into the world of Dark Forces for the first time having subsisted for so long on Doom’s s WAD (Stormtroopers! Real blaster noises!) or the sense of rightness and proficiency I got form from hammering shortcut controls on my keyboard-turned-cockpit in X-Wing, from setting the cannons and deflector shields just so and banking to engage. Everything is working.

Crucially that essence – that mix of memory and motion – has for a long time fit better into games than it has into films, television or animation. For all his speed, the world, and the rest of Hollywood, eventually caught up with George Lucas, who gave us a second trilogy of films empty aside from an occasional burst of acceleration and pleasingly analogue aesthetic twitch. “Can the honest moviegoer detect a director?” asked Thomson, pinpointing both the fact that the significance of Star Wars was always as a collection of images surrounding movement rather than authored experience, and the fact those images and that movement are better served in the interactive space of games and not the flat space of cinema.

This could all change this year, with the release of JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens. But it’s telling that his film is heavy with a sense of trying to recapture something lost – something sleeping – some purity of expression that the first films had and everything since has lacked. Except not quite everything – while everyone else is watching teaser trailers and hoping that Abrams restores balance to the Force, I plan to spend this summer hammering shortcut controls, setting cannons and shields, and banking to engage. “That’s all the Force was, really, once you had stripped it of some of the more mystical mumbo-jumbo in which Lucas wrapped it,” Shone writes. “That feeling you get when you’re driving so fast and well that you feel you’ve merged with your car.” Well it’s not a car, actually, it’s a TIE Avenger. And it goes much faster.

77 Comments

  1. Marblecake says:

    Daaaaaamn. This Ditum fella knows how to *write*.

  2. Nasarius says:

    At least for me, my love of Star Wars has always been about the world building. The story in the original trilogy was fun, the characters were great, but the universe it hinted at was huge and fascinating.

    For example, think about the little suggestions of the criminal underworld we see in just the very first film: you’ve got smugglers, spice from Kessel, fast ships with hidden compartments, Greedo, and a mysterious gangster boss named Jabba. There’s so much in just a few lines and a couple scenes. It’s been explored even more in the novels (Talon Karrde, Mara Jade, “slicers” and breakable encryption from Timothy Zahn).

    The realities of licensing and mainstream games means I’ll probably never see the kinds of Star Wars games I really want, but anyone can take these ideas and do similar things.

    • mcwizardry says:

      I very much agree with this, the world building was the biggest aspect that made Star
      Wars interesting to me. In a lot of ways the extended universe stories, characters and games were always more compelling than the main plot.

      • hamilcarp says:

        I think the same could be said of Tolkein’s universe. The events of LOTR were just a relatively unexceptional war at the tail end of some world shattering conflicts between demigods and evil incarnate.

    • Scurra says:

      On the other hand, I look at the Star Wars films and think about how utterly unbelievable the world building is. The SW universe exists to tell one story, and one story alone, which it makes a decent stab at (I won’t defend the way Ep 3 messed up the seduction of Anakin, but it was probably doomed to failure on that count anyway.) Most universes have this problem (Harry Potter has it in spades) because they aren’t meant to do anything other than serve that one story. The more you try to dig into the “mythology”, the less and less sense it makes. Compare, for instance, the Star Trek universe, which wasn’t built to tell one specific story and, as a result, is able to encompass so much more. Star Wars is bobbins by comparison.
      For instance, it actually makes more coherent sense if you imagine it as a straight fantasy story set on one planet (where the plausibility of different climate zones works just fine but completely fails if you try to have a whole desert or ice planet) – it’s just that you can’t have the dogfighting over a superweapon bit (which is, I grant you cool enough to make you forgive Lucas using it four times in six films.)

      Don’t get me wrong – I too am the right age for Star Wars to occupy that perfect spot in my heart (I was ten in 1978) and love everything about this article which nails it so well, but I find it hard to look at the world building with anything other than mild derision.

      • Shadow says:

        I’m not sure what you mean about the Star Wars universe making any less sense than Star Trek’s, which despite being used in multiple series, somehow manages to feel smaller than the former. Maybe certain comicbook Expanded Universe stories clash to some extent or another, but on the grand scale, I don’t see a universe built around a single story.

        • Scurra says:

          I guess the problem is that we could argue about this for ever, but I stand by my earlier comment: you can imagine the entire Star Wars film series happening on a single planet. You can’t do that with Star Trek.
          Star Wars is, in the end, a simple story about one family (heck, it’s really only about two people!); Star Trek is not about the people, it’s about the Federation, with countless ships having their own stories within a vast space; there is the sense in Trek that there are many other interesting stories going on elsewhere that you aren’t seeing, whereas in Star Wars, the interesting story is the one you are watching.
          And yes, I am aware of the Expanded Universe – and all I can say is that the best entries into that canon were either extended remakes of the basic story, or bits that were trying to fill in the gaps between the films. Which suggests to me that the universe only exists for the purpose of that one story.
          Again, don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a fantastic story that in itself is better than, say, any individual story within the Trek canon*. But trying to make the nonsensical bits have any sort of coherence simply isn’t worth it; why not just be happy with the amazing story that it already tells?

          *OK, so there are probably one or two Trek stories that equal it. But so there should be given how many stories there have been set in that Universe!

          • OmNomNom says:

            But every alien is a human in a suit in Star Trek, and most of them speak English. For me this makes it more likely to happen on a single planet!

          • Shadow says:

            I think you’re just being selective, Scurra.

            The Expanded Universe of Star Wars, with all its games, comicbooks, novels and series, adds stories to all points of the timeline relative to the “main” story: many points in the past and future and even happenings parallel to the canon plot, all spanning 10,000+ years. You disregard the vast majority of that, simply saying the stories you like focused on the periphery of the main plot.

            At the same time, you artificially inflate the Star Trek universe, talking about “countless ships” in a “vast” space. In truth, there’s a small handful of ships (three Enterprises, Voyager and DS9) with a bunch of throwaway stories centered around each. And I say “throwaway” not to snipe at the quality, but rather to describe their irrelevance on the grand scale, save for a few exceptions where the events of an episode are referenced to in some other episode or series. That’s the nature of the Star Trek episode. It’s all so self-contained, and hardly gives off a sense of vastness. And it all happens in nigh-isolated chunks within a period of 200 years, outside which you only know the faintest details (Khan’s story, in all its vagueness, is one of the most developed examples).

            I suppose it comes down to subjective perceptions of how vast or alive the universe feels to any given person. From my point of view, Star Wars tries a lot harder to convey the notion of a huge, living universe with a lengthy history. Star Trek, on the other hand, largely prefers to focus on its episodical format, revealing information only strictly relevant to the self-contained events at hand, the vast majority of which is never heard of again afterwards.

          • P.Funk says:

            I’d say anyone saying Star Wars is bigger for its EU canon than Star Trek is cheating. The EU wasn’t even properly expansive until the 90s and still has little bearing on the films. A good chunk of that expansiveness has been totally invalidated now to make room for new movies. The quality is very very hit and miss and its not like with Star Trek where you can name all the series, all the captains, even if you’re not into it.

            If you count the number of hours of Trek you can watch thats all part of canon you’ll have hundreds of hours of stuff. If you wanna watch Star Wars its 6 movies and maybe the Clone Wars CGI show I guess. Star Trek was a production for two straight decades, starting in the 80s and ending in the 00s.

            Star Trek definitely has a more intimate feeling to the universe, while Star Wars feels more like some middle eastern bazaar in an old movie. However here’s the thing, Star Trek to me has more dates and places and people and important events I can name that all fit into a single big story than with Star Wars. The narrative of the Dominion war for instance has great weight to it. In the prequel Star Wars movies I never got any sense of the war itself, where the fight was. It was basically just fight scenes with no real cohesion to the war. The war was barely even in the story so it never felt like it was a real war. With DS9 you knew the war, it was there all around. You saw it first hand.

            To me Star Wars feels like a sandbox for telling simple stories. Trek however feels like a proper fictional universe like Middle Earth. It has a history and it has a narrative to it. Star Wars however always was just about a small story on a galactic stage. Thats not bad, it just means that without being a total EU nerd its obviously lacking something. The aesthetic is there but the belief that its real isn’t.

            For instance with Star Trek you have the wars between different factions. You know their relevance, you know how they affect the politics and the things that confront the crew in a given episode based on previous things. In Star Wars you have all these species and none of them have any identity or any firm sense of meaning. Oh look.. there’s a battle on the Wookie planet… yay… thats interesting… meanwhile the Klingons occupying Cardassian space after an invasion has a measurable sense of scale to it. The universe isn’t just a backdrop, its part of the story and its its own character.

          • Scurra says:

            The worst sort of argument is the one where both sides are right. :)
            In the end, of course it’s all about personal feelings. I (and others) consider that Star Wars is a magnificent fable, distilling most of Joseph Campbell’s mythic archetypes into a single, easily comprehensible story, even allowing for the manifest flaws inherent in any narrative that was forced to adapt over time to a changing situation rather than planned in detail from the outset. But once you step outside of that story, there is nothing there. None of the other characters who have been and gone in endless iterations of novels, comics, games etc. etc. have made any impact* – if they had, then the decision to effectively kill off the EU would not have been possible.
            Again, I want to stress that this singularity of focus isn’t a bad thing. But there is nothing in Star Wars that remotely resembles e.g. the moment in The Lord of the Rings when Aragorn sings about Beren & Luthien and you realise that there’s a whole cultural history there that you know nothing about and which serves solely as a minor character point but which also feels completely real. By contrast, pretty much everything that is introduced in Star Wars at any point is entirely there to progress the plot. And anything introduced subsequently has been in a vague attempt to create a retrocontinuity explanation for the obvious contradictions and absurdities (no matter how excellent those explanations have sometimes been.)

            *outside of the fandom, I mean. After all, I’m not saying that I don’t know who Mara Jade or Kyle Katarn are, but they are never going to appear in e.g. a pub quiz question. And they are probably the most famous ones.

          • Arglebargle says:

            I am pretty sure that the Campbell mythic hero stuff came after the fact, retrofitted by Lucas because it sounded so cool.

          • pepperfez says:

            They’re just different genres: Star Wars is a Romantic fantasy that includes space ships and robots; Star Trek is orthodox science fiction. Trying to jam them into the same mold yields such nonsense as midichlorians.

    • Drayk says:

      Agreed,

      I remember when SW I, II and III were released, that what was lacking was the sense that it was a coherent universe with people living in it ;P. THe only scene that reminds a bit of that is at the start of episode 3.

      It’s been a while since I saw any Star wars movie. I am gonna watch them all again before VII though…

      • Horg says:

        ”I remember when SW I, II and III were released, that what was lacking was the sense that it was a coherent universe with people living in it”

        Pretty much what I was going to write. With the prequel trilogy, it wasn’t simply that SFX isn’t wowing audiences like it used to, but that the characters, script and plot of the films ( basically the human element) were so poorly delivered that you couldn’t engage with them. There is as much potential for a high SFX thrill ride to recapture the old school Star Wars feeling as there ever has been, but the writers need to back up the visuals with something credible or it wont hold together.

        I also think there is room for a slower paced exploration of the Star Wars universe in film. My favorite Star Wars game so far is KotOR2, which is character and dialogue focused, and sort of runs counter to the point of Star Wars being all about imagery and motion. The non-cannon fiction and expanded universe are a gold mine of ideas and characters to develop for film. In the hands of the right director, I would love to see a different style of Star Wars that puts some new characters first and develops them carefully over a few films, rather than another SFX spectacle using the main cannon.

        • James says:

          Seconded. Star Wars contains the element of good vs. evil that gets you rooting for Yoda and Luke. Most games are of that nature too, then KotOR 2 takes a big bucket of grey paint and splashes it everywhere. The writing of Bioware and Obsidian has added massively to the Star Wars universe, and although KotOR 1, 2 and SWTOR don’t contain whooshing noises (apart from the Ebon Hawk turret fights), they do contain great characters that even Luke would aspire to become.

          • Punning Pundit says:

            When I first watched Ep3, and saw Anikan go into the Jedi Temple to kill everyone there, I realized what the Sith were getting Revenge for: my actions in Knights of the Old Republic. I had a moment of frizzion as I realized how closely connected to the Star Wars universe the games had brought me. Nothing else has ever quite felt like it

    • Llewyn says:

      but anyone can take these ideas and do similar things

      Exactly. This is something that bugs me frequently when the issue of the difficulty of licensing certain franchises comes up. Established franchises provide instant marketing, which is obviously of real value, but other than that they don’t really provide much more than names. All the ideas and imagination that went into them can be appropriated and merged with game creators’ own imaginations; the difficult part of course is in doing that well, but no part of making games well is easy.

      • P.Funk says:

        Well it really is a lot easier to write a story in the now expansive fictional Star Wars universe than to invent your own just to tell a story. It makes it very easy for those paycheck authors to do it so quickly.

    • Risingson says:

      Actually it is part of the “put all the pulp fiction in the kitchen sink” approach for Star Wars, that worked so remarkedly well. You had bits from pirate movies, bits from war movies, bits from westerns, everything that George Lucas and friends watched and read when they were young, and there it was. The amazing thing is that the mix is not schizophrenic, or does not look like it. You have one guy calling “Red one to red two”, exactly the same as many war movies, and it does not sound strange. You have dozens of scenes that are taken from Errol Flynn/Tyrone Power movies, and they look fine in Star Wars.

      I cannot help admiring these three first movies. The modern trilogy didn’t have that approach (maybe you could see references to BD comics) and they suffered for that, for not being classic storytelling with witty dialogues, strong women and such.

  3. SuicideKing says:

    I guess the eastern hemisphere of the world will have a very different take on what you in the west call “mystical mumbo-jumbo”…it’s quite possible Lucas got a lot of ideas from this side of the planet.

    • Manfromtheweb says:

      I very much agree with this sentiment. The Force is one the most defining aspects of the SW universe, and personally that and the Jedi along with all that associated spiritual stuff is why Star Wars is one of my favourite scifi/fantasy universes.

      This is a great contrast to the otherwise high-tech space tech, and adds that special ”magic” something that many scifi ‘verses lack, or at least execute rather poorly.

      I also don’t wholly concur that the films were not about story or people, but I’m not going into that too far. But with ANH it’s possible to see what the article is pointing at, though not the rest of the movies. Although my opinion about this should be taken with a grain of salt, since I haven’t seen any of the movies in a couple of years.

      I’ve been mostly delving in the now defunct EU, games included. My favorite SW anything is both KOTOR and KOTOR 2, which go into much greater detail about the story and characters than the movies ever could (haven’t read a single SW book).

      • SanguineAngel says:

        for me, the force is one of the /least/ defining aspects of the Star Wars universe of my youth. At least until the prequal trilogy. That’s why I think so many of the old games work so well – where they focus on the wider character of the universe.

      • SomeDuder says:

        Wat.

        The force is just a minor thing that only a few people care about. Hell, people make fun of it (whatshisname, first movie) even when they know it exists and is real.

        And its why I cant be arsed with the extended universe crap, where the force is suddenly a thing that can influence huge events. Like in the first KotOR – it’s been quite a few years since I played it, but I remember something about a character called Bastille and her “battle meditation” which meant that as long as she kept meditating the battle would go well, or some bullshit like that.

        The force should just be a trick that a few people can use to jump around and wield laserswords, not some be-all, end-all “force” of nature.

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          This also. Look at Obi-wan’s reaction to Han in that scene too, he’s clearly familiar with that position. Han refers to the lightsaber as an “ancient” weapon. If the prequels are to be believed, it was only a couple of decades ago that the Jedi were renowned throughout the galaxy, a huge and important institution, and thanks to their superior powers were leading vast armies. It’s impossible that someone as resourceful and traveled as Han wouldn’t have known about this. It would certainly be known how effectively the Jedi fought with their lightsabers! The suggestion we get from the original trilogy is that even at the time of the clone wars the Jedi were secretive, small in number, and not well understood; choosing carefully when to reveal their powers.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            I mean, Han was about 10 years old when the empire came to power, him not knowing about the power of the force would be a bit like someone born in 1935 in Germany never having heard of a tank.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            fully concur. The original films left me with the impression of the Jedi Knights as akin to a medieval Orders like the Templars or Hospitallers – strengthened by their mysticism and the depiction of their sword fighting combat. In fantasy terms, they were paladins.

            From every quarter, they are derided as obsolete and even when the evidence of the force is before their eyes both Han Solo and the Imperial Officer see little practical value.

            I never really got why they suddenly became superhero ninjas in the prequels – it appeared to undermine the original concept utterly.

          • Arglebargle says:

            I used to bitch about the ‘Forgotten Jedi’ schtick. Until I did a lot of reading on the big 20th anniversary of Tianamen Square. Most remebrance of that event has been wiped out of Chinese cultural history. Young people had no grasp of what went on. Many had just heard that ‘something bad went on’, and the government stopped it. And they thought that must have been a good thing.

            If you control the means of information, you can do that sort of thing. Cue quote from Pravin Lal…..

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          There’s also something great in the scene between Vader and General Motti. Everything Motti says is true and it pisses Vader off. Now, compared with battle meditation, I think finding the stolen Death Star plans or locating the rebel base, sounds pretty trivial.

    • Herbal Space Program says:

      Or by reading Frank Herbert.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        I think the worst thing the prequels did was to cheapen and demystify the force and the Jedi. There was never any need to have the Jedi be such a prominent political and militant institution, or to have so many of them. There just wasn’t any need to *explain* the Jedi, or the force, any more than it already had been explained.

        There are plenty of ways in which they could have been “guardians of peace and justice” while still exemplifying Yoda’s adage that wars do not “make one great” They could have been a presence working from a seemingly humble position yet connected to the root of society’s consciousness, slightly out of direct sight of most people, almost nebulous at times, but still pulling the strings of power in subtle ways for the greater good. Instead we got a great big building in the capital city full of “younglings”.

        So was Lucas reading Frank Herbert? Maybe. Maybe that’s where he got all the desert bits from. If only he’d been paying attention to the Bene Gesserit. The wasted potential really gets my garments in a twist.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          JamesTheNumberless, I am essentially just following you round this thread and agreeing with you now like some sort of mindless henchman!

        • Herbal Space Program says:

          You have a good analysis of the situation, I wonder how much more Lucas could have done without producers and without hollywood.

        • Manfromtheweb says:

          I guess I should have worded that part about the Force a little differently. I didn’t mean the Force was a defining thing in-universe, but what is a big factor in distinguishing it from other franchises.

          But in another vein I agree with the unnecessary demystifying of the Force, especially with the midi-chlorians et al. There was no reason to explain it beyond what was said in the original trilogy. On the Jedi, I never had a problem with the idea of them being such a large order and part of the bureaucracy as they were in the prequels. Though that may in part be because Phantom Menace came out when I was about twelve (the originals I saw in ’96 or ’97). So I didn’t have years to think about how the Jedi of old might have been.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      I’m pretty sure there’s just as much “mystical mumbo-jumbo” in the west as in the east. It’s just that somehow your neighbor’s religion is “religion” (ugh), but that-guy-on-the-other-side-of-the-world’s religion is “spirituality” (how noble!)

      • pepperfez says:

        As someone points out elsewhere here, the Jedi are basically Knights Templar, an order with an avowedly mystical bent.

  4. James says:

    I marked the day by sticking on KotOR’s soundrack and playing Battlefront all day. The speeders are my favourite vehicles, whooshing through the trees, then into them. Good times. I should replay KotOR once my exams are done, it was the first game I was ever really excited to play.

    I don’t know whether to be proud or worried that I can name the locations where every piece plays upon hearing it.

  5. aliksy says:

    Games suffer from the jedi problem. If you have one class that’s an amazing fighter with magic powers, what do you do about everyone else? Many games seem to bring the jedi down to weaker levels, but that kind of undermines the concept. It doesn’t matter much if the only option is to play jedi, but sometimes they try to make all the archetypes equally appealing.

    • James says:

      You say that but most Jedi seem fairly weak in the films and in lore generally. In Attack of the Clones the Jedi on Geonosis should have kicked ass but most of them were dead in minutes. Luke’s lightsaber skils aren’t exactly brilliant. Most Jedi in lore can die to an ambush. The sories we like tend to focus on Jedi Masters, who are the badass plasma dealing angels of moral goodness and destruction that we all want to be.

      As HK-47 puts it: “Answer: Select grenades, sonic screamers, cluster rockets, and plasma charges. Mines are also effective, since many Jedi will run to meet you in hand to hand combat. Silly Jedi.”

      • gunny1993 says:

        For me the best way to summarize stars wars is to compare it to minecraft (Bare with me), in that, you start with a seed, i.e the first films, then from that you generate an amazing universe filled with some truly brilliant work (And due to bad management of the EU, some fucking terrible ones) , this new series is like a new seed, I just hope Disney hit a middle ground between letting any idiot fuck with the canon and not letting anyone touch it.

        Seriously, some of the EU stuff makes no sense whatsoever

      • P.Funk says:

        The problem of the Jedi on Geonosis is the same as the Jedi problem in games and Lucas had to face it similarly. He had to basically nerf the Jedi barring a few exceptional individuals or else you have no story.

        HEADLINE: Jedi win amazing victory on Geonosis. Clone Army declared unnecessary by Senate. Separatist leaders charged with Sedition. Chancellor Palpatine’s emergency powers expire with little drama.

    • Dilapinated says:

      There was an article a couple of Sunday/Pip Papers ago on how they tried to balance Jedi in SW: Galaxies. The first idea was excellent, but the final implimentation was radically different + messed about by licencing issues.

  6. newton says:

    Very well written, yet I heartily disagree with the notion that the trilogy wasn’t about story or people. Quite the contrary!

    Star Wars, at least to me, are Luke Skywalker. The best moments in the movies are anything but speed – both duels with Vader, Yoda raising the X-Wing, Luke giving into his anger, Luke standing up to the Emperor.. That’s the true power of (the original) Star Wars: the character arc, the hero’s journey. The speed (and the fabulous world building, as was already mentioned by others) plays an important role, but at the heart of this amazing universe, there are people, and they do have a story.

  7. Zankman says:

    Once the inevitable Disney – Telltale deal goes through, we will get the best of both worlds!

  8. letoeb says:

    It’s also very much an age thing, isn’t it? Or a cohort thing, as my 2 semesters of sociology would like to call it. Chris Franklin (born in 1985, like me) hits the nail on the head on that one: link to youtube.com

    • Kempston Wiggler says:

      Good video! He makes some excellent excellent points. “Peak Star Wars” is something I’m acutely aware of an worry about for the next films. VII is going to spend a LOT of time harking back to what came before, and we’re already being bombarded by unsubtly manufactured “Star Wars Fever”, rehashing all those old moments and catchphrases like we haven’t heard them all ten thousand times….

      I worry that gentle evolution is all they have to offer in these new films. A love of what was but nothing really new. Lightsabers – now with side blades! – seems to be the best they can come up with. Where else can they explore that hasn’t already been covered in other media?

      But I digress. You’re right about the age thing. I was born in 1975. I saw the first film not in 1977 but when it was first released on TV in the UK, I think in the early 80s AFTER the release of Empire. And that was a big thing back then. Hollywood blockbusters didn’t get automatically put onto TV like they do now, or at least nowhere near as fast. My parents had seen the film and let us stay up past our bedtimes (SO EXCITING!!!) to watch it and of course I absolutely fell in love. They showed Empire the next year (VHS wasn’t even a thing back then) and I only had to wait a year or two more for Return of the Jedi. I was the perfect age for the films.

      Of course when the games came along I was the perfect age to own a PC. The fact they all experimented and pushed the boundaries of gaming back in the early 90s was what helped make them Star Wars, what gave them the same genre-establishing magic. And they were so gooood. Dark Forces. Tie Fighter. everything that came after….up until X-Wing Alliance. That game, for me, is when the dream died. Or should I say, Phantom Menace is when the dream died, and Alliance was the last tangible experience I had of when Star Wars was still a magical thing for me.

      I’m going to end this little rant with a recommendation. If you haven’t watched the films recently, do yourself a favour and try something a little bit different for Star Wars itself. Watch Adywans “Star Wars Revisited” fan-edit. I love it to pieces. this wonderful man has spent years rebuilding and retouching the films, correcting not just mistakes added by the Special Editions but also lots of logical, editorial and technical issues in the original film; the list is seriously exhaustive, and makes SUCH a huge difference. Star Wars feels new and fresh again, just how our memories remember it. He’s almost finished work on Empire Strikes Back, too, which should be done within the next few months….

      Until next time, folks. :)

  9. David Bliff says:

    Counterpoint: games regularly work hard to make the player feel powerful. This can work in some settings and even some Star Wars games, but in the case of Star Wars specifically this is usually achieved by endorsing the prequel-model of Force users (that of an almost unkillable soldier with a huge array of defined magic skills) rather than the OT model of Force users (that of a Buddhist monk-warrior with some vague powers that can’t always be used at will), or by giving the player super high-tech weaponry.

    The problem with the latter is that a lot of the time in the Star Wars universe, the technology isn’t actually that advanced, so amazing tech in a game completely undercuts a significant part of what makes the universe interesting. Star Wars should have games about guerrilla warfare and such.

  10. joa says:

    Cannot really agree that Star Wars is better served by the medium of gaming than by film. Does any game come close to replicating A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back?

    • Dread says:

      I think so. For RPGs you have the two Kotor games, very well written stories (for the most part) and a good gameplay system. Revan is an excellent character, though I do dislike, that they made a “canonical” version of him/her as well of the Jedi Exile, just to milk them a bit more. Both should be formed by the player choices.
      Personally I feel, both work much better as a dark side character, than a light one; but having an ‘evil’ protagonist in canon is unthinkable, it seems.

      For FPS you have the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series. Excellent gameplay, good story; though jedi knight 1’s live action cutscenes are a bit cheesy. In any case, the protagonist, Kyle Katarn, is probably the most well known Star Wars character, who never appeared in one of the movies and may actually have a small role in the new movie (he is part of the high council after all).

      For space combat, you have the excellent x-wing vs. tie fighter games, great gameplay and atmosphere.
      For ground sombat, there is star wars: battlefront. For strategy empire at war.

      There are many very good Star Wars games, far more, than there are very good movies. It simply is hard for many people to look beyond the brilliance of the first movies, regardless of how close other stories get to them.

      • cpt_freakout says:

        The thing with games is that they need a level of commitment that is far greater than that which you need for movies. I guess that one of the keys to making the commitment feel fulfilling is to make everything about the movie stick ever from the beginning, which the games do only after you’re invested into listening to unique blaster sounds and what it means that the force is with you. The Star Wars movies are filled with speed because movies themselves are full of speed (in the lapse of two hours you watch empires rise and fall, etc); sure, the thrill is much greater in videogames because it’s you who’s doing more than spectate, but I don’t really think they would work without having the movies as source material in the first place. Star Wars might make better games than movies, but they wouldn’t be as appealing without each other, and I feel the games thrive off from the movies much more than the movies do from the games.

  11. Det. Bullock says:

    Finally a Star War games article with plenty of screens from the X-wing series, I hate when people only talk about either the Dark Forces series or the consolle/arcade games for anything that came out before KOTOR.

  12. grrrz says:

    I freaking hate everything about star wars, and the cult following of this thing is totally beyond my grasp. This is very bad and cheesy sci-fi, and the fact it become a toy factory doesn’t play in favor of any artistic quality the movies might have had. Sorry for the lack of argument here, but the fact that this thing has invaded every corner of our pop culture and that nobody seems to notice how bad it is (probably because of childhood nostalgia, but I’ve seen the first movie in my twenties so I’m immune to that); makes me react.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Lots of people love cheesy things. There’s plenty of things that aren’t for you to love. It’s all fine.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      You’re probably right. I saw the entire trilogy in 1983, when I was 3. I remember it too. In fact it’s my second or third earliest childhood memory after one about seeing arcade machines for the first time… Just as well that that’s the chronology, I think game programmer has worked out better for me as a career than actor would have.

      I don’t think Star Wars’ special place has anything to do with the trilogy as great cinema, but as an archetype of the bildungsroman. The movies more or less redefined what could be done in space. Previous space movies were either serious science fiction, or trashy pulp/horror. Star Wars wears sci-fi clothing but really isn’t sci-fi at all, it’s somewhere between a space western and a space fantasy, and it pushed the boundaries of what could be done in action movies.

      Obviously I’m too young to really have known what the world was like before Star Wars but one thing I do remember well is that even after the movies had been out for a considerable time, nothing else in the genre could really touch them. Not really until Star Trek TNG – which owes a lot to Star Wars.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      I think this is an incredibly lazy argument, at best. Your personal experiences don’t prove anything, other than you not liking Star Wars. That you’ve managed to draw conclusions about others from it only demonstrates your own arrogance.

      Also, it’s just a movie. I don’t care for Fight Club, myself, but I don’t seek out articles about it and act like a dick. That would be pathetic.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        The funny thing about Star Wars is that I don’t even compare it to other movies, it just isn’t necessary for me to do that in order to enjoy it. It’s just Star Wars. If I’m in the mood to watch a great film, it’s a completely different state of mind from when I’m in the mood to watch Star Wars.

        Much in the same way, I can criticize an expensive meal at a fancy restaurant for not having enough saffron in the saffron sauce – but a deep fried haggis and chips never fails to satisfy, and cannot be substituted.

  13. dethtoll says:

    The big reason why the games are better than the movies is because of a fundamental flaw that’s been present in the franchise since the beginning that became manifest with the 2nd film: the entire thing is a Saturday Morning Cartoon. It’s a toy commercial. The first movie was designed as a work of love, a tribute to the days of Flash Gordon and pulp sci-fi that was in George Lucas’ youth. It is for this reason that the movie, nearly 40 years later, remains a fun, if not particularly intelligent, romp; but the franchise basically since the 2nd has been this massive, shallow, plastic shell. The sheer amount of adoration and celebration for such a cynically-written cash-cow corporate product is perhaps more dystopian than the 2012 Republican election campaign.

    Some of the games — not all, but some — manage to recapture that sense of not-too-serious pulp adventure. And that’s why they work, and that’s why the movies don’t. It’s mind-boggling how much cultural cachet Star Wars has; I literally cannot go a single day without being confronted with a reference to it. Stormtrooper graffiti. Someone saying “It’s a trap!” Oh, hey, here’s a cake that looks like the Millennium Falcon, let’s repost it a hundred times on Facebook and Tumblr and every other social media platform that has existed in the last 15 years. LOOK, IT’S MY MOTHER IN LAW, JABBA!!! Fuck that, fuck you, fuck off, and while you’re on your way out take your fucking Boromir memes with you too. Star Wars has so completely ingrained itself into the fabric of society that there’s no way of getting it out. You might as well throw the society out and buy a new one.

    Someday I will be president just so I can start World War 3. When the dust settles, I’ll emerge from the Presidential Bunker, breathe deep, sigh happily, and revel in the fact that I no longer have to hear about fucking Star Wars. And then one of the staffers will tell me they found the Christmas Special on VHS in a box somewhere in the back of the bunker and they’ll be showing it in the rec room.

    At that point I’ll have everyone shot.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      You know, you are the only person I met on the internet or out of it who called TESB a “massive, shallow, plastic shell” albeit indirectly.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      So you enjoyed May the 4th then?

    • P.Funk says:

      You need to start your diatribe one film later.

    • Distec says:

      Nah man, Episode V was good.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Once the dust settles and the last body falls, your world will seem to stop. In the stillness that follows, the softly undulating tones of John Williams’ masterpiece floats on the airwaves from somewhere in the distance. You will realise then that more than any of those millennium falcon cake picture posting posers, Star Wars has been the driving force of your life for longer than you care to remember. Your hatred impelling you to one of the heighest positions of authority in the world and to your own professional peak. And from there into the pits of despair as you spiralled out of control, committing the worst atrocities known to man and then surpassing them again and again. And even NOW the Star Wars theme blasts from somewhere, growing ever louder. When will these Cretins learn their lesson? How many must you destroy before your point is made? But who is left now, to torment you so? You are the last living creature. It is then you realise, of course, that the music has been in your head the whole time.

  14. Dilapinated says:

    This is not only an excellent article in itself, but makes me pine to have a Star Wars licenced movie shot in the style of/by the director of Redline.

    Brb, watching Redline.

    (And then maybe Speed Racer? Who knows.)

  15. Moraven says:

    Probably re-watched the trilogy once a week growing up.

    Rebal Assault, Tie/X-Wing, Yoda: Jedi Stories. SNES had the movie platformers that were difficult as hell. But was great once in the 2nd game you unlocked Force Powers.

    Shadows of the Empire got me to read the book. Great story. Sad they never took that to film in the 90s.

    Rogue Squadron. Fun games and I have read most of the Rogue Squadron series. Who does not want to be a badass X-Wing pilot.

    Each game seems to have to have the required Hoth speeder stage. Despite playing it in multiple titles, it never gets old to dodge AT-AT fire while cabling them.

    Despite their flaws, Force Commander and Rebellion were great since it gave you more Star Wars in a different light. Never got around to playing Empire at War, despite wanting better space combat than Rebellion and a more solid RTS than Force Commander.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      It was all about the space combat for me too as a kid, the battles in the prequels are just a soulless mess by comparison. There was an epic desolateness to the original movies which for me is captured nowhere better than in the vulnerability and loneliness of piloting a tie fighter.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        For me the space battles were reminiscent of great WW2 films like Battle of Britain (as compared to something like Star Trek movies where they felt like claustrophobic submarine battles). Again, the prequels didn’t really channel any of that and were just a bunch of things happening. They had no soul or unifying theme.

  16. Risingson says:

    BTW, much of the credit of Star Wars should go to the amazing editor, Marcia Lucas (I credit her above the other two guys just because). The final part of “Return of the Jedi”, with that parallel narration that tells three different stories at the same time without losing any clarity, is still unsurpassed.

    • Horg says:

      ”The final part of “Return of the Jedi”, with that parallel narration that tells three different stories at the same time without losing any clarity, is still unsurpassed.”

      And thanks to her husband we got Ewoks instead of Wookies -.- Still bitter.

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