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Star Wars and Video Games

            Ever since the beginning of video games there have been Star Wars games.  I can remember playing The Empire Strikes Back on my Atari 2600 as a little kid and being thrilled to get to experience the battle of Hoth in an interactive way.  Sure, the game didn't have anything more than shooting pixel dots at a creature that looked somewhat like an AT-AT but that was enough to give my imagination the illusion that I was living my own Star Wars adventure.

 

 

            Fast forward to today and we find that Star Wars is as popular as ever in the video game arena.  Star Wars games have appeared on ever single major console except for the Sega Genesis and have encompassed multiple genres ranging from RPG, FPS, platforming, racing, and even RTS.  I can't think of any other licensed series that can make similar claims.  What really blows my mind is that it shows no signs of slowing down.  The Old Republic was just recently released to critical and commercial acclaim garnering millions of subscribers in record time. 

 

 

             So, what is it about Star Wars that has allowed it to survive for so long in the video game market?  Part of it is how versatile the source material is.  The movies feature several large scale battles that fit perfectly in any action oriented video game.  It also features tons of creative ships, weapons, and alien creatures that developers can utilize without having to design new ones for their game.   To top it all off you get to use the coolest weapon every invented, the lightsaber.  Who doesn't love the idea of swinging around a laser sword?

 

 

            The problem that developers have to face today is how to make those familiar experiences feel fresh and new in multiple games.  Bringing down an AT-AT was an intense and tremendously rewarding experience in Shadows of The Empire.  However, 11 years later that same sequence is still being used in games today and it just can't produce the same feeling after having done it so many times. 

 

 

 

            I'm also sort of bothered by the linear morality system that Star Wars uses.  There are Sith who are evil and Jedi who are good but there isn't a lot of grey area between those two areas.  Similarly, you have the Empire who is inherently evil and the Rebels who are inherently just and good.  This kind of a system can work if you have interesting characters who are able to stretch the limits of those boundaries like a Han Solo.  If not then your only hope is to throw out the most ridiculous story you can think of and hope that no one notices.

 

 

            Bioware has done a great job with The Old Republic of taping into an unexplored era of Star Wars lore but at it's core it's still wish fulfillment from the movies.  It gives you the fantasy of being a Jedi or a bounty hunter, or a Sith and letting you play around in those roles.  How long will it take for that wish fulfillment to run dry?  Will gamers one day tire of roaming around in space with laser swords and laser guns?  I suspect that as long as Star Wars continues to be a pop culture phenomenon there will always be Star Wars games.  I just hope that they can find a way to continue to make them creative and engaging and not fall into the trap of delivering the same experiences we've already received from Star Wars games. 

 

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