Star Wars is, and forgive me for stating the obvious here, an enormously popular film series. And it has been for a full forty years now. Everyone has seen Star Wars or, if they haven’t, at least knows the broad strokes of what it’s all about. In 1993, I don’t think I’d seen any Star Wars films yet, but I could have told you that Luke Skywalker is a Jedi, and he teams up with Princess Leia and Obi-Wan Kenobi and some robots to fight Darth Vader, who is his father. And the beginning of 1993, a decade after Return of the Jedi and a few months before the hype train started rolling for The Phantom Menace, is probably approaching the lowest ebb in Star Wars’ popularity, which makes it something of a curious time for us to have our first (spoiler alert: the first of oh so many) meeting with the franchise here on AAA.
Because while in 2017, the fact that Star Wars is a series that appeals to children and adults of all kinds seems so obvious that it doesn’t really need saying, in 1993, the perception was perhaps a little different. Star Wars is sci-fi, right, so obviously it appeals exclusively to, you know, those kind of people. White males, 18-35, more disposable income than personal hygiene. And this, one suspects, became a self-perpetuating cycle, where the more this was perceived to be the fanbase for the series, the more whatever Star Wars epherma was released in this period was geared to appeal to this fanbase, and so the more anyone who didn’t fit into this narrow mould was alienated.
And so we come to Star Wars: X-Wing, a game that seems to earnestly believe that what is important to Star Wars fans is not the story or the characters, but detailed engine specs for imaginary space craft. Certainly, the first time I loaded it up, these were easier to find on the menu screen than a way to actually play the damn game. And I don’t mean, like, a tutorial that would help me figure out the controls or anything. I mean the place, or rather, four or five places on the screen that I needed to click in order to actually start the game and realise I had absolutely no idea how to control this thing.
Not that being cast in the role of a rookie pilot thrown into the cockpit of a starfighter with no training whatsoever and left to sink or swim is an experience entirely lacking in entertainment value. My first attempt at the ‘pilot proving grounds’, where, tasked with flying a straightforward course through a bunch of gates, I proceeded to spin around in circles for a while, before crashing into just about every obstacle I could find, for example; primarily, the enjoyment came from imagining the weariness behind the voice of Red Leader, the Rebellion officer who watched this performance and responded with “Don’t worry about it. Try again.” How bleak the battle against the Empire must have seemed to him in this moment. How utterly futile.
I can relate. It would be one thing if the entropic slide of the Star Wars franchise into a boys only club in the early nineties were in some way unusual, but of course it isn’t. Everything is like this. And the snowball effect we talked about earlier applies on a larger scale; the more the entire media output of the western world is geared towards a particular demographic, the more conscious effort must be applied by creators to avoid that trend. Any individual stormtrooper is no threat; those guys can’t hit the broad side of a barn. But thousands of them are near unstoppable. And the media constantly telling straight white boys that the world revolves around them leads to a culture of entitlement leads to a terrifying rise of fascism throughout the world. Leads to the dark side. I think that’s how it goes.
So I’m going to hop in a spaceship that I have no clue how to pilot, and keep fighting the good fight, even if it seems like a hopeless task. In the face of this, what else is there to be done?