A Long Time Ago in a Childhood Far, Far Away

While today I can wish that I was in London in seeing The Clash, The Damned, and the X-Ray Spex in 1977, in truth I was 8 years old at the time and thus the perfect age for the debut of Star Wars that summer. Like legions of burgeoning scifi and fantasy fans, I loved Star Wars instantly. I don’t think I ever saw a movie in the theater more than once before that, but Star Wars I saw something like 13 times. My brother and I would get dropped off at the theater at 1 pm and watch both afternoon showings, comically hiding from the indifferent teenage ushers between them so we could see it twice for the cost of one matinée ticket. We waited eagerly for the next two installments, and I was so smitten with the series that I could even forgive it Ewoks.

When I was in college, the Star Wars RPG from West End came out. Despite it being the 10 year anniversary of the first movie, there was surprisingly little going on with Star Wars when the game came out. I played a fair bit of the game over the years, and for the longest time it was the RPG I’d recommend to introduce new gamers. No need to explain the setting, you say, “It’s Star Wars; go!” The archetypes also made it easy to make characters, which was a plus.

Round about the time those Timothy Zahn novels started coming out, my interest began to wane. To me Star Wars was always the movies and just the movies and I didn’t care about the comics or the novels. Naturally, my interest perked up when I heard there were going to be new movies. I was working at WotC when these started. I remember the day the first trailer came out. We all gathered around monitors and had a shared geek moment. The trailer looked promising, so we dared to hope. The reality: Phantom Menace was a piece of shit. Still, we hoped that this was but a misstep and the rest of the trilogy would find the spirit of the original movies that seemed so lacking in Phantom Menace.

In 2001 I had an interesting opportunity. I was working on miniatures at WotC. We were planning some RPG accessory minis but we wanted to do some Star Wars games as well. I was interested in doing a spaceship combat game with two iterations. One would be a simple game using a limited number of ships and targeted at the mass market. The second would be a full on fleet battle game with scaled up rules for the hobby.

That year I made two trips to Skywalker Ranch. The first was to hand carry sculpts of our first Star Wars miniatures down there for approval. The second trip I and several other designers got to read the script for Attack of the Clones. I was hoping for a lot of spaceship combat, so i could tie in the proposed mass market game to the new movie. I was also hoping for a better movie. The script unfortunately had serious problems. After the reading, the licensing people asked what we thought. I said I wasn’t sure about this whole clone army business. It clearly seemed like a Sith plot but Yoda of all people shrugs and says, “Who cares who created this clone army we’ve never heard of before? Let’s use it and damn the consequences!” While one of my co-workers was having a heart attack that I had dared to criticize the script in the heart of Lucas country, I was assured by the licensing people that efforts were already underway to make the whole clone army thing more ambiguous, so its embrace by the Jedi would make more sense.

I was quite curious to see the finished movie. How much would it differ from the script I had read? As it turned out, hardly at all. They had a scene with young Jedi in weird animal clans and that got cut. All the stuff that I thought was problematic? Still in there. By the time the third movie came out, I didn’t even care enough to go see it. If you told my 8 year old that the fabled sixth Star Wars movie with the origin of Darth Vader would come out and I would skip it, I would never have believed it.

I eventually did see Revenge of the Sith. I was on a business trip in Ft. Wayne, IN and I stayed over on a Sunday night when everyone else had already gone home. Let me tell you, there’s is crap all to do in Ft. Wayne on a Sunday night, so I watched Episode III in my hotel room. And yeah, it was a little bit better than the previous installments, but it still sucked. The entire prequel trilogy was terrible and it’s a shame that young kids think that is Star Wars.

The only bright spot in its galaxy in the last decade has been the Knights of the Old Republic video game. That was awesome and felt so much more like Star Wars than any of the prequels. And maybe BioWare can do it again with their upcoming MMO (and if they can’t, no one can). Overall though, the Star Wars brand is badly damaged. Those prequels missed the mark so widely that bashing them has become a competitive sport at geek gatherings of all sorts. And that shit has been licensed to death. If you can slap Star Wars on it, it’s probably been licensed.

So yes, Star Wars shambles on, a zombie property bereft of the creative spark that enthralled me in my youth. And hey, if folks still like it, I have no beef with that. For me though, Star Wars is over. The original trilogy is still two and a half good movies, but that’s where my interest ends.

You can imagine my reaction then when I started getting all these e-mails yesterday asking if Green Ronin had secured the rights to Star Wars. This trip down memory lane was a very long way of saying no, no we did not. Nor would we even try.

Originally published on on LiveJournal on December 16, 2010. 

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