“What should I write my column about, Aaron?”
Aaron is my ten year old son, he doesn’t hesitate in replying that I should write about Star Wars: The Old Republic. You see, The Old Republic, or SW:TOR, as it’s known, is what currently has both myself and my two young sons gripped. In case you weren’t aware, SW:TOR is a MMORPG that… Wait…an MMORPG is a massively multi-player online role playing game, you probably knew that already, but in case you didn’t, you do now. It’s like World of Warcraft, except that you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription fee to play (you can, but you don’t have to). So, where was I? Ah yes, SW:TOR is a MMORPG set in the Star Wars universe, but the events happen roughly 3,650 years before Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s essentially the ancient history of the Star Wars universe.
I was never supposed to play this game. What happened? How did I end up with a level 43 Jedi Knight Sentinel? This is what I’m talking about this week…when you’re a fan of something, when you love something so much it’s become a part of you, you end up doing things you never expected to.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars video games. I’ve played through Dark Forces, Jedi Knight, Jedi Knight II, Jedi Knight III, X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Episode I Racer, The Force Unleashed and many more over the years. But The Old Republic? I was never going to play that. Sure, I saw some of the early concept art and thought it looked amazing, but I was never going to play it. I saw the opening cinematics and loved them so much that I longed for an Old Republic movie… because I was never going to play the game. I don’t play MMORPGs, they’re time consuming and expensive and I generally hate people. I don’t want a multi-player experience, I just want to get on with a story that has me as the hero. I’d resisted Star Wars: Galaxies, after all, how hard could it be to resist SW: TOR?
It ultimately proved impossible to resist SW:TOR. For one they made it free to play. Sure, there are benefits to being a subscriber, but so far I’ve hit level 43 (the level cap is 55) without being particularly hampered by only having a free to play account. So, it was free…I could try it out…I could give it a go, just to see what it was like. After all, I adored those cinematics, I’d watched them a hundred times, they were so good. I could at least prove to myself that the game wasn’t “my thing” and go back to wishing for that movie. So I downloaded it (that takes a while, by the way) and I loaded it up. Created my character. Set off across Tython as a Jedi Padawan and…oh my god this game was awesome! I was a Jedi! And not just in the action packed, saber slashing form found in Jedi Knight or The Force Unleashed (although there’s plenty of action in the game), but I was making complex moral decisions, and those decisions had ramifications within the game.
Not only that, but I wasn’t being forced to be social. I know that sounds kinda’ ridiculous, but when I’m gaming I really just want to go off and do my own thing, follow my own path, find my own story. This is where SW:TOR really excels – story. Before long I not only cared about my own character and the way his fate was slowly becoming entwined with that of the galaxy, I cared about my companion too. She wasn’t just a bunch of polygons that stood by my side and enabled me to do more damage to my enemies…she was a person, with complex motivations, and really pretty eyes and, whoops, we just made out…pretty sure Jedi aren’t supposed to do that. I was following my own path.
Then my kids joined me in the game, and we started helping each other out in missions, or sometimes just passing by each other in game to say hello. Sure, this might not be the “social” aspect that the designers had in mind, but it meant that we were no longer divided by our gaming habits, plugged into separate computers… but were spending time together in the virtual world (oh, that sounds cheesy…). Even when we’re not playing SW:TOR now (and, to be honest, I’m generally so busy that I don’t have a lot of time for gaming) we’re talking about the game and the game world.
My point is, I would never have played this game if it hadn’t tapped into my love of Star Wars. If I hadn’t been inevitably drawn towards exploring this part of the Star Wars universe, then I would have missed out on what has not only been a rewarding story telling experience, but has also been a rewarding family experience. Not only that, but it’s led me towards a part of the Expanded Universe that I’d avoided for a long time. I hadn’t read any of the Tales of the Old Republic series from Dark Horse, now I own all of the omnibuses and am reading through them. I’ve started reading the novels set in that era too, having just devoured the Lost Tribe of the Sith anthology. Now I’m reading the first Dawn of the Jedi novel, which is set a staggering 25,793 years before A New Hope. In many ways I’m now more interested in the ancient history of the Star Wars universe than the period the movies are set in.
So my message to you, no matter what fandom you might be in, is to embrace it in all its forms. Let it draw you in, let it lead you to try things you’ve never tried before. Don’t be afraid to experiment and do something you’d never normally do.
Unless you’re part of the Hannibal fandom, that is… in which case you might want to stick to more traditional culinary fare.
Ian D Sharman
Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Fandom Wanderers.