I’ve loved Star Wars since I was a kid – I think most of us have. I was nine when The Phantom Menace came out, but fortunately I had parents who were in their 20s when the original films were released, and we duly bought all three on VHS. Phew. I could have ended up one of those people who actually like Jar Jar. Can you imagine?
Before the game even starts you’re forced to confront something a lot of Star Wars fans would like to forget – it’s now owned by Disney. The blue castle and shooting star feel somehow wrong, and I was only slightly mollified by the Lucas Arts logo that comes next.
But why is that? Why should I be up in arms about Disney owning Star Wars? Somehow I’d managed to forget that this franchise, this fandom is something that you’re supposed to have ~opinions~ about.
And it makes sense. Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon. I’d argue it was part of the building blocks that led to geek culture taking over mainstream cinema (let’s not deny it – Marvel, Star Wars, and Harry Potter are some of the highest ever earning film franchises). If you’re a Star Wars fan then it quite easily becomes a large part of your identity, and there are some universal truths you’re just supposed to accept: Jar Jar was terrible, the Expanded Universe was great, and Luke is a whiny little shit.
Speaking of Luke, for reasons that are beyond me Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens actually starts at the end of Return of the Jedi, so you get to fight Stormtroopers on Endor and take on Darth Sidious as a fabulous father-son team.
My inner child was happy. I had a huge crush on Luke when I was a kid, even when my best friend mocked me because he was an old man now. Still would. And in this game he’s a virtual plastic Lego figure. Slightly more difficult, but probably still would. (If he offered that is. Not reducing Mark Hamill to a sex object before anyone shouts “reverse sexism” at me)
But then I felt a little confused. Not because of my attraction to Mark Hamill, that makes perfect sense, but because of the way the game starts. In the films, you meet the beautifully diverse cast of Poe, Finn, and Rey pretty early on. They’re the stars of the film, so why start Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the third film? Parts of the original story are weaved in throughout the game, and while it’s fun, I can’t help but feel there’s a slight undertone of, ‘Well you’re not a real fan if you haven’t seen the originals.’
I could be reading too much into this, but with the difficulties new Star Wars fans face when trying to join in, somehow I don’t think I am.
After all this introspection I had completely forgotten I was actually going to be playing a game, and was promptly shot by a Stormtrooper the moment it started. How embarrassing.
The game’s fun. The controls take a little getting used to (why doesn’t space bar jump?!) but after that it’s really enjoyable. It’s goofy and turns serious moments into comedy. It’s basically the illicit love child of The Force Awakens and The Lego Movie, and I love it for that.
Because it’s not just kids who can feel excluded from the towering monoliths of certain geek fandoms. Unsurprisingly, it’s women too. We’ve all heard about fake geek girls, and this is a PSA: they don’t exist. People enjoy fandoms in all sorts of different ways, and that’s totally okay. You don’t have to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of a subject in order to be allowed to enjoy it. Sure, you might enjoy it more if you knew more, but you shouldn’t be prohibited from liking (or dare I say playing) something casually.
Cards on the table: I’m a casual Star Wars fan. I’m excited for Rogue One, have had no interaction with the Expanded Universe, and though I bought Knights of the Old Republic II on a Steam sale years ago, I’ve yet to actually play it. I also ship Finn and Poe because there’s way more to that jacket thing and subtext is an anagram of butt sex.
And if you’re mourning the death of the EU, have played every Star Wars game imaginable, and think the whole concept of shipping and fanfic is silly, then that’s fine too (although I’m pretty sure those last two points contradict one another). We all enjoy games, fandom and geek culture in different ways, and that’s something that should celebrate rather than dismiss.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a kids’ game. It’s fun, it’s silly, and it’s not at all difficult. And that’s okay. You’re allowed to like fun, silly kids games, and you’re allowed to enjoy geek culture in a way that is fun and silly too. And if you like Jar Jar? That’s okay. My dad does too. Perhaps I wasn’t raised so well after all.