Nostalgia Factory: Grappling With Star Wars: Battlefront

Games Features Star Wars
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I don’t like to talk about Star Wars.

Not because I wasn’t obsessed with it throughout my childhood. I was, but it’s one of the few relics from that time I’m afraid to look at critically. I haven’t even seen the original trilogy in nearly 20 years out of anxiety that it wouldn’t be as shiny or special to me as it was when I was a child sitting too close to a television with a vice-like grip on his plastic lightsaber, watching Luke and Vader square off in the bowels of Cloud City. That it would fall short in some way, that I’d grimace at the amount of film grain or Mark Hamill wouldn’t be the paragon of acting my small mind made him out to be, is actually kind of terrifying (in an admittedly ridiculous way). I’m convinced there are things as a kid—shows, novels, movies—you know play a role in shaping who you are that you’re better off not revisiting as an adult. Star Wars is one of those for me, a pure artifact from my youth I carry around in my mind that I’m scared to taint with repeat viewings or even critical conversation with friends. The only person I ever talk about it with is my dad, the man who made sure I grew up with it.

My childhood was a busy one. My father worked 9 to 5 doing the books for a medical company. My mother was going through graduate school, trying to become a nurse. My brother and I spent most of our time at a daycare when we weren’t in school. Dad took care of us during the weekends while she worked the graveyard shift at a hospital, scrounging up the necessary credits to earn her degree. While she was away the three of us would go out and eat Pizza Hut on Friday and then come home and spend Saturday and Sunday watching sci-fi flicks on LaserDisc. Sometimes it was The Terminator. Often it was Dune. Most of the time, though, it was Star Wars.

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Dad could never get enough of it and by extension we couldn’t either. His love for the glow of lightsabers swishing about in dark, metallic hallways and the sound of starships zooming across the surface of alien planets soon become ours as well. I burned with envy whenever he told me about seeing A New Hope in theaters when it was originally released, packed in a room of people awestruck just like him. The golden opening scrawl for those movies was the only thing I ever saw his eyes light up with unrestrained enthusiasm about, the sole signal that this towering figure I called my father might have ever been a child.

I’m 27 now, just a year younger than dad when he married mom. I spend my days writing about the delights and failures of videogames and often go back and forth between being crushed by imposter syndrome or buoyed by an overinflated ego. Dad and I chat on the phone every other week or so, just checking in and shooting the shit. Last time we talked about whether either of us had seen that new Bobby Fischer movie with the weird name. We hadn’t. I told him I’d go see it and let him know if it was worth his time since I’m two minutes from the closest theaters and he’s two hours from one. I didn’t. I should try to be better at these kinds of things, I guess.

Anyway.

A couple of nights ago I was sitting on the floor and frowning at my new copy of Star Wars: Battlefront. It’s a mediocre game. I know it, I played the beta. It’s pretty but shallow. Worse, its progression system is pointlessly aggressive toward new players, forcing them to unlock essentially every item in the game, which means that newcomers are often at the mercy of an overpowered majority. It’s hardly the worst tie-in game ever made but still somewhat of a disappointment, falling square in the middle of a spectrum that has Atari’s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial on one end and Goldeneye at the other.

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