Tuesday, April 9, 2013

RIP LucasArts

Back in the day there was little that could get me more excited about Star Wars than Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. I remember many easy afternoons playing it, one of the only video games I ever got good at.

Released shortly after Knights of the Old Republic,  Jedi Academy was the second Star Wars game that allowed the player to customize their protagonist, including their gender. Five years before Mass Effect, I was playing a character voiced by Jennifer Hale as a space heroine. The game can seem corny now, and the graphics are dated. But as I played as a character who could look like me (or, most often, an alien), it created my taste for magic schools and space wizards, desert ruins and crashed spaceships, powerfully. I hoped that, in Halo style, I  might get an updated Jedi Academy game one day.

The shutdown of LucasArts on April 3, 2013 means that my dreams of a reboot will never come true. But like most things about the Sequel Trilogy I'm hoping that this means there will be more and better to come. I'm not sure what Disney will do with the Star Wars video games of the future, but maybe I'll get to swing a lightsaber again in an even greater simulation of the galaxy far, far away.

Over the last few days I've seen heartfelt eulogies and tear-jerking photos about the community of people who worked at LucasArts. It's made me think about how the people are separate from the company they represent. Layoffs are sad no matter who's involved, and I'd like to thank the staff of LucasArts, both now and back in the Jedi Academy days, for contributing to my favorite fictional world and wish them the best in the rest of their career. They've also made clever, hilarious original games like the Monkey Island series.

But Star Wars gaming wasn't holding my attention lately, neither the testosterone-fueled The Force Unleashed or the cute Angry Birds Star Wars, perhaps a fitting corporate crossover to symbolize LucasArts becoming redundant. There's no way to tell whether it will do so under Disney. 

 Projects like Star Wars: 1313 might be picked up in other mediums. For now, though, this is the end of an era. It will be strange to tell younger fans that I was part of Star Wars fandom years ago, when The Clone Wars was on and LucasArts still lived. They are fond memories.

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