In a recent blog post, reported by CVG, LucasFilm has announced that all Star Wars video games and expanded universe media is non-canon. Just like that. This basically means all video games set in the Star Wars world--despite their license--are not part of the official Star Wars story. Apparently, only the six films and the Clone Wars TV show are properly ‘canon’. However, LucasFilm has also decreed that all Star Wars spin-offs in the future will be more closely tied to the core films. Hmmm…
What does this mean for gaming? Several things, actually. It’s not unusual for Lucas to tinker with what is and isn’t considered ‘official Star Wars lore’. In fact, the company can’t leave this damn franchise alone--as the remastered versions of episodes 4-6 attest. It seems strange that even close tie-ins are no longer considered part of the story, especially as games like Force Unleashed present smart--and fan-pleasing--theories on heavily debated aspects of the lore.
There’s something a little sad about LucasFilm humourlessly dismissing all the sly winks and nods to the core films. Especially so, when games like Knights of the Old Republic 1+2 do such a great job of creating compelling stories within the Star Wars universe, while also being very careful not to rely on endless, crowd-pleasing references to the original trilogy. In my personal opinion, I’d rather axe the dreadful prequel films from the Star Wars canon, and leave a handful of great Star Wars games--like KOTOR--firmly in there. But then again, I’m not George Lucas or any of his minions. Or am I? No, I’m not.
Being banished from the official canon certainly doesn’t detract from the content of any game, but it does lessen the importance of any story beats, and the feeling that you’re part of the Star Wars experience. It’s like a mean, older child telling you that you can’t play ‘battle of Hoth’ with the other kids, even though you brought your Tauntaun costume.
However, the good news in all of this is… well, it might not actually be good news. LucasFilm has set up a ‘story group’ that will oversee EVERY future expanded universe product, to make sure it fits in with the Star Wars canon. This means that titles in development--like the new Battlefront, being made by DICE--will have to comply with LucasFilm’s current vision for the franchise. Sure, it’s great that each new game will have the official seal of approval, adding to authenticity, but this also relies on Lucas’ current vision aligning with the stuff great games are made of.
Video games and films have a famously troubled relationship. When it comes to movies becoming games, the most common reason for failure is a lack of artistic license. Developers need creative freedom to turn even the most explosive, exciting material into a decent game. Sticking too rigidly to film structure or studio demands leads to hogwash like Enter The Matrix or Iron Man: The Game. My worry is that LucasFilm will ask for too much control, and will suffocate future gaming iterations of Star Wars like a Force ChokeTM.
Then there’s the issue of whether or not we actually want games based on Lucas’ current SW vision. Sure, episodes 4-6 are quite-rightly cherished films and we all love to be part of them. But episodes 1-3…? Not so good. And the fact that Lucas retconned several aspects of 4-6 to justify some of the stuff in 1-3? Yeah, leaves a sour taste, right? Doesn’t fill me with confidence for the quality and faithfulness of the forthcoming episodes 7-9. And it’s these films--this story--that will be the focus of the ‘story group’ as they seek to influence and control all Star Wars media from this point onwards.
So, mixed feelings about the future of Star Wars games. It’s great that the wider universe will become more focused, as some tie-ins (Super Bombad Racing--I’m staring at you with intent) are ludicrously far-fetched: but a delicate balance is desperately needed. Too much heavy-handed license enforcing will stifle future Star Wars games, and--unfortunately--LucasFilm’s recent track-record with the franchise isn’t a tale of great subtlety or restraint.