Throwback Thursdays: Cat-person Lesbians, Homicidal Robots, and Captain Janeway; Representation in KOTOR

I’ve played quite a few video games in my day, often coming back to the really good ones repeatedly over the years. But only a select few have crossed over into “I set my Steam profile to private so my friends don’t know how much I play this game” territory. Of all those titles, perhaps the most enduring are the Bioware Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games from 2003/2004.

There’s something about KOTOR  that gives it a staying power very few story-driven games, even the truly great ones, have ever achieved. The two games combine a massive narrative depth with a mature treatment of the Star Wars universe that sets a gold standard for the franchise, at least in the realm of gaming. They have proved so enduring in their popularity, in fact, that KOTOR was re-released for mobile and KOTOR II was recently patched (after over a decade) to support modern PCs, add Steam Workshop support, fix bugs, and officially support the Restored Content Mod. For those who are not familiar, KOTOR II was rushed to make a physical release date, and as a result, a great deal of content was cut. Rather than removing it, however, the devs left it there for modders to find. Over the years, that resulted in a near complete restoration of that content. The game has remained popular enough to justify a complex, years-long project involving dozens of coders and artists, and it has continued to sell well enough to justify an updated Steam release with official support for that mod.

KOTOR-Darth Traya

Back where it all began… Malachor. (Screenshot from KOTOR II)

Falling thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars prequels, KOTOR showed us a universe where the galaxy is plunged into massive and bloody conflict with the Mandalorian Wars and then almost immediately into the universally disastrous Jedi Civil War, in which Jedi are not trusted, are hated by many, and are ultimately hunted to near extinction. It’s dark and chock full of moral ambiguity and some of the best Star Wars content out there. While these games are technically no longer canon, the general framework and many of the characters from this period, KOTOR games included, did “make the cut.”

The KOTOR franchise also serves as a clear spiritual predecessor to the best of both the Mass Effect franchise and Fallout: New Vegas. Many of the same people worked on many of those titles, and there are themes that almost seemed to carry over directly. While far from perfect, these games dealt with complex racial, ethical, and sexuality/gender identity issues in ways that were often groundbreaking, if occasionally facepalm worthy.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Yoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! Yoooooooooooooo!!!!!! Yo, the gat dang Last Jedi trailer is here. Are you hype? I’m hype.

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Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Finale and Looking Forward to More

(via Collider)

Star Wars Rebels’s third season wrapped up just a few days ago. I can’t say the season had everything that I ever wanted, but it certainly had enough of those things, and even a few more storytelling decisions that I didn’t realize I needed in my life. The entire season, our favorite Rebel cell and the rest of the people under Commander Sato worked hard on plans to attack the Imperial factory on Lothal and deal a massive blow to the Empire. Unfortunately for them, the main villain this time around was Grand Admiral Thrawn, who spent the season searching for the Rebel base on Atollon, and it’s Thrawn’s plans that come to fruition instead.

Spoilers up ahead.

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What’s Really Going on with Star Wars: Aftermath

Back in 2015, the internet got itself into a bit of a tizzy over the news that an important Star Wars novel called Aftermath had been released, and that one of the main characters was gay. Since I have an ear tilted eternally to both queer news and Star Wars news, I was immediately intrigued, but also completely prepared for the barrage of vitriol the Star Wars fandom started spewing as soon as the book was published. Most of the criticism didn’t lead in with homophobia, and some didn’t mention the gay characters at all, but it felt like a very peculiar coincidence that after decades of shrugging off plenty of resoundingly mediocre Star Wars books with a “meh”, the fandom chose this one in particular to shred to pieces for its (allegedly) atrocious writing style, boring characters, and sloppy story. I read several Star Wars books as a child and have recently started poking around in the EU again, so I decided to find out for myself if Aftermath genuinely deserved the gruesome skewering it got online.

chuck wendig star wars aftermath

Good on you, Chuck. (image via delreystarwars)

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Star Wars and Reincarnation

MadameAce: After the release of The Force Awakens, many of us were left wondering just who the hell Rey is. She’s powerful in the Force and certainly an important enough person in their universe to warrant being the star of three movies. So what’s the deal? Is she Obi-Wan’s granddaughter? Luke’s child? Or something else altogether? A less common theory says that she’s Anakin Skywalker reincarnated. The theory posits that due to Anakin’s crimes, he was sent back to the world as Rey to live on a desert planet. There are a number of things wrong with that—being a girl is not actually a punishment, for one thing—but while I disagree with the original poster regarding why Anakin may or may not have been reincarnated, could reincarnation even be possible within the Star Wars universe?

Well, yes. Regardless of whether or not this theory is true, it can easily fit into the narrative, and Lady Geek Girl and I are about to explain why.

(image via overmental)

Lady Geek Girl: Star Wars borrows heavily from Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism, which does incorporate reincarnation, though many people in the Western world misunderstand what reincarnation is actually about. According to Buddhist teachings, people are stuck in an endless cycle of suffering, death, and rebirth called saṃsāra. This cycle is not a good thing, because it means being stuck in a cycle of suffering. However, one can break out of this cycle by achieving enlightenment. One can only do this by following the Middle Way, aka Buddhism. Through meditation, one can achieve insight about the truth of life and extinguish desire, which allows one to escape suffering and end the cycle of rebirth. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to achieve enlightenment and break that cycle. But just because Star Wars borrows from Buddhism, that doesn’t mean it follows it strictly. While there is no direct evidence that reincarnation exists in the Star Wars universe, it could certainly be a possibility.

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Magical Mondays: Facing Your Fears

Fear is a powerful thing, and creatures that terrify, from the Nazgul of Lord of the Rings to Septimus Heap’s magogs and the Sidhe of The Call, are ubiquitous throughout fantasy literature. The characters who face these creatures don’t simply stroll onto the battlefield and take them down; they are afraid, and in overcoming their fears are able to defeat their monsters.

In many series, magic is used to help characters face their fears without necessarily having to face down the actual thing causing the fear. Consider the boggart in Prisoner of Azkaban, for example: while it takes the shape of the things it senses that Lupin’s class fears, it doesn’t progress past that. A boggart-turned-dementor cannot Kiss away a soul, for example. While learning to face a fear does not always remove a character’s fear entirely, being able to recognize and acknowledge what they are afraid of can help them grow and develop as characters. Genre fiction is ideally placed to allow characters to do this because of the magic involved, and in doing so, it can offer us important guidance for dealing with our own fears.

dementor

(via LA Times)

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Chirrut Îmwe and Faith Expression

I love Star Wars. Other than Harry Potter, it is probably one of the things that has most influenced my young nerdy life. As a young religious girl I loved the idea of the Force and the Jedi and how their faith in the Force gave them power. Then, like many people, I was dismayed over how the Force and the Jedi were portrayed in the prequels. Maybe it was because of my own issues with my faith, but I very much disliked how overly regimented the Jedi were shown to be and how it seemed to take some of the mystery out of the Force. With the most recent movies, like The Force Awakens and Rogue One, all of the things that I loved about the Force and the Jedi in the original movies were back, and I have to say that Chirrut Îmwe is one of the absolute best examples of someone of faith that I have seen in a long time. And more specifically, it was great seeing a beautiful faith expression that was more reflective of Buddhist and Taoist beliefs.

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