Debate Club: Why It Shouldn’t Matter That Old Star Wars Games Aren’t Canon Anymore

So word came down from Camp LucasFilm today that, effective immediately, only the events of the 6 movies and the Clone Wars TV series are officially recognized as having occurred. Any NEW additions to the Star Wars lore going forward will be integrated into the overarching narrative of the galaxy far far away, but any Star Wars novels, comic books, or video games you have already enjoyed, well…they didn’t happen. Call it an alternate universe, call it a dream, call it whatever you want, but none of it was “real.” There’s actually a word for that: fiction.

When I first learned of the news, it was in a Facebook group I am in about retro game collecting, and the person who shared it prefaced the story with HIS feelings on the news (and I quote): “FUCK THIS…FUCK THAT…FUCK IT ALL…FUCK DISNEY…FUCK THIS SHIT! I am angry beyond belief!” Honestly, I don’t get what the big deal is. Sure, not everyone is quite as devastated as that guy, but it seems like the general feeling is that people are angry and upset over the news. Will this revelation erase your memories and experiences of the Star Wars games you’ve already played? Of course it won’t, especially since they WERE still “officially” part of the Star Wars canon WHEN you played them. So your experience with those games was untainted when you played them.

I guess a big part of the reason I am unfazed by this news it that I am used to this type of thing already. Fictional worlds are constantly being rebooted and/or spun off into alternate universes and timelines. Characters die, cataclysmic events occur, entire worlds come to an end – only to be revived or restarted, sometimes within a matter of months. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk have all seen movie reboots, all happening within a span of 10 years of the last installment of their previous incarnations. Some franchises have movie series, TV series, video game series, and comic book series all at the same time, and all with their own independent storylines happening with zero tie ins to each other. When you have Chris Nolan’s Batman existing at the same time as the Batman of the Arkham games, existing at the same time as The Batman cartoon series, existing at the same time as the events of “Infinite Crisis” in the DC comics world. And who did that bother? Nobody. The original Batman comic book only existed for about 3 years before the first Batman movie serials were created, so there have always been multiple Batmans in multiple worlds doing completely different things, with none necessarily more official than the other.

To step a little outside of the strictly geeky for a moment, look at legacy fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes and Dracula – is there “one” Sherlock Holmes and “one” Dracula? Has there ever really been, apart from a short period when they were first introduced? To me, that’s the beauty of fiction is that characters can be changed and reinvented an almost unlimited number of times, looked at from different angles, dropped into different eras. Different people can put their own spin on them, bring things to the characters and their worlds that previous people hadn’t thought of. It’s fascinating to look at how a character like Sherlock Holmes or Batman has changed and evolved since their inception, how many different ways they have “lived.” The version of Batman that most modern fans tend to prefer, the “Dark Knight” version of Batman first suggested by Frank Miller, was hardly the Batman that Bob Kane conceived of in the 1930s. If nobody was ever allowed to reinvent him, what would Batman look like today?

Those familiar with the Star Wars retconning news might be wondering why I seem to be talking at cross purposes with myself, as one of the upshots to the big change is that LucasFilm will be maintaining a much tighter creative hold on all pieces of Star Wars fiction going forward so as to keep a tighter, more cohesive overall narrative to the universe from now on. So they are doing the opposite of what I was just lauding other creative properties for being able to do. My point, in fact, was that people should be able to look at any of the Star Wars fiction they have enjoyed pre-change as just different looks at the Star Wars world. Don’t fixate on whether or not the events of said fiction “happened” or not, because it should be irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether or not the events of Knights of the Old Republic are officially recognized Star Wars canon any more than it matters whether or not the events of film The Dark Knight are officially recognized Batman canon. That was a brilliant film regardless, just like KOTOR was an incredible game regardless. Don’t let anyone ruin that for you.

Besides, it’s up to YOU to decide what YOUR Star Wars universe looks like and what happens in it. Look at how Expanded Universe creators have kept Bobba Fett alive even though it was clearly inferred that he fell to his death in Return of the Jedi, leaving it up to you which version of events you believe to be accurate. And technically, the now “official” version of events is that Greedo shot first. Is that YOUR Star Wars? If you have spent the years since the remakes refusing to acknowledge THAT bit of retconning, than you are already used to ignoring the decrees of the Lucas Empire in favor of your preferred version of events anyway. So why start now? Those games you played and books you read only didn’t happen if you choose to stop believing they happened. It’s entirely your call.