Star Wars isn't just a series of movies, it's a property that extends into books, toys, games and all everything in between. It's one of the longest-running and most aggressively monetized franchises in the history of cinema, and it's nearly impossible to escape it completely.
The movies are one thing, but today the staff of Polygon wants to share some of the deep cuts, the weird things from their past with Star Wars. What's interesting about these stories is how unavoidable Star Wars has become, even if you're not a fan.
I have super fond memories spent repeatedly playing the Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast demo. Turning on the "g saberrealisticcombat" cheat code and spending literal hours effortlessly slicing up stormtroopers on the same level over and over. That opening cutscene is permanently baked into my brain.
Full disclosure: I don't think I've ever watched a Star Wars movie from beginning to end. However, I DO think I've spent more time playing Yoda Stories than I have watching any of the six movies. Which, is more a statement about how much I liked that game than a statement against how much I didn't watch the movies.
It was my first taste of rogue-likes and fetch quest-driven gameplay. We used to specifically go to our one friend's house to play Yoda Stories and ask people their "ASL" on AOL chat rooms. Now, I spend my days playing Destiny with friends online and swiping right on Tinder in-between matches in the Crucible.
Funny how things haven't changed much.
I was a huge, huuuuuuge Star Wars nerd as a kid and early teen and had basically every expanded universe book.
But the most colorful nerd memory: I was 13 and I had a special pair of pants that I thought of as my "flight suit" which I would put on and play the Hoth level in Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. I would literally pretend I was a fighter pilot for the rebellion, sitting there in my little suit with my N64.
I also played the Gall level in that game on repeat (and it was like an hour-long stage) because I loved the atmosphere so much. I felt like I was exploring a real Star Wars planet while still in the "flight suit."
Don't judge me.
I don't have any Star Wars toys left, but hell if my best friend Richard and I didn't have all of them by the time we were nine years old. Looking back it's no surprise why nothing survived to our adulthood.
At Richard's house we'd routinely line up old Star Wars men against a woodpile in the back yard, grab a BB gun and execute those who disappointed us. Generic characters and bit part players were the first to get it. So long, Death Squad Commander. Adios, R5-D4. One day out back we discovered a Jawa embedded in a dog turd and we exploded with laughter. A day or two before Richard's dog, Fido, had consumed the poor Jawa, who then endured a fate worse than the Sarlacc.
Richard one time knocked one of the Sandpeople into his john and, not realizing it was there, flushed it. The resulting clog was so severe his father had to remove the toilet from its bolts to clear it out. The sight of it terrified Richard. No repairman ever stepped foot in that house, and Richard did not want to be the reason one was called. "I figured I had to run away from home or something," he told me, years later.
If I could have anything back, though, it would be this poster included with Cheerios in 1978 — and I just bought a copy off eBay for $7.50. When I was five years old, Mom took me to Food Town for the grocery shopping and I threw a fit demanding the cereal because Star Wars was on the box. Mom was immediately and justifiably suspicious that I would eat the cereal because, duh, plain Cheerios taste like a notebook. She made me promise three times to eat the Cheerios if she bought the box. The next morning she poured me a big bowl. which I refused, and it was Go Time. I remember being pursued into the basement, clutching the poster against my chest like a useless shield, as Mom closed in for the kill.
The Ewok Village Action Playset is one of the best toys ever made for a kid who liked to make up dumb stories with their action figures.
The best part was the net trap which was designed to catch like, Luke or whoever, but could be used to snatch up most any action figure.
This turned the Ewoks into a really great narrative device when I didn’t know my way out of a climax. How will M.A.S.K. demolition expert Dusty "Powderkeg" Hayes escape the clutches of the Darkseid toy with the glowing eyes? Oops, the Ewoks captured Darkseid. What can stop Tracy the Gorilla (Ghostbusters) from busting Slimer (The Real Ghostbusters)? Yup, the Ewoks captured Tracey. You get the idea.
I was fortunate enough to watch Star Wars in a small theater in El Paso, Texas the year the movie came out.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but left the theater in a daze.
In the years that followed, I became an ardent fan of the movies. Living in Korea, a few years later, I managed to score Boba Fett's amazing Slave I ship as a Christmas present. But the Star Wars items I cherished most were my action figures. In particular I loved the Boba Fett I landed by buying four action figures and sending a coupon away for it in the mail. Unfortunately, the tiny rocket that fired from his back led to a choking scare and I lost the toy to my parents.
My second favorite was Luke Skywalker (complete with lightsaber that slid from its hiding place in his arm, out of his hand). I kept Luke around almost like a Teddy Bear. I'd carry him everywhere I went. My older brother, being an older brother, sensed how much I cherished him and would delight in pulling Luke out of my hands. Then he'd run off somewhere, pop off Luke's head and put it back on backwards. I'm pretty sure his favorite thing was seeing the look on my face when he handed it back to me. Eventually, Luke's head went missing and the body soon followed.
I had a whole Darth-Vader-shaped case of action figures and for the most part I loved them all. There were exceptions, though. C-3PO, with his shoddy gold body, unbending, single-piece legs and wobbly head was absolutely at the bottom of my list.
Now years later, somehow my case of toys has disappeared (though, I still sometimes imagine I'll come across it in some old box and spend the day hugging it). All that's left from my massive collection of ships, toys, comics and figures sits now directly under my monitor, his flakey gold body uncomfortably resting on what I assume is an overly bony robot ass, his left hand entirely missing at the wrist and his head leaning to one side, eyes sculpted into a constant state of shock under his slit of a mouth.
Man, I hate C-3PO.
Oh, I also somehow managed to keep track of my Return of the Jedi Topps Star Wars Heritage card. You know, the one with Princess Lei in a gold bikini. But that's another story.
Mine is easy: for whatever reason I have almost nothing from my childhood around ... except a plastic Return of the Jedi plate.
Why? No idea. It's survived a dozen apartments, multiple cities. Houses. Floods. We never used it for anything until my son was born and now he eats bananas off it every morning.
There's really no major lesson, short of how strange it is that some cheap cereal pack-in (I'm guessing?) has survived all this time and is finding purpose again in another little boy's life.
The only Star Wars toy I ever owned was neither mine nor a toy, technically. In my fourth grade class, I found myself at a desk placed directly next to the owner of one of my most coveted items.
Sam's pencil case was adorned with a detachable plastic R2-D2 figure. R2 was merely meant as a functional piece of decoration; the droid had no moving parts, and not only stood atop the pencil case but served as its all-important lid. But as a nine-year-old, I was taken with its surprising level of detail and figurine size.
It helped, too, that I was a budding Star Wars fan. I'd always been fascinated by the franchise, thanks to gym class games like Darth Vader and the obscene amount of television my working parents didn't know I was watching. Having finally seen Star Wars: A New Hope, I'd become obsessed with the universe, and especially its non-human creatures.
Not only did I have an affection for Sam's R2-D2 figure, but I developed something far more troubling — a short-lived but strong bout of kleptomania. Unable to fend off my wanting, I did something I'm to this day not proud of: I nicked them both, right out of their owners' desks.
Sam lost the majority of his pencils thanks to the disappearance of his case's lid, so I lent him my own in heaping quantities, out of guilt and shame. I had thief's remorse over that R2-D2, which, of course, didn't hold my attention for long; eventually I misplaced it. I haven't seen the plastic droid or, thankfully, the boy it belonged to, in a long, long time.
And as for my unfortunate interest in stealing — to my parents' relief, I outgrew that just as quickly, too.