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Happy 38th birthday, Star Wars, you changed my life

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It has been 38 years since the release of the original Star Wars.

Let that sink in for a second.

Back on May 25, 1977, I clearly remember standing in the oppressive heat of a closed garage in El Paso, Texas, waiting for my cousins, brother, aunt and mom to come outside so we could load up and drive to the local movie theater.

I was 6 (or nearly 7, as I used to tell everyone) at the time and had never heard of the movie we were going to see. One of my cousins told me it was called "Star Wars."

I remember trying to imagine what that meant. The concept of massive wars being fought out in the dark reaches of space among those millions of stars I would look up at each night. It was almost too strange for my young brain to comprehend.

"Star wars?" I thought. "What a stupid name."

It sounded almost boring, like we were off to go watch an hour or so of planets shooting lasers at each other: a sterile planetarium presentation in a sticky-floored movie theater. I didn't want to go. My family had just returned from Thailand, where the country had endured a coup, and my days had been spent running shoeless among crocodile-filled khlongs. For those years, I had no television to watch, no radio to listen to, no English movies to go see.

We lived in a little compound with ambassadors, military commanders, spies and not a few snakes. I saw my first human heart when I was 6 — a bit of improperly disposed human waste from the nearby hospital — being eaten by wild dogs in my front yard. I vacationed on typhoon-prone beaches and among the wild primates of lush jungles.

crecente
The author circa 1976

I didn't want to go sit in a theater and watch stars shoot at each other; I wanted to explore the arid wilds of this desert town, find my own new adventures.

But I didn't have much of a choice.

That opening, that music, didn't set my mind at ease.

"Reading," I thought. "There's going to be reading."

I wasn't happy.

But then it all began to unfold before me: the story of a boy, a girl and a universe. The Jedi Knight. The force. As the movie played, not just one universe, but an endless supply of universes opened before me.

Star Wars was my first significant exposure to science fiction and it changed me forever, expanding my sights not just to the wilder places on earth, but to the myriad fictional landscapes born of comics, movies, television and, one day, video games.

Now, looking back 38 years later, I'm happy that someone dragged me to the theater, away from the inevitable ramble through scorpion-laden deserts and barren brush.

The wilds of earth can never compete with the wilds of the mind.

Good Game is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Brian Crecente is a founding editor and News Editor of Polygon.