Comment & Opinion

I've never seen Star Wars but I am playing Star Wars: Uprising

Why devs shouldn't assume shared culture

I've never seen Star Wars but I am playing Star Wars: Uprising

Confession time: I'm 21 years old and I've never seen a Star Wars film.

From “Luke, I am your father” to Jar Jar Binks irritation, it's all passed me by.

Now you may have thought that people like me didn't exist. Or that we're all living in Land Luddite and don't own a mobile phone, let alone play mobile games.

But you shouldn't underestimate how many of us there are.

Because, I've been playing Kabam's Star Wars: Uprising, and I can honestly say it's the only piece of Star Wars-branded media that I've experienced for any decent length of time.

And, as an uninitiated player, I felt it was pitched perfectly.

History lesson

For instance, with Uprising set shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi, the first thing you notice is artwork in the style of the original series' iconic, pulpy movie posters.

Confession time: I'm 21 years old and I've never seen a Star Wars film.

Not only will that vintage style invoke a great deal of nostalgia for Star Wars fans, but its cohesion with the films introduces players like me to the wider brand and a glimpse of what I may have been missing out on.

And of course, Uprising's connection with the film universe is more than merely visual. For example, here's Kabam's own summary of the game's place in the wider universe:

  • "In the days following the Battle of Endor and the fall of the Emperor, The Anoat sector has been locked down by the Empire. With the Rebel Alliance on the other side of the Iron Blockade, it falls to the sector's smugglers, freedom fighters, bounty hunters and gangsters to join forces and form an uprising."

All that context may mean very little to me, and if I'm honest I wasn't even aware of it as I played through the game, but the fact remains that it is there - and, to a fan, that will elevate the game massively.

Star Wars Uprising's vintage-style art

And while I simply enjoyed the colourful dialogue on a surface level for the quips and pithy one-liners, and the fact I could play as a red chap with horns, series fans will appreciate the allusions to events in the wider universe, understanding the context behind species and characters.

Noobs welcome

So my argument isn't one against fan service - far from it, in fact.

Simply put, the reason I consider Star Wars: Uprising to be an example of a licensed game done well is that it oozes respect for the franchise without neglecting players like me.

And that's smart. With the last mainline Star Wars film being 2005's Revenge of the Sith, the franchise doesn't have the level of cultural ubiquity it once had, particularly among a lucrative market of younger players.

Star Wars: Uprising is an action RPG

Now more than ever, with mobile games having such a wider global audience, the consideration that your licensed game will be someone's entry point to an entire franchise should be one you keep with you at all times - regardless of how unlikely that may seem.

The consideration your licensed game will be someone's entry point to a franchise should be one you keep with you at all times.

And the onus is entirely on you to make that first experience a positive one, on behalf of the legacy you've been trusted with.

Balancing act

This is the responsibility developers have to bear when working with a licence, and that's why making a game that's nothing more than an impenetrable series of call-backs and references for hardcore fans isn't enough.

However, a product that's oversimplified in the name of accessibility, or simply fails to capitalise on the essence of the franchise, is equally problematic.

The latter scenario is something I'm slightly fearful of in regards to Glu Mobile's James Bond: World of Espionage which, while still yet to be released, has done little to assure me that it will treat the franchise with the same even-handed respect Kabam has granted Star Wars.

Admittedly, it's a difficult balance to strike between two disparate groups - one of which will always want games to be more closely tied to the source material, the other the opposite - but Kabam, in my mind at least, has proven it's possible.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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