I recently released X-Wings, Lightsabers, and Scorpion Vader: Celebrating 40 Years of Star Wars Video Games to Kindle Direct Publishing, and I truly believe that if that title appeals to you in any way, you’re going to love the book. If you’re interested in plunking down the $4.99 or just curious about it, please check out ScorpionVader.com. And — as a Medium exclusive (whoa! I know, right?!) — I’m including the Introduction section below. (Yeah, yeah, I know you can read it in the free preview on Amazon anyway.)
Seriously, though — if you have comments, I’d love to hear them. And please do leave a review on Amazon if you like what you read.
My apologies for the lie.
The original idea for X-Wings, Lightsabers, and Scorpion Vader: Celebrating 40 Years of Star Wars Games popped into my head while I was driving home from a Burger King lunch in April 2022. Maybe it was the Whopper bloat that inspired a whopper of a thought: It dawned on me that the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars games was but a few months away, as Parker Brothers released The Empire Strikes Back for Atari 2600 in summer 1982. If you care enough about the topic to read these words, you probably agree that’s a fairly significant milestone. Yet I knew no one in the modern gaming press would cover it. Might as well be my job, right?
Celebrating Star Wars gaming milestones isn’t exactly new to me. From early 2005 to late 2007, I had the privilege of working in the LucasArts PR department. While there, I somehow convinced marketing that celebrating 25 years of Star Wars games at Star Wars Celebration IV via the LucasArts booth, from game display and playable classics to a history video, would be a great idea. And you know what? It absolutely was. People loved it. Geoff Keighley put it on TV. Chris Kohler declared me a “PR genius” on Wired (we’re pals — he was just being nice). I even personally answered fans’ trivia questions to see if they could stump me (some could!…most couldn’t).
But I don’t exactly have a Lucasfilm department behind me today, nor anything close to a budget. A self-published book would have to suffice.
My initial vision: A straight-up walkthrough of every Star Wars game ever. I started that but soon realized 1) no matter how eloquent my prose, it’s still basically just an organized assortment of Wikipedia articles at the end of the day and 2) I’ve already done something even more interesting and way more celebratory.
Back in 2017, Rolling Stone’s former gaming website, Glixel.com, called on me to write a series of articles about Star Wars games from historical and cultural perspectives, totaling about 15,000 words. Glixel died soon after (probably due to being too smart for an audience that largely just wants to watch trailers and whine), and with it so did what I wrote — which they loved running and I loved producing.
So I looked at the contract I signed pertaining to that freelance work: As long as six months have passed and I prominently credit Glixel as the original publisher of each piece, I can run them again wherever I please. (HEY, WHOEVER OWNS GLIXEL NOW! THREE OF THESE PIECES RAN AT GLIXEL.COM FIRST! Done.) So that’s what I’d do to celebrate 40 years of Star Wars games. I’d collect these pieces and call it a day. Most ebooks aren’t even close to 15,000 words, after all.
But simply regurgitating content wasn’t good enough for me. It felt like cheating. Besides, five years had passed. New games had come out — good ones like Battlefront II, Jedi: Fallen Order, and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. I’d need to update things to accommodate those, right?
I’d also have to update some screenshots because I don’t want one of the most prominent names in retro gaming calling out fuzzy images again.
At the same time, I had started but not completed a different 40th anniversary celebration on my YouTube channel, Superhero.VG: a multipart series celebrating four decades of The Empire Strikes Back with a look at every time the Battle of Hoth has appeared in games. That resulted in a one-part series that only made it through the Nineties. Might as well finish that as part of Scorpion Vader, too, huh?
Meanwhile, other projects came about. Work kept me busy. Dad-life drew me away. Before I knew it, 2023 was here. My next target release date became Star Wars Day…then Jedi: Survivor launch day…then just, well, whenever it’s done.
And it is. Finally. Weighing in at about twice the length of the original Glixel pieces alone.
But what’s actually here, you might be wondering? Time for a quick rundown:
40 Memorable Moments in Star Wars Video Games: The flagship piece, and one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. For Glixel, I celebrated the 40th anniversary of A New Hope by counting down not the 40 best Star Wars games — there are a million of those, and they’re boring now — but rather 40 great memories from them. And not just my memories — I have a bunch of developer quotes you won’t see anywhere else. You’re going to learn something. I’ve also updated it through Jedi: Survivor, moving some memories out of the top 40 or even shuffled around if my feelings changed. But anything bumped remains as an honorable mention — ’cause why not?
Scorpion Vader Attacks! I suppose you could argue that this is the actual flagship piece, since Scorpion Vader is on the cover. If you know what that means, great — but you’re going to learn a whole lot more about Namco’s super-weird 1987 Famicom adaptation of Star Wars that was only ever released in Japan. And if you didn’t know about Scorpion Vader until you saw this cover? I promise, you’re in for a treat. I also tracked down the game’s composer for some development insight, as translated by the wonderful Miguel Corti.
Translating a Fan Translation: Arguably an epilogue to the previous article, the aforementioned Mr. Corti was kind enough to compare a fan translation of Namco’s game to what’s actually in the game, essentially amounting to the most professional localization the game has ever seen. This has never been published anywhere before.
The Legends of Star Wars Video Games: Not all Star Wars gaming content originated in movies or the games themselves. Check out some of the Expanded Universe content that found its way into games.
Every Videogame Battle of Hoth: Just like it sounds. When I started this for my YouTube channel to celebrate 40 years of The Empire Strikes Back, I was aiming to find 40 items to fill the space. It’s more like 57. Prepare yourself for a lot of screenshots with a very snow-white aesthetic.
Memoirs of a LucasArts Alumnus: A brief, purely personal look back at my time working for LucasArts. Includes the time I made headlines with a non-story and some fun George Lucas bits, among other bite-sized snippets.
So, again — sorry for the lie. But “41 Years” is just a weird thing to celebrate. I assure you, there are no other lies to be found in the 30,000-ish words to follow.
Oh… Hey… Wait… The Empire Strikes Back did indeed launch on Atari 2600 in 1982…but I played it first on Intellivision…which debuted in August 1983. I am “Celebrating 40 Years of Star Wars Video Games” — my 40 years with Star Wars video games. And if you look at it that way, I couldn’t be more timely.
So what I told you was true… From a certain point of view.
— Chris Baker | August 16, 2023