Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by BioWare. The game has four classes for each of the two allegiances, Sith Empire and Galactic Republic. SWTOR is a story-driven game with player vs player (pvp) and player vs environment (pve) options. It takes place three thousand years before the original Star Wars movie series. The game was massively popular at its launch with over a million subscribers playing within three days. Now its popularity has died down, but with the launch of the newest expansion in December 2016 some players have flocked back.
According to the MoMA and many other video game scholars, video games are indeed art (link). If this is so, then who is/are the artist(s) in video games? In Star Wars: The Old Republic the artist can be difficult to pinpoint because the Star Wars Universe was created by George Lucas and has been expanded on by many different people and companies, like Disney. As Howard S. Becker suggests, “Works of art, from this point of view, are not the products of individual makers, ‘artists’ who possess a rare and special gift. They are, rather, joint products of all the people who cooperate” (Becker 35). According to Becker, art is created through collective activity. There is no one person who created SWTOR; it was created by a group of people. While this is true, for this post I define artists as the people that are popularly recognized, or awarded, for the art rather than all the people who worked on the art. One of the artists for Star Wars: The Old Republic is George Lucas.
He was the original creator of the Star Wars Franchise and his company, LucasArts Entertainment, distributed the game. The other artists would be the two lead designers Damien Schubert and Georg Zoeller, as well as the two lead writers Drew Karpyshyn and Daniel Erickson. I chose the two lead designers because they were the people leading the team that designed the structure of the game. Schubert and Zoeller worked on the core of the gameplay which is important to the audience playing it. Karpyshyn and Erickson were chosen as the other two artists because SWTOR is a story-driven game. Much of the game is interacting with the game and making choices that lead the player down different paths. The story is dramatically changed by the choices the player makes within the story quests and the light/dark side path the player chooses. Karpyshyn and Erickson’s work greatly contributed to what SWTOR is today. SWTOR is not the type of game you play to get to the end level content. It is the game you play to experience and become the character you play in a world different than our own.
Designers and writers are a part of almost every video game developing team. Why should the writers and designers of SWTOR be recognized as artists in SWTOR? Along with that, why should George Lucas be credited as an artist? The four writers and designers are the artists of SWTOR because in some ways they appropriated the Star Wars universe to create Star Wars: The Old Republic. The Star Wars universe is not the designer’s or writer’s ideas, but the ideas of George Lucas. Schubert, Zoeller, Karpyshyn, and Erikson appropriated this universe to create the game, SWTOR. Axel Stockburger describes appropriation as an artistic strategy (Stockburger 29). While Stockburger was referring to appropriation of games to make art, I believe his writing still works in this regard. The Star Wars universe was appropriated by the lead designers and writers to create SWTOR. From film to video game, elements of the Star Wars films are taken to create a video game. George Lucas should be credited as an artist because he is the original creator, and he put his name onto SWTOR. In other words, George Lucas’s name adds to the authenticity of the game and its setting. His name makes the video game legitimate and shows that he is in support of it. Doing this tells players that SWTOR fits into the larger Star Wars Universe that Lucas created. Artists and credits are important to game like SWTOR, they promote the game when attached to big name like Lucas. Artists in SWTOR are recognized for what makes their work unique to other games. The five artists for SWTOR all contribute to make a unique experience in a video game.
Howard Becker. (1982). “Art Worlds and Collective Activity” in Art Worlds. Berkeley:University of California Press: pp. 1-39.
Axel Stockburger. (2007). “From Appropriation to Approximation” in Clarke and Mitchell’sVideogames and Art. Bristol; Chicago: Intellect. pp. 25-37.