Star Wars: Art Wars

swtorStar 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, vgiphy1ideo 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.

Clone Wars
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.

Sources:

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.

 

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8 thoughts on “Star Wars: Art Wars

  1. Hey I like your blog post, almost sounds like mine. I totally agree with you, however despite the fact that George Lucas is obviously the creator of the whole Star Wars universe have you considered the perspective of Barthes “death of the author”? I mean Becker says, why should George Lucas be the “artist” if the ones who helped also did their part in creating the game. I say that Bioware and LucasArts are the authors and the artists besides George Lucas.

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    • Thanks for your comment. Yea I definitely agree with you which is why I state that Damien Schubert, Georg Zoeller, Drew Karpyshyn, and Daniel Erickson should also be considered the artists as well. While I say George Lucas is a more prominent artist because of what having his name attached to the game means in terms of authenticity, I do not deny the lead designers and writers that work for BioWare a title as artists as well.

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  2. I don’t think I would consider George Lucas as the artist behind SWTOR. I do agree that he is an artist, however, to give him credit for all the work that others put into SWTOR is a bit much. He may have created the Star Wars universe but the gameplay and storyline weren’t his. SWTOR as a game was pretty interesting. I liked how you could choose to be a good or bad person no matter what faction you were on. I think this was the first MMO that had dialogue that could change what happened depending on how you played. That just really stood out to me and kept me compelled to keep playing.

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    • Thanks for your comment. As I mentioned in my post, I say Damien Schubert, Georg Zoeller, Drew Karpyshyn, and Daniel Erickson are the artists of the game along with George Lucas. They wrote the story that the game is largely based around and they designed the mechanics that make it SWTOR.
      I do have to disagree with you that giving George Lucas credit as an artist is a bit much. I believe he deserves that credit as an artist. While he did not make the game he made the universe. Without his creation of the Star Wars universe there would be no Star Wars: The Old Republic or really no Star Wars anything. By having his name associated to the game he is not only being credited for his creation of Star Wars, but he is providing authenticity to the game. I explain more on that in my post.

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  3. I like that you acknowledge Lucas, particularly in the addition of authenticity. The Auth of authenticity is the same as in authorize and author. He is and was (although now it’s Disney) the one authorizing SWTOR even if he did nothing physically to create it. This also had a great flow in terms of its structures. Not a lot of fluff and well placed/chosen images. Good job.

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  4. I agree with your choice to accredit George Lucas as one of the artist despite the fact that he was not directly involved in the development of the game. With the approval of Lucas, would you agree that he was the artist of the game’s concept and the designers and writers were the artists of the game’s content?

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  5. I found it a bit interesting that you referred to George Lucas as the artist of SWTOR. I give him credit for creating Star Wars itself but as the artist for the game i find it a bit complicated. I believe that the artist can be see as the entire team of BioWare as seen in the quote you used by Becker,”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.” Its a bit complicated also to state that because without Lucas there would be no star wars meaning no game so he also does deserve credit for the artist of the game.

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