For a work to be defined as an epic, it has to have certain characteristics. There are anywhere from five to nine ‘hard characteristics’ for a work to be defined as an epic, with a plethora of sub-characteristics which literary theorists debate over.
Generally speaking, an epic has a hero of great national importance, with an imposing physical stature, and regarded by others as better than the common being. It has a setting which is vast in scope. The actions of the hero consist of superhuman deeds, valor, and courage. Supernatural beings invest themselves and intervene in the actions at certain times. And finally, the style in which the story is conveyed is elevated – usually poetry.
There are other smaller characteristics as well: the invoking of a muse, beginning the action of the story ‘media res’, catalogues and genealogies are listed, the hero gives extended speeches, and there is heavy reliance on the part of the writer of stock phrases and repetition.
So where am I going with this?
I’m going to argue that missions 3.1-3.3 in Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds are very nearly an epic. It’s just missing some of the "smaller" characteristics.
My interaction with this source had a slow start. I ordered, what I thought was Galactic Battlegrounds, months before I knew I would be engaging with this source, so when I finally did sit down to play the game I realized after about two hours of playtime that I had purchased the wrong game. I had in fact bought Star Wars BattleFRONT – a first person shooter and not a real-time strategy game.
Looking back I’m not sure how I made this mistake, but I did. And as an aside, Battlefront was super-fun to play as well. I even got my wife into it for about an hour.
Back to my main point – missions 3.1-3.3 from the real-time strategy computer game Star Wars Battlegrounds, otherwise known as “The War of the Gungan Tribes” was an epic – in every sense of the word.
Firstly, the main character of the story, Boss Gallo, an ancestor of Boss Nass, is a hero of great national importance. He was regarded by other Gungans as better than the rest, hence his title “boss”. The other Gungans of his time knew that if Boss Gallo were to change his neutral stance in the “War of the Gungan Tribes” that his influence and power would affect the outcome of Gungan civilization. Rogoe – Gallo’s arch nemesis – made-up Gallo’s mind for him, and attacked his village. Gallo could no longer fence sit, and took it upon himself to unite the Gungan tribes to defeat Rogoe – a Gungan warlord – and destroy his enemy’s fortress at Spearhead. Gallo was no ordinary Gungan, but a being whose actions were depended upon by an entire civilization.
Secondly, the story of “The War of the Gungan Tribes” was vast in scope. It did not simply focus on a small geographical part of Naboo, but consisted of entire continents. The start of the story began at Otoh Sancture, a small farm on the surface of Naboo, and ended up at Spearhead – a gigantic fortress found in the underwater seas of the planet. This setting converged over thousands upon thousands of square kilometers, making the setting of this epic vast in scope.
Thirdly, the actions of Boss Gallo consisted of super deeds of valor and courage. Not only was Boss Gallo brave for uniting the Gungan tribes, he rescued Boss Hoxie from Rogoe’s forces, recovered Boss Tenko’s staff, returned the treasure of Boss Hantic all-the-while destroying one of Rogoe’s spaceports, and destroyed a clan of vicious Bursas for Boss Copek. In the particular game I played, Boss Gallo singlehandedly knocked down the gates of Rogoe’s fortress.
Fourthly, (and follow my fuzzy-logic on this one) supernatural beings invested themselves and got involved in the actions of the story. In this particular case, I myself am the supernatural being in question. Boss Gallo, the hero of the story, is a being living in a pixilated world. He lacks a corporeal existence, but from his perspective, the “natural world” consists of 64-bit (or whatever ‘bit’ his world is) trees, lakes, oceans, rivers, and other beings. I am “supernatural” in this case because I am outside-of or beyond what Gallo considers “natural”. Not only that, but I myself controlled the fate of Gallo’s forces, and strove, along with Gallo, to defeat Rogoe and his armies. I was invested in the story, and got involved in the tale’s actions.
Finally, the story was conveyed in an elevated style – thought not an elevated style that we’re accustomed too. This particular point focuses on the writing of the text, and has a particular bias towards poetry, as usually poetry is considered a more superior form of writing to prose. In the “War of the Gungan Tribes” we are treated to the most elevated form of writing known to humans – mathematics. The story of the War of the Gungan Tribes was written in the most poetic form we as human have – the language of computer programming. This language’s basis is founded on irrefutable mathematical formulas and equations – in essence, truth. Math is never wrong. If we were to put the written form of the “War of the Gungan Tribes” on paper, it would take a highly advanced civilization to decode and decipher the story’s meaning. How’s that for ‘elevated’?
Ultimately, I really had a fun time with this game. It took me back to my old StarCraft days, and I always enjoyed massing an army to take out my opponent’s buildings. I look forward to engaging with this source again.
For my next post we’ll moved ahead a near millennium in Star Wars chronology, and cover the topic of Darth Ruin from the ever rich source of Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.