Star Wars: Battlefront And The Pain From An Old Wound

Star Wars: Battlefront Trailer Is Strangely...Emotional?

"Well, technology is a glittering lure. But there's the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product."

Don Draper said that. In an episode of Mad Men, a show that is — almost definitively — about nostalgia.

But your memories are not real. In some ways they don’t even exist.

The broad scientific consensus is that memories are a construction. A reconstruction to be more precise. Nothing more than a series of processes and mechanisms that are collated, interpreted and invented depending on the circumstances in which they are being invented.

In other words, the act of remembering is an act of creation. Your memories, as a tangible, retrievable thing, literally do not exist.

It's been an interesting week for memories.

Yesterday EA released a brand new, well-received trailer for its upcoming video game Star Wars: Battlefront. In the trailer, a man in his late 20s or early 30s sits in an office setting. 'Millennial Office Man': the assumed video game demographic in human form. He is working hard at his job that gives him the disposable income he needs to buy all the video games we assume he is playing.

Millennial Office Man is working late in the office job we assume he hates. There is no-one else is in the office and the suggestion is clear: he shouldn’t be working at this hour. But he has no choice. There is a project that needs to be complete ASAP. He needs to get those numbers on his boss's desk by tomorrow morning. Something like that. Millennial Office Man is on deadline. Life is difficult. Adult life is difficult. Some form of escape is required. This is understood.

Millennial Office Man picks up a Star Wars figurine. An R2-D2. It sits on his desk. In a moment of contemplation he rotates this emblem of a childhood frozen in time. Meditating, we assume, on the adult he has become: a Millennial Office Man who works late into the night and no longer has time for his childhood joys.

The memories come flooding back in waves. Star Wars themed sleepovers with a friend. Pretend Star Wars dogfights on bicycles by day; lightsaber battles with torches by night. These are the roots of Millennial Office Man. This is what defines him. He craves a return to those halcyon childhood days, to those long summers that stretched long into the distance of our collective memories. Millennial Office Man's quarter life crisis is in full flow and only one multimedia brand will scratch that itch.

Star Wars.

Millennial Office Man hears a rumble. What could it be? No, impossible. Millennial Office Man's friend, Millennial Office Man #2, is outside his office building window right now, inside an ACTUAL X-Wing. Let us play Millennial Office Men, let us escape the drudgery of modern life through this video game vehicle! Fly Millennial Office Men, fly! Fly from your obligations! Fly from the numbers and your presentation and your Baby Boomer Bossman. Fly from it all and embrace that inner child. Remember those days when you played X-Wings by day and lightsabers by night. Remember. Remember. Remember.

Fuck. Holy shit. What a commercial. What a trailer. Seriously, honestly, sincerely. As a commercial for a product I now want to buy, it is some God-Tier, Don Draper-level shit.


Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is "new". Creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of… calamine lotion. But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product: nostalgia. It's delicate… but potent."

The power Star Wars has over us is otherworldly. To watch the Star Wars: Battlefront trailer was to be affected by it. Perhaps against your better judgement.

Is this a bad thing? Is it a problem that this 'brand' has that uncanny ability to latch onto our collective memories and exploit them so efficiently? Even as I type these words I'm unsure. Many will dismiss it as a bit of fun, and it could be interpreted that way. We are young, we have disposable income. Why not spend it on the product that scratches the itch?

But scratching an itch isn't always the healthiest approach.

It's a strange two-way street. Articles lambasting the generation gap are as boring as they are predictable, but there's a certain level of truth there. We are, in many ways, a generation frozen in time, drawn to and defined by the media we consume. We play video games like old men restore classic cars. To an extent this is a conscious choice, but it's a historical burden. As a 'generation' we are struggle. With the weight of the houses we can't afford, the student loans we can't pay off, the expectations we can't fulfill. Born to a generation who demand we grow up and take responsibility, but can't stop treating us like children.

In some ways I wonder. What do we relate to more? Is it the love for Star Wars as a brand or the situation we find ourselves in currently? Is it the X-Wings and TIE Fighters and lightsabers or is it Office Millennial Man himself? Working late, stressed over deadlines and a working day that stretches into the long hours of the night. Is it any wonder we feel that need to escape? Can we be judged for that? Should we be judging ourselves for scratching that itch?

Again, as I write these words, I'm honestly unsure. But it does feel unhealthy, doesn't it? How easily we can be exploited. How easily our nostalgia for these invented memories can be sated and catered to by the products we're being sold.

Tomorrow is an important day. 21 October 2015. In a bizarre way it's an intersectional day for an entire generation. October 21: the day upon which our collective future becomes our present. And shortly afterwards our past.

I’m talking, of course, about Back to the Future — the date Doc Brown plugs into his DeLorean shaped time machine. I’m talking about the future. That unfulfilled promise of the future.

It's funny. The appeal of the original Back to the Future was, undoubtedly, the nostalgia. Its celebration of the 1950s and everything that came with it. A memory, reconstructed, reinvented through the lens of the decade in which we were born: the 1980s. The decade in which we are eternally trapped. Now we, as a culture, are in the process of grasping backward into our own past and reimagining it.

It'd funny how it all comes around. Our future, that once seemed full of possibility – a future filled with hoverboards, flying cars and shoelaces that tied themselves – isn’t quite what we expected. Now we want to go back; to that place that never really existed in the first place.

And we’re willing to pay handsomely — repeatedly — for that privilege.


Teddy told me that in Greek, "nostalgia" literally means, "the pain from an old wound". It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship. It's a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again… It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again… to a place where we know we are loved."


Comments

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    I'm glad I read this now, and not later on tonight when I'm making small-talk with the cleaner as they're passing through my office, giving the subtle bin-emptying/floor-vacuuming cues that say you're not meant to be here right now.

      Now you have time to have SW dog fights in the office swivel chairs!

        Yeeeeah.
        I... am going to a bar after work, I think.

        Adulthood does have a couple perks over fondly-remembered childhood. :)

          Being able to eat what I want. That's the best perk. I grew up and never touched liver or brussel sprouts ever again. Good times.

    This week rumours came out that the same people who were responsible for the horrendous Battleship movie were planning a Dinoriders film, and at the moment I was prepared to throw my money at them without hesitation.

    Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing.

    It is sobering to think that 1985 is, to the current generation of kids seeing movies, as far in the past as 1955 was when we were kids going to see Back to the Future in cinemas.

      My brain just faltered for a moment...

        Yeah, it still freaks me out that 1955 to me, is 1985 to someone else.

    Very well written, good Sir. Nostalgia is a driving force behind my life in many ways. I work through retail selling video games for a living, paying the bills and the like through my love of it all. But because of retail, my love for many things has fallen by the wayside. Don't get me started on the Christmas season.

    It's a tough life, let's be honest. We've been born into a world that's far more complex than ever before, in many ways. Like you say, the expectation is high for our generation to grasp this by the scruff of the neck and pull us back from the so called 'brink', whatever that may be. To escape from that, to find a place to call home that isn't surrounded by constant bills, by stress and anxiety, bullying, violence ... in many ways we're lucky we have that option of tuning out and exploring fun, complex and fantasy style worlds the way we do.

    Every generation is different from the last. The 'last gen' grew up with things their parents didn't understand, 50's/60's music for example, and that's the cycle we go through. We're in the midst of that generational change over, where we're taking over in important areas of growth. An argument can be made that the last generation left this world in a poor state of health, it's now up to us to repair it in some way. But you could also argue that they created the very things we're using and evolving today to improve our lives (the internet, just for one example).

    What will define our generation above all else? What we do over the next 20 years. We can embrace our imaginations and escape reality, but there's that need for common ground, a balance between what's real and what isn't. To rap up, I'd love to see the virtual world of Ready Player One come to life ... but not at the expense of the world, as the book suggests might happen.

    As to the article, if the itch is that easily scratched, and the need to scratch it so great, then there is probably some things deeply wrong with one's life.
    It could be time to re-assess, work out what it is that you are trying to escape from, and make actual escape plans to live a more fullfilling existence, even if doing so requires some big risks or sacrifices.
    Escaping into fantasy can be fun in the short term, but is generally a sign that there is a need to change your life, and start living.

      I don't know... I think it comes down to the difference between escaping to and escaping from.

      There's a big wide world out there, but if you've spent a lot of time out in it, it's a little disappointing how familiar the patterns and archetypes become, as if people really are made from moulds.

      But the worlds of other peoples' imaginations can (sometimes) hold so much more.

      Your choices in life mean that avenues of experience are forever denied you. At my age, I'm very unlikely to ever be an Olympic athlete or astronaut, and the age of 'where the wind takes you' exploration is long since over... but these simulated experiences, or experiences of the imagination are life paths that you can visit, to give you the satisfaction of curiosity or simple entertainment before you and your insignificant sack of organs expire, with nothing to be gained or lost from what impression you did or didn't leave on a world which actively and overwhelmingly does not care if you lived or died.

      In the starkly uncaring face of cold, nihilistic logic, the diversion of entertainment makes more sense than any other endeavour in the world.

        Oh come on, if you really put your mind to it you can easily win a gold or travel to the moon.

          Maybe one... maybe both. But then that means I won't be involved in deep-sea exploration, or curing cancer, or becoming an interpreter at the UN... It is an immutable fact that mastery in any role or profession or goal takes time. And it is similarly invariable that our time is limited. Very limited. Mastery requires expenditure... we have only so much to spend.

          The point is that the path of the sensate, living vicariously, can offer a greater breadth of experience in place of depth, and that there is something worthwhile in that.

            It can, but if you are doing even just *one* of those things, then you won't be looking to smash a chair through a window and escape, and you certainly won't be looking backwards while your life slips away from under you.

            Traveling into other worlds is a great recreation, and can give much needed impetus to your own pursuits, but nostalgia and looking backwards, too much of that and you wish your life away, you keep wondering 'what if I had tried that then', and 'where is that girl/guy now', rather than saying what if I try this *now*, and finding 'that girl' in your future.

            Hector and the Search for Happiness was a good exploration of that, and I love Simon Pegg films anyway... he is a guy that has a nostalgic eye, but channels it into action rather than inaction.

    I don't earn enough to fall into the trap. It certainly influences my decisions but money dictates my life a lot more than I'd like.

    I wish I had more disposable income so I could indulge in some more nostalgia.

    You want to talk weird, try not feeling nostalgia. I'd burn the good memories just as willingly as the bad. Nostalgia may make you exploitable in a dumb way, you probably can't relate to those memories half as much as you feel you can and I get the impression you don't hate your dead end paper pushing job, but I don't think that's unhealthy. You respond through the same broken filter as everybody else and while that may not always be directly beneficial it's healthy in the sense that it makes you compatible with everyone else.

    Why is there an inherent assumption that we're being judged for this? All forms of media are an escape. Games, film, books, whatever. We've built a society where we do the things we have to in order to get to the things we want to do. Star Wars is a big part of many people's childhoods and with a new bunch of movies coming out, will continue to be for a long time. But you could replace Star Wars with anything. When I was a kid, and before I really got into games, I'd spend my time at school thinking about going home and playing in my friends' tree house. Later on that was replaced with memories of watching and possibly acting out Power Rangers, even later it became about taking turns on Stealth Fighter and seeing who had the highest rank and best medals before we inevitably ploughed our planes into the ground under a hail of enemy gunfire.

    No one wants to go to school or sit in an office (or dig trenches or mow lawns or lay bricks or bake bread or make photocopies or whatever).

    It's not a bad thing. It's just a thing. I envy the small fraction of humanity who are able to do whatever they want to do at any given moment, but for the rest of us, we leave the office (or construction site, or store, or whatever) and go home and watch TV or jog or read or play video games. We repeat the cycle until we become famous billionaire playboys or die trying. Most of us die trying. If filling the void between now and then with Star Wars and video games is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

      The difference is trying. I think nostalgia can be powerful when it reminds you of when the world was something to bend to your will, or at least to find a path through that was filled with things to keep you present and learning and playing.
      If you get nostalgic, and think, man I can have a better life with this, and as you said, go out and try and make your life more interesting, then that is a good thing.
      If you feel nostalgic, and buy some crap to make you feel better, and when that doesn't work for long, buy some more crap, then I think it becomes dangerous, or at least numbing. The continuous quick fixes stop us from getting out there and doing more, or finding ways to engage.
      Playing video games, or watching a movie or reading a book are all fun, valid things to do.
      But if they are only used to escape from a drab existence that is eating you away inside, or as an escape in the sense of killing time that could be spent changing your life for the better, then it could be a problem. There is a difference in playing for fun, and playing for avoidance, the second one causes issues.

      Last edited 20/10/15 2:14 pm

    It was a quiet weekend at home and I noticed on the Xbox dashboard that there was an ad for the Star Wars Battlefront Beta.
    I started the download and fired it up not expecting it to be amazing, thinking it'd be another Battlefield clone.
    I think it took me five minutes to call in my 54 years old dad to come check it out and then we spent the rest of the weekend together getting every minute in that we possibly could.
    The realistic sounds, the look of the troops, the locations.
    I don't know how many times we fought and died on Hoth and some might liken that cycle to Sisyphus eternal torment.
    But for us this was a place we'd left in memory. I was eight years old and this was the Friday night screening of the original trilogy on Channel Ten.

    I haven't felt that feeling for a long time.
    This ad gave me that feeling too, made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and my eyes tear up.

    Anyone who can make me feel like that and make it feel like I'm back in those moments can have my money. I don't care how much they want. They've earned it.

    I'd say we're all happier adults because we don't have to grow up and abandon our childhood like our grandparents/parents had to.

      Yeah, we can all still live in our parents house thanks to how high renting has become.

        Rent was 80% of my wage when I first moved out of home at 17, shared a house with 4 other students. It was a thin existence, but I couldn't imagine still living with my parents once I was an adult. It was a harsh life in some ways, but I had my independence and had a blast, even though horribly broke.

    My pain was that as a poor working class kid, my parents could only afford to buy me a few Star Wars figures... My friends all had the Millennium Falcon, the X-Wing and AT-AT. I had a couple of storm troopers and Luke. That was it. The rest I made up with imagination.

    Come November, Star Wars Battlefront. I'm going to play the bejesus out of the game and any gaps in story will be filled with imagination 30 years in the making.
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    err, plus DLC.

      Yeah, I didn't have the figures, as we were piss-poor, but my dad was the projectionist at the cinema, so I saw Star Wars 17 times when it came out, and was the envy of the school for once :)

        17 times! Wow.

        I remember my Dad taking me to the cinema to watch Star Wars but as we got there the queue stretched all the way out of the cinema and round the block.

        That was the closest I got to Star Wars for the next six months.

    You know what gets me in the nostalgias every time.
    Vector based arcade games.
    Then these guys jad to go and make this:
    http://vec9.com/

    Millennial Office Man was Han Solo's ship right?

    Great article. Thanks again Mark.
    Egoraptor got it right years ago...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRT9CMh3s8c

    Maybe Star Wars is not that great. Quite possibly my whole Star Wars fandom is riding on the fact that it popped my sci fi cherry. The first time is always better than subsequent times. Maybe every time I see Star Wars I see it with rose tinted goggles. If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.

    P.S. It wasn't strong enough to convince me that episode 1, 2 and 3 were good movies.

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