Shameless cute kitten picture: deployed.
Last week we started fostering a kitten from the shelter — hence the lack of a Friday post, which I’m blaming on kitten-sitting. Apparently his name is Xander because someone at the shelter is as big a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan as fiancee Caitlin. He has a weird eye that we’re hoping will heal and from which we must pick boogers. He continually steps in his own poop and then gets mad when I have to dunk him in the sink to clean him up. He also likes to sit in my lap pretty much constantly, which is as good an excuse as any to wear sweatpants all day.
Anyway, cat stuff aside. Meantime, I finished playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II recently with the “Restored Content” mod installed — which pulls in a lot of extra story content to a game that I played way back when it first came out, around 2004. The thing that makes KOTOR 2 remarkable is the way it takes an analytical look at some of the most well-worn themes and tropes of Star Wars, deconstructing the entire Light/Dark, good/bad core functionality of the universe.
The dismantling of Star Wars tropes comes at the hands of a gray Jedi called Kreia, whose plays master to the player as apprentice. KOTOR 2 is one of those games that’s all about player choice, and you’ll often have the opportunity to take either Light side or Dark side paths in just about every interaction you have with other people. Kreia questions you on everything you do, showing you the other side of the coin — and effectively taking apart the teachings of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Her questions are always poignant: is it really “good” to help someone when they would become stronger and more capable by helping themselves? What of the unseen repercussions of your decisions, even the ones you think are “good” or “bad”?
The game manages to call into question everything about the Jedi Order, from their ideals to their methods. The KOTOR series is actually all about the failings of Jedi, and the game makes note of the fact that, for all the good the Jedi are supposed to bring to the galaxy, they’re constantly falling to the Dark side and murdering huge numbers of folks.
What’s fascinating about KOTOR 2 is the fact that it’s a game that deconstructs the notions of Star Wars with which so many members of my generation grew up. Jedi are the ultimate heroes, and I grew up, like a lot of people, identifying with and idolizing them. Their whole way of life is about sacrifice and justice, after all; they’re the epitome of good. KOTOR 2 effectively asks if those teachings are right, and if those lessons really help make life better for anyone, starting with the Jedi who practice them and trickling down to the people they supposedly help.
For how many people who had their childhoods, and to some degree their outlooks on life, shaped by the lessons imparted by fictional characters, it’s a stark lesson in the fact that the world is rarely cut and dry, good and evil.
Anyway, I threw up a review of the whole thing over at Game Front, which can be read here. If you’re a Star Wars fan and into games, it’s really something to check out. Might want to play the first Knights of the Old Republic, however, so you understand some of the finer story points. Both are available on Steam.