May the 4th Be With You – A Brief Recollection

“It’s Not My Fault”

Harrison Ford, Empire Strikes Back

As the 4th of May comes around for its annual celebration of all things Geek, its fascinating to watch the way it has expanded beyond its obvious Star Wars connotations to a wider more general celebration of all things ‘Geek’. I’m generally loathe and reticent to use that terminology and phrase, historically it always had a negative meaning behind it and whilst we embrace it and use it to generalise our hobby I’m still feel as a community we should do more to champion and celebrate our past time as opposed to embracing a derogatory term as a badge of honor. That said, today is a day we can all come together and set aside, all to briefly, concerns about the wider world and just celebrate the general comradery of appreciating a hobby and past time that is misunderstood by the outside world, the annual celebration of all things fantasy and beyond.

For this year I wanted to share a personal recollection from my own history with my friends who started this group during out teenage years. Despite the seeming dominance of console gaming towards the end of the 16 bit era of consoles and the emergence of the more powerful new 32 and 64 bit consoles on the horizon there was a place and purpose for PC gaming for the more expansive strategy and memory intensive games, one of which was a tactical space flight simulator game by the name of X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, the third entry in the Tie-Fighter series released on the market in 1997. As I’ve previously alluded, I was always and remain a steadfast Star Trek fan however, any fan of the genre without a youthful stubborness will come to enjoy and great sci fi that purvales our screens. This simulator game was of little interest to me as a stand alone experience but became a magnet we could all appreciate and come together to enjoy. Why? for the very simple reason, given the versatility and openness of the PC as a gaming platform you had the option to customise the game in such a way it transformed the gaming experience. Allow me to explain.

xvtf

With the advancement of PC gaming at that time, long before the push of online gaming and file sharing and downloads, games of that time installed onto the Hard Drive to allow a smoother experience, a great deal of the data installed first before elements ran off the disc, if at all. The size and scope of X-Wing vs Tie Fighter required resources, specifically of interest here the sound files to be installed onto the base unit and of course with a little ingenuity and a microphone to hand anyone could use a free editor to go in and record over the sound files creating an entirely unique experience. I have a great deal of fond memories gathering at one of the teams houses finding the sound file folders for one of the specific pilots then re-recording the dialogue with whatever came to mind, some original, others entire riffs from films and movies we enjoyed at the time. So allow me to paint you a picture, each of us would boot up a campaign level or scenario and our pilots, red 1 or 2 for instance, instead of the usual stock filled lines would be quoting lines from Independence Day, Aliens, anything and everything we could remember or imagine.

Star Wars may be known for its cheesy dialogue but for one brief summer or two it became known for something else, or at least for me. I’ve enjoyed some of the games to various degrees going all the way back to Dark Forces and the various incarnations ever since. But my greatest enjoyment came with a group of friends where we took the base game and turned it into something else entirely. Could we do the same today? perhaps, it certainly wouldn’t have the same meaning or impact, we are all a lot older and, questionably wiser but with different priorities in life. Equally, companies today with the advent of social media and streaming are so risk adverse, quite rightly with contentious and spicy content from users that risk damaging the reputation of the companies themselves. But, equally one of my most greatest and joyful discoveries recently when downloading Warcraft 2 from GOG was the discovery all the sound files ‘of old’ were installed onto my hard drive, including to my delight the ‘ba ram you’ line from Babe which always seemed a small Easter Egg but one that would surely be removed for copyright infringement. Basically, should a modern day X-Wing or Tie Fighter game be released today, my hope would be for that same recognition that a great deal of joy came from the customisation aspect, editing sound files, creating missions, making it a personally enjoyable game.

May the 4th be with you

may4th

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