Sundays, I’ve decided to do something a little bit different than what I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Instead of taking about my process or the journey of writing my novel(s), I’ve decided to touch a bit on the sort of things that inspire me and discuss why exactly I find them so inspiring in the first place. Today, I wanted to touch on Knights of the Old Republic (2003, Bioware), a game set in the Star Wars: Legends universe that’s become a bit of a cult classic, though I only discovered it recently. If you haven’t finished the game or have never heard of it and are interested in playing it (you can find it, and its sequel, on Steam), don’t read any farther than my handsome friend, The Protagonist.
There are a lot of opinions on this game. Just googling “Revan” will get you a myriad of opinions on the protagonist and how he was handled in the MMORPG sequel, The Old Republic. Even the fact that Revan is a he generated quite a bit of understandable discourse and disagreement, effectively changing the “whatever you want them to be” protagonist’s canon after over a decade. Revan, the player character of KOTOR, and his associated “you were the Dark Lord of the Sith” plot twist, is beloved of fans of Star Wars far and wide, both for his badassery and the sentiment many players of the game have attached to him.
For someone coming into the game so late, I wasn’t actually aware of a lot of the controversy around his character until long after I first took a hiatus from playing Old Republic back in 2012 (interestingly enough, just before the Revan Controversy hit its peak with the release of the Revan novel). I only played KOTOR because I started playing Old Republic again with a friend in 2015, which is what spawned the characters for The Wild Core Chronicle in the first place, and only then it was out of a desire to learn more about this mysterious “Revan” character that was talked about so often in the main campaign. I felt that I had to learn a lot about him in order for my characters to make informed decisions regarding his legacy.
Never let it be said that I don’t take roleplaying seriously.
Suffice to say, the rest is history.
I expected to find, with what I knew about the character, someone similar to the blank slate protagonists of Dragon Age Origins and Inquisition, someone you could make into what you wanted them to be. Instead, I found a character much more like Hawke, with a pre-established personality and branching options. It was like Dragon Age 2, except instead of having sloppy plot writing and recycled environments, the game was beautiful and interesting and the characters didn’t feel inconsistent from having too many writers working on their plot lines. Sure, the ending felt a bit rushed, the battle system was slow and clunky, and the game was clearly a product of 2003 graphically, but it had a moral complexity that I wasn’t used to seeing in Star Wars and an interesting protagonist.
I am absolutely in love with Revan and the cast of characters that surround him (with the exception of Onasi, who annoys me just ever so slightly). Not only can you see the sharp delineation between the Dark Lord and the Jedi Hero, but you can see the sarcastic and flippant attitude of someone who very much deflects personal questions, even as they become confidant for a group of lovable misfits.I could draw real conclusions about the personality of this character, about the sort of person that they were, and how they interacted with the different members of the crew. Never mind that I accidentally played canon Revan on my first play through of the game (right down to the canon face), as little as I knew about Revan going into the game, I went out of it feeling like I had made friends with Revan and the crew of the Ebon Hawk, which is an incredibly satisfying first time game experience.
Since then, I’ve gone back over the game with a fine-tooth combed to try to get a good idea of how I would like to write the former Dark Lord. I relate to his tragic tale, in a way, and enjoy his relationship with Bastila for how it edifies them both and causes them to grow as people. No character felt pointless, and no relationship felt without reward, which is one way in which KOTOR has been so inspiring. Not only did it start to give me my creative drive back after years of producing uninspired and grey writing, but it reminded me that I don’t write for myself — I write to create casts of characters, and to do justice to their stories. As much as I write in order to reach out to people who need characters like them, or really just anybody at all, during times in their lives when they have no one else, I write for the characters. They are the vehicle of my story, the linchpin of all my authorly plans, and KOTOR reminded me of that.
More than that, Revan himself left an impact on Virsune, and thus on the Chronicle itself. Revan actually made it necessary to create an ancestor for Virsune to research, as Old Republic Virsune both admired and researched the life of Revan as part of his backstory. This ancestor doesn’t have much in common with Revan himself, outside of the whole Warlord thing, and maybe a borrowed sense of humor, but Revan made it necessary for me to create a character with as much impact on the past of my Galaxy as he’s had in his. For those of you who are familiar with Star Wars: Legends lore, I think you’ll have an idea why I’ve decided to codename Virsune’s ancestor Big Deal for the time being.
Fiction, especially fantasy and science fiction, seems to have a staying power in spite of the bizarre situations and larger than life scale. Many of us will never have to destroy a Star Forge or stop an inevitable war, but I think we can all relate to the struggles of the characters we see on screen regardless. I’ve always believed that successful fiction has to have especially human characters in order to grip its readership, and that’s what KOTOR has done for me. Without it, it’s doubtful that my novel would even exist.
I think it’s important to never underestimate the impact that the media we consume can have on us. My story is incredibly different than the things that have inspired it, but a well written story, whether it’s a game, a movie, or a novel, can leave its imprint on the works of the would-be authors who consume them. They say nothing in the world is truly original, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. As long as we don’t blatantly plagiarize one another, that aspect of the familiar in something new can make going into a new story a bit like meeting a new person who reminds you of an old friend. The familiarity may very well be a deciding factor in why we choose to consume the media that we do, as we look for tropes and characters that we identify with.
KOTOR and Revan moved me. I want the Chronicle to move others. This chain of inspiration goes on and on, passed on to each successive generation of writers and readers, our gift to ourselves and to each other. No story should be undervalued, because even the smallest plot can have a staying power for the right person.