The other night I went to a bar with a few friends.
This bar was kinda/sorta near my house, and a friend picked me up and we arrived, only to realize that the lot in front of the bar had become pay parking only a few days ago.
We paid $4 for two hours and went inside. This bar isn’t really thematic, though their interior designer obviously had an aesthetic, sort of like modern 70s, with neat lines. Like an art deco paneled basement.
I had an old-fashioned and a coffee porter stout by a local brewery.
The bar has one TV (it’s THAT kind of bar) and they played Starcade.
Honestly, I’d never heard of Starcade before, but I guess it’s made a comeback.
Essentially, it’s a show where kids play arcade games against one another. There were a few times in which a weird mustachioed guy would make an appearance, but generally: kids.
I think they played Burger Time and Donkey Kong.
My friend next to me Michael said he was really into Pitfall as a kid. I couldn’t remember that one.
Michael is a little older than me, so he had good knowledge of these older midd-80s games — my time at arcades was mostly spent with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, StreetFighter and NBA Jam.
And Galaga. That was the only older game I really knew.
Other guys trickled in and soon there were 8 or 9 of us.
And after a few, brief and intense moments about Copland (fat Stallone), Deathwish 4 (Michael said one company ran the franchise in the ground) Falling Down(…? with Michael Douglas as an angry white man) and some intense Darren Aronosfky talk (The Wrestler and Black Swan were supposed to be the same movie?), conversation veered towards Star Wars.
And believe it or not, I could generally hang with the first part of this conversation. I’m a movie fan of sorts, I took a bunch of classes in college, so I’ve watched a lot of stuff. But then Star Wars?
It was beyond me.
And that’s when I looked up at Starcade and…yes: the immersive world of Star Wars in some ways inspired Starcade and the gaming wars of the 80s.
Video games are an immersive experience, yes, but it’s the catapult into a different world that I think has the greatest resonance with Star Wars and movies like it.
There’s no way I’m the first person to make this comparison, I’m not going to look it up. But this was the first moment that I made that real connection for me.
Then this guy across the table, Connor, mentioned a class he took in college called The Hero’s Journey. Connor’s fairly young and so he went to college during a time when they offered appropriate thematic classes like this that appeal to young people rather than just British Lit post 1840.
Anyway, Connor said that at the end of the class, they had to name people that fit the hero’s journey perfectly. Only him and another guy named A+ appropriate heroes.
Who were they?
And Darth Vader.
Jesus — makes sense. Darth Vader — that’s a different type of hero, but still captivating all the same.
Good versus evil.
Justice versus oppression.
Divine versus devil.
That is the story that we have to observe. That’s the story we can’t ignore. That’s the story we can’t look away from.
Any video game lets you tap into that for a second.
Watching Starcade lets us tap into someone else tapping into that.
Listening to a conversation about Star Wars without participating in the conversation let me tap into how others tap into that.
It’s the type of story that can write itself. It’s the one we want to write ourselves into. It’s the only one we want to play.
We want to participate in the hero’s story. No matter how we get there.
You’ll root for someone to succeed at Starcade, you can’t help yourself. Because you want it to be you.
I’m Josh Spilker and I wrote a book about God, tacos, empty malls, food trucks and mini-golf called Taco Jehovah. You can get it here.