Monday, August 10, 2009

Oh, the humanity!

I've heard other people talk about the human-centric nature of the Star Wars galaxy before. Some seem to dislike it, most seem to accept it. I fall into the latter camp. I imagine there are a couple explanations as to why the main characters in the movie were all human. First of all, special effects at the time the first movies came out just weren't up to the challenge of creating a LOT of different races in a 'realistic' manner. A quick cut to one here and there was fine, but just looking at the scene in the cantina will very quickly point out that most aliens just couldn't stand more than a second or two of scrutiny. Chewie was the exception to this. He never felt fake to me. Yoda? Well.. he was a very well DONE muppet, but he was still a muppet. And the Ewoks? Well, Wickett was believable enough, but you could see the zippers and seams in some of the others.

But limits in costuming/special effects technology was likely not the main reason for the main characters being human. Simply put—people can relate to other people a lot better than they can to something that isn't human. At least, that's my belief. By having humans as the main characters, you can project yourself into their place and understand the things they're going through—and Imagine what it would be like if you had to. I feel that a lot of that would be lost if, say, Han Solo had been a lizard-guy (it's always some kind of big lizard!). 

Strangely enough, in my own campaign this turned out to be true as well. Without any guidance from me, almost all of my players chose to play human (or at the very least near-human) characters. Ruukhan the wookiee was the exception to this, but after a while, his player DID switch to a human character (Horatio). In the case of Bob the Tusken, I sat down with him prior to the game and we both worked out essentially what Tusken's were—humans (or near-humans) who wore elaborate desert garb. That's it. No tusks or scales or anything else. Just humans who evolved to live in the harsh desert of Tatooine. 

Now, I'm not sure if this human-centric thing was because of the way I ran my game or not. Maybe I was secretly prejudiced against aliens, but I don't think so. I tried to keep things interesting for ALL my characters. What it seemed like to me is that folks enjoyed playing them for a while, but maybe couldn't relate as strongly to them as they did to human characters? I don't know. Just my best guess. Todd, if you're reading, I'd be curious to know.

In any case, it is this relatability factor that keeps humanity on the top of my list of favorite Star Wars races. That's not to say I don't enjoy playing lots of Alien NPCs—they make for great contrast and add a lot of character to the game—but they don't quite hit home as directly a plain, boring humans.

Oh, and p.s. — one of my biggest pet peeves in Star Wars gaming (and I really only ran into this online) was the tendency for 'twinks' to choose races based solely upon stats and special abilities, and no real desire to play as an alien. I can't tell you how many goobers wanted to play a Barabel or Defel or Noghri or Esoomian or Togorian or even Gamorrean simply because they thought it would be a 'super character'. But like I said, thankfully, that never happened in my tabletop game.

1 comment:

  1. No, I think you're right, Rolo. Human characters are easy to relate to, and it's really a LOT of work to learn to play an alien 'correctly'. By correctly I mean not playing the alien as a human with different looks, but actually delving into the alien's culture, mindset, mannerisms, tendencies, etc. If that info is even available, which in most cases it's only very briefly sketched out and their whole culture is reduced to a paragraph. If it's not, then it's even more work to make up believable things.

    If you look at other franchises, you'll see that the same thing happens. Star Trek (all of them) were very humanocentric. Farscape was, Babylon 5 (to a somewhat lesser extent) was, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, V, etc. In fact, there are almost NO Sci Fi shows that have aliens as the central protagonists. Aliens are normally relegated to the role of the 'bad guys' or as token secondary characters. Budget and special effect quality likely has a lot to do with this, but overall people relate to other humans much more easily than they relate to aliens... even hot ones. :)