PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Insignificance in 'Star Wars: Battlefront'

Make no mistake: you’re not the chosen one, and you’re not meant to bring balance to the Force.

A certain Sith once said: "The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” After spending some time with the Star Wars: Battlefront beta, I was feeling a bit like Admiral Motti. While I left with my trachea intact and able to breathe freely, the game was humbling. Battlefront makes you a very small and often insignificant part of a larger world.

The size of the maps alone suggests that you aren’t meant to be the center of attention. During the battle of Hoth, I remember sprinting out of the trenches and over the field for what seemed like hours, only to realize that there were only more fields and trenches in front of me. Elsewhere dozens of other players were fighting inside a base while several folks strafed the land with TIE fighters. The sky boxes, complete with huge imperial cruisers in orbit, reinforce just how tiny and insignificant you are. Your little victory on your little hill can feel epic, but it only matters in the aggregate.

Battlefront’s multiplayer focus reinforces this aesthetics of insecurity with its rules. Unlike a game like Destiny, there’s no personal lore attached to your participation in multiplayer combat. You’re a grunt sent to quash the Rebellion. You don’t have a name. In many instances, your helmet means you don’t have a face. There’s no real character development. Instead, you’re there to face an enemy that will likely kill you, and you’re there to do it for the sake of the greater mission.

Unless you actually know 20 people who all can play the game at the same time, you’ll likely fight alongside a bunch of unknown comrades. The game pairs you with a “buddy” with whom you can trade weapon load outs and spawn points, but there’s no apparent logic to the pairing. You’re an anonymous soldier paired up with a bunch of other anonymous soldiers that have been thrown together by happenstance. There’s no glorious hero’s journey behind your circumstances. You’re just there because that’s where you happened to land. This small collective of fellow players gives off the vibe of a draft army whose existence was birthed by math rather than a common cause.

Rest assured, you’ll be dying for that cause. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be dying a lot. The feeling of insignificance is magnified by just how quickly you get taken out. Han and Chewie never got sniped from a thousand yards away. Lando never took three lasers and then re-spawned directly into a thermal detonator. But, then again, you’re not any of these heroes. You’re just a trooper whose contribution will be unknown in the greater Star Wars universe. You’re fragile, and you’re up against things like AT-ATs, which don’t even flinch when you try to shoot them.

The nice thing is that once you get taken out, you can almost instantly jump back into the match. For as nice as this lack of cool down is, it also has the simultaneous effect of reinforcing your role as cannon fodder. Your character dies, and there’s no real time consequence, no moment of reflection, no meditating on what went right or wrong. There’s just an instant replacement for you to send headlong back into the battle should you so choose.

Deaths obviously matter on a tactical level, but they matter in the same way failing in Super Meat Boy does. They represent a split second of loss, and then with one press of a button, you’ve loaded back in. Screwing up once rarely costs you the entire match like it does in Rocket League, and it does nothing to your character overall. The match goes on because you can only have a limited impact as an individual.

You rarely feel weaker than when someone summons Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker to the battlefield. Their Jedi powers manifest as extremely strong attacks, heavy durability, and bafflingly fast movement. In terms of the game, they highlight your fragility as an individual. From a Star Wars universe perspective, I have a newfound sympathy for the people that aren’t Force-sensitive. They live in a world in which demi-gods walk the earth. Living legends are fighting a massive war that is massive in scale with unimaginable resource and ideological implications. You’re just a chump with an old blaster.

Of course In Star Wars: Battlefront the heroes and demi-gods are most likely 12 year olds and people with cheat engine, but the feeling remains. You’ll usually feel less like a Jedi Knight and more like a moisture farmer from the Outer Rim.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.