5 Ways 'Star Wars' Influenced Video Games

"Video games, I am your father." 'Episode IV' created an influential paradigm for games that's still at work today

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Attack its thermal exhaust port for massive damage
'Gradius V' from Konami features multiple end-of-level boss fights Konami4/5

Attack its thermal exhaust port for massive damage

One vitally important thing that Star Wars gave to games was the idea of a weak spot that would allow players to beat an otherwise invulnerable enemy. The sci-fi film franchise didn’t create the notion of an Achilles heel – that dates back to the 1st century poet Statius. But the way Star Wars used the trope as a climactic moment in a thrilling action sequence was what set it apart. The thermal exhaust port that allowed Luke Skywalker to blow up the Death Star at the end of Episode IV – and provided the impetus for the entire plot of the recent film Rogue One – influenced many games and set a template for a final boss fight that was a staple of Eighties arcade and console titles, enduring to this day.

When a Gradius game invites you to “shoot the core,” the homage to Star Wars is obvious. But the film’s influence can also be felt in everything from the glowing red orbs in the Contra games, Mother Brain’s exposed eyeball in Metroid, and King Hippo’s vulnerable navel in Punch-Out!! Star Wars games have even pilfered the trope, and used it in ways the films never did – in the 1982 The Empire Strikes Back game for the Atari 2600, players can take down an AT-AT walker by shooting it 48 times, or by shooting it once in a tiny little flashing weak spot that appears at random.

Nerdy side note: That Parker Brothers The Empire Strikes Back game inspired one of the most infamous and intemperate critical slams in history. It seems that Star Wars and video games both tended to elicit furious responses from critics who are completely nonplussed by the level of reverence they inspire, and who despair at what their success means for the future of mankind. There’s no better example of this than that provided by esteemed science fiction writer Harlan Ellison. He wrote film reviews on the side, and proclaimed that Episode IV was “adolescent nonsense” with “all the smarts of a Matzoh ball.” Given the chance to play The Empire Strikes Back game, he was even more dismissive. He declared it to be a “shamelessly exploitative little toy,” and a “virulent electronic botulism,” which was made for an audience of “urchins incapable of reading a book, parsing a sentence, or thinking an original thought.” Clearly not a fan.

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