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TIE Fighter: A Post 9/11 Parable
January 31, 2013 1:49 PM   Subscribe

TIE Fighter: A Post 9/11 Parable
posted by Drinky Die (36 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Unlike in X-Wing, the game design teaches you to only engage with opponents you have an advantage over.
?

This is a fundamental principle of combat for uh... everyone. If the insurgencies/rebels currently in combat with US forces could win by engaging in a straight conventional conflict, they would. As it is, they choose guerrilla tactics because those give them the advantage.
posted by kavasa at 2:07 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]



I got a very different message from the game.
posted by kzin602 at 2:15 PM on January 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


TIE Fighter is a brilliant game, possibly the best Star Wars game. My undeveloped teenage brain didn't really capture all this nuance from playing the game, though. Mostly I just thought it was kind of cool to be evil.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:20 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see how Tie Fighter could not be the best Star Wars game, it was phenomenal.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:24 PM on January 31, 2013


Yes, Aizkolari, give in to your hatred.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:25 PM on January 31, 2013


I'm torn between agreeing with a lot of what the writer says but also being a little bemused because it's not buried very deeply between the lines.

I mean, you have to assume, then, that L. B. Jeffries would really have parts of his mind blown if he spent a weekend or two playing Civilization.
posted by COBRA! at 2:26 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


To learn more about clumsy Bush symbolism, visit your local Battlestar Galactica re-run!
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:26 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thanks for that link kzin602, the last I heard all the pictures were lost to Waffleimages demise.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:28 PM on January 31, 2013


Jesus, this is a tenuous and turgid analogy. I think it was written by an interrogation droid trying out new torture strategies. On us.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:30 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Careful reading of the mission briefings toward the end of the games reveals:

"Lord vader will be your wingman on this mission. Note that he does not always appreciate being given commands."
posted by poe at 2:30 PM on January 31, 2013


TIE Fighter was my favorite space light sim. Well, okay maybe tied with Wing Commander: Privateer as my favorite. A couple years ago, I tried playing TIE Fighter again. As someone who tends to play FPSs these days, I'd taken for granted how complicated TIE Fighter was. Naturally, I did pretty poorly.

I'd always wished it had multiplayer.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 2:33 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


This guy should play Red Faction Guerrilla. You play a terrorist "freedom-fighter" trying to liberate Mars and the goal of the game is to blow up buildings and other structures in as spectacular and complete a fashion as possible. (It's enormously fun.) Given that the game came out in 2009, just as U.S. involvement in Iraq was beginning to wind down, I've always thought the decision to put out a game that celebrates terrorists and their commonly used tactics was a pretty brave move on the part of the developers and publisher.
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:33 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Everything is a parable for the post 9/11 world, even 90s franchise games.
posted by lineofsight at 2:34 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got a very different message from the game.

When I came to the picture of the character selection screen in that link, I heard the voice so clearly in my head. "Enter your name, pilot!"
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 2:35 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Umm... huh?

The fundamental principle of classic-era Star Wars fleet design can be stated as follows: the Empire has awesome capital ships--and a lot of them--but crappy fighters. The Rebels have awesome fighters but relatively crappy capital ships--and not that many of them.

Turns out churning out large capital ships is expensive, but economies of scale--which the Empire has in spades--do apply. So they aim for enormous cap ships with hordes of what are viewed as almost expendable fighters. The Rebels, on the other hand, generally can't afford to maintain the kinds of large-scale shipyards required to build a huge capital fleet, but they make up for this a bit by spending more on their fighters. Why the Empire couldn't just spend a few extra bucks--they can obviously afford it--to make slightly smaller squadrons of shielded fighters is hand-waved away with "low value on human life" explanation, but whatever.

And the whole "kamikaze" bit is flat out backwards. Rebels almost never fly their ships into other ships when they can help it. The Empire will win a war of attrition, and the Rebels value their ships and pilots too highly. The Empire, on the other hand, doesn't bat an eye at losing entire squadrons of TIEs. True, most of them don't actually fly into opposing ships, but the Imperials use TIE fighters the way the Rebels use chaff.

So yeah, I can see that there's some not-very-subtle connections between the Empire and 21st-century America. There are supposed to be, dammit. Lucas is anything but subtle most of the time. But game mechanics and analysis of fleet engagement doctrines is not one of those ways. The US tends to have better and more of just about any military asset you could name, whether more numerous and better trained/equipped troops, more numerous and more powerful ships/planes, or just more money to throw around to achieve soft targets. But in-universe, Rebel pilots and fighters are significantly superior to, if outnumbered by, their Imperial counterparts.
posted by valkyryn at 2:37 PM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


TIE Fighter was a truly great game, probably the best Star Wars game, and it deserves even more attention than it got, but I can't get past this article's mischaracterization of the experience of flying the early TIE Fighters and Interceptors. They don't sacrifice shields for speed at all, instead they're barely as fast as most of the Rebel ships (much slower than the A-Wing even) and dogfights in them are terrifying. Unless you played on the easiest setting, most of the early game was spent desperately dodging enemy fire, staying way away from the turrets on big ships, and praying that debris from a rare successful kill didn't fly back and instantly kill you. On the hardest setting, the best way to finish the first mission (IIRC) safely was to hide your TIE fighter underneath a nearby friendly station. Don't even get me started on fighting those escort shuttles with the turbolaser turret in the back: so much instant death.

The overwhelming message wasn't that the Empire was powerful, it was that you were totally expendable and the Empire didn't care what happened to you in the slightest. I imagined it like some survival of the fittest nightmare where you proved you were worthy of flying the real ships by being lucky (or skilled) enough to survive the grinder. My childhood in gaming, folks.

(This is all more or less in line with what valkyryn said above about classic Star Wars fleet design.)
posted by amc.concepts at 2:43 PM on January 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


You are not allowed to mention Red Faction Guerrilla without adding a reference to this video (sound nsfw but for christ's sake it's a video, what are you doing watching videos with sound at work?)
posted by aspo at 2:43 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I loved TIE Fighter. I actually liked X-Wing too. Does either or both exist in emulation anywhere? On a console? Anything similar in the Lucas gaming universe?
posted by nevercalm at 2:51 PM on January 31, 2013


The kamikaze bit is supported by a terrible example. The A-Wing that hits the bridge of the Executor was damaged. It was going to crash somewhere, the question was where. It wasn't a planned strategy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:05 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The point about kamikaze bit is supported by a terrible example. The A-Wing that hits the bridge of the Executor was damaged. It was going to crash somewhere, the question was where. It wasn't a planned strategy.

Nobody ever specified how all those Bothans died. Maybe it was in a suicide bomb flash mob or something.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:07 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


In conclusion, Tie Fighter is a game of contrasts... as long as you have a 256-color VGA card, otherwise it's too much contrast especially with a 720x350 monochrome Hercules card.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:37 PM on January 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


I specifically remember this thought running through my head at one point, after completing several of the secret missions:

"Whoa, this game is kind of fucked up...cool"

I also enjoyed doing evil things in Fallout.

I am a terrible person.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:46 PM on January 31, 2013


Lucas DID make the Bush parallels really clumsy in the prequels, and anyone complaining about Ewoks defeating the Empire is a myopic nerd who hasn't looked up from Wookiepedia long enough to google 'Vietnam War'.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:15 PM on January 31, 2013


Further meditations on insurgency in Red Faction: Guerrilla
posted by figurant at 4:31 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll still complain about the Ewoks.

If the movies were more like the Vietnam War, then you'd have the Rebels fighting and losing a long string of engagements. Then the Death Star shows up and the Rebels manage to blow everything they have in an all-out assault on it. Their assault will fail but the Empire will be quite shocked the Rebels had the capability to launch a battle of this magnitude. The Ewoks, when the Empire shows up on Endor, will get a few licks in and draw blood and, again, the Empire will be surprised at how resilient the resistance is before they then wipe out most of the Ewok population.

Finally, the Empire will decide to give up after winning every single battle because they don't have the will to fight any more. They'll let the Rebels have some territory and, 40+ years later, they'll reopen trade and talk about being friends again.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:50 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


the Empire will be surprised at how resilient the resistance is before they then wipe out most of the Ewok population.

The Empire doesn't need to wipe out the Ewoks. Due to the destruction of the second Death Star, the Ewok population, not to mention the rest of the planet of Endor, will not fare well.
posted by chambers at 6:40 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


...not to mention the rest of the planet of Endor...

*cough*forestmoon*couch*
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:54 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Having said that, chambers, that link is awesome.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:55 PM on January 31, 2013


The Empire doesn't need to wipe out the Ewoks.

Of course they will need to wipe out the Ewoks if the movies had been going for a direct parallel with the Vietnam War. Historians will later call it "Kissinger's Secret Bombing of Endor".

The second Death Star would not have been destroyed, just like the Rebel's "Tet Offensive" failed to destroy the first one. To be like Vietnam, the Rebels need to be audacious and ambitious but, militarily speaking, they'll need to lose against the Empire every time there's anything close to a pitched battle. The Rebels will win only once they've convinced Walter Cronkite to appear on the imperial holoscreens across the galaxy and say "We're losing." As Darth Lyndon and Darth Nixon would later say, "Once we've lost Cronkite, we've lost the war.
posted by honestcoyote at 7:05 PM on January 31, 2013


The Great Big Mulp: one or both of X-Wing vs Tie Fighter or X-Wing Alliances had multiplayer, and it wad awesome.
posted by Joe Chip at 7:51 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: Actually, one of the novels did. They were in 2 person Y-Wings and killed in battle.
posted by Canageek at 8:31 PM on January 31, 2013


I really loved Tie Fighter, but I played it on easy mode and it was a long time ago, so I don't remember much other than enjoying it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:21 PM on January 31, 2013


TIE Fighter seemed like like a sports car after X-Wing, especially when flying the TIEs from the basic up to the TIE Defender. It was one of the first computer games that I got to play with a friend, a shared experience, outside of a console game. It also came out at the height of my Star Wars geekdom...so yeah, it rocked my world. I found the Imperial perspective quite amusing, as I was really just an X-Wing player playing TIE Fighter, you know, in a kind of undercover agent type of thing...
posted by Atreides at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2013


Having said that, chambers, that link is awesome.

I'll be able say thanks once I get out of the self-imposed nerd penalty box for simultaneously linking a detailed sci-fi nerd vortex sceince article while making a bush-league gaff of calling Endor a planet. /facepalm

TIE Fighter was such a great game. I wish there was a game out there that would take the core of what made TIE fighter great, and mix it with the complexity/realism of ArmA with all of its multiplayer fun. Some might suggest EVE Online has some of that, but IMHO, that is perhaps the exact opposite of what I'm thinking of.
posted by chambers at 8:46 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


suicide bomb flash mob

Well, there's a Tom Clancy/Cory Doctorow co-authored sci-fi novel right there.
posted by chambers at 8:50 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think one of my favorite things about TIE Fighter is the extent to which you can feel as though your character is rising through the ranks. Starting you out flying TIE Fighters, with early missions involving a fair amount of inspecting crates and shuttles, you really feel like worthless canon fodder. There's an excitement that comes with the first time you get to fly a Bomber because here's a ship that can take more than two or three hits before blowing up. And once they start giving you heavier, well shielded crafts, like the GUNboat, you've been through so much with fragile little ships that you feel like a god.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 3:30 PM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


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