Science Fiction Film & Television

Making and remaking the Galaxy Far, Far Away

Transmedia worldbuilding and Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game

Science Fiction Film & Television (2021), 14, (2), 145–168.

Abstract

This article examines West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, first published in 1987, and its foundational role in the worldbuilding process of the Star Wars franchise (1977-). In producing the game, West End Games contributed significantly to defining and organizing the storyworld, refining and expanding the scope of Star Wars by integrating some earlier transmedial extensions while excluding others. Coming at an early point in the franchise’s history, before Lucasfilm exerted as much control over its licensees, The Roleplaying Game offers an opportunity to examine the role that licensed game designers can play as architects and gatekeepers of transmedia worldbuilding, codifying what is and is not remembered within the storyworld. The Roleplaying Game has often been reduced to a footnote in both the popular and academic history of Star Wars transmedia, but beyond adapting the Galaxy Far, Far Away to a setting for imaginative tabletop roleplaying, The Roleplaying Game is also a foundational document for the last three decades of the Star Wars franchise, serving as the early ‘story bible’ for the Expanded Universe, the intercon­nected network of Star Wars paratexts codified by the licensing department of Lucasfilm during the 1990s. The hundreds of Star Wars novels, comics, games and other transmedia productions that came with the franchise’s dramatic rebirth in the 1990s bear the stamp of the worldbuilding labour of West End Games.

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Bestor, Nick