Are the Jedi genocidal? Does "Dark Side" always necessarily mean "evil"? Star Wars: The Old Republic might be trying to shake up the foundations of George Lucas' galaxy far, far away.
We've learned quite a bit about BioWare's highly-anticipated upcoming Star Wars MMOG, but one thing the developer is tightly keeping under wraps is the game's story. However, there's an extremely interesting interview with SW:TOR's lead writer Daniel Erickson over at Ars Technica, where the man in charge of fleshing out the Old Republic universe discussed the traditional Lucas dogma of "Sith = bad, Jedi = good."
"The one thing you're never going to hear is 'make the bad guys less interesting,'" says Erickson, who greatly admires Grand Admiral Thrawn - Imperial mastermind and main antagonist of Timothy Zahn's Star Wars Expanded Universe novel trilogy. "Why are these people resisting order, and regulation. The galaxy was at war-it was a horrid place before. Is it really not enough to have order? You need everything? You're acting like children!"
But beyond getting in the mind of the Imperials, Erickson thinks that the Jedi Order had serious problems stemming from an overly repressive nature and was borderline genocidal because of it - and in doing so, used the example of early Sith lord Exar Kun. "If you give brash young people almost god-like powers and ask them to behave... you're asking for problems. You're dealing with someone in their early twenties, who has never been able to be thwarted by anything, and you tell them not to play with these Sith artifacts-of course they're going to think they can handle it."
"You're training children to deal with this power, and then demanding them to be incorruptible, and holding them to a standard that we don't even ask from any of our own societies. We looked at these issues and said, 'We could come up with an entire thematic run with this.'"
In fact, Erickson thinks the Sith could be morally in the right - from a certain point of view (as Obi-Wan Kenobi might say). "What the Jedi call the Dark Side, and what came to be known as the Dark Side, these people believed that life should be about emotion. They believed you should be unrestrained, that the galaxy wants us to love and lust and kill and make art and cry and dream..." And these more "hedonistic" believers in the Force? Why, they get chased out of the known regions of the galaxy and hunted down by the "noble" Jedi, of course! "In fact, in the lore, chased to the point where the Jedi believe they are dead. This is very close to genocide!"
Naturally, from the Jedi point of view there are some very good reasons to fear those treading the path of the Sith, but Erickson argues that a child who has been raised from birth won't understand that. That child won't see the universe in the terms of Dark Side and Light Side, they'll see it in terms of a very fight for survival. "You know there is an Emperor, and that he saved your people's very existence, and there is a society out there larger than you, who deemed your people and your religion not worthy to exist."
That's a very interesting tack that BioWare seems to be taking, and one that I hope they expand upon in the actual game itself. Good-guy Sith? It might not be so far from the truth after all.