This is the second installment in a short series about my trip to Star Wars Celebration. You can find Episode I here.
EPISODE II – A GALAXY OF GAMES
My second day at Star Wars Celebration began with a quick breakfast at the hotel and then a shuttle ride over to the convention center. I took the first open seat I saw and ended up sitting next to John, who was wearing a great Old Man Luke Skywalker costume. He showed me his phone which was in the process of blowing up with notifications from Twitter. He had gone to the convention the previous day in a Force Ghost Luke costume, imagining what the last Jedi might look like if he appeared from the great beyond in the next movie. The pictures of him had gone viral, even getting the attention of Mark Hamill himself!
John admitted that he hadn’t been on Twitter before the convention and now he was blown away by how many people were talking about his costume. “It’s pretty simple – just blue tulle fabric over the Luke costume I already had.” He and I chatted about the cosplay community at the convention until we got to McCormick Place, when he gave me his trading card!
Leaving Old Man Luke to meditate on Ach-To, I made my way over to the Fantasy Flight panel to hear about the latest Star Wars board games – the perfect combination of my two nerdiest interests. There I met up with Joe and our friends Bob and John, who were dressed as, well, A**holes. That is to say, as soldiers from the Mel Brooks parody of Star Wars, SPACEBALLS, most of whom belong to the A**hole family.
Also with us at the panel was our friend Anakin (yes, that is the real name of a real person). Together we heard about expansions for Fantasy Flight’s miniature war game (tiny battle droids!), exciting new components for existing games (a scale model of a Super Star Destroyer!!), and a brand new board game that lets up play as smugglers and bounty hunters on the Outer Rim (scum and villainy!!!). In fact, four of us got a chance to start playing the Outer Rim game in a room Fantasy Flight had set up to demo several of its Star Wars offerings. I was winning from the start because I was playing as Lando Calrissian.
Unfortunately, I could not play long enough to see Lando retire on a fat stack of ill-gotten credits because it was time for the next game panel – this time a game of the video variety! Joe and I met up with Jonathan of the Minute Impossible podcast and Eric of the Watchmen Minute podcast along with Eric’s friend Charlie. The five of us piled into the main arena of the convention center to see the reveal of the newest Star Wars video game: “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” It said a lot about the video game industry when the announcements that this was a single player game with no microtransactions or in-game purchases were met with wild cheers from the fans. I used to spend hours playing as Kyle Katarn in the Dark Forces games, saving the Old Republic as a Jedi, or blowing up whole fleets of TIE Fighters in the X-Wing games. This new game looks fun, though I admit to being mildly disappointed that the main character was a Human. There’s a whole galaxy full of aliens out there! In Jedi Academy I could play as a Rodian or a Kel Dor, and that game came out sixteen years ago. But with the expense involved in making a game with the high level of spit and polish expected from top developers, I suppose creating multiple character models with differing alien anatomies would mean the game would never get finished. As I said, I only feel a mild disappointment about it because the game still looks cool:
After showing the trailer, the developers wowed the crowd by bringing out on stage two Purge Troopers, real-life versions of the black armored enemies that will be hounding the Jedi apprentice hero of the game. I started to feel sorry for the actors who were forced to wear that heavy armor under the hot lights of the arena stage. I wonder how much you get paid to dress like a stormtrooper and look menacing.
Before we left the arena, the developers distributed coupons redeemable for a promo poster for the game and a couple other pieces of swag. This led to a horrible error on my part. I decided it would be worth it to pick all that up because, hey, free stuff. Joe and Jonathan decided to come with me on what we thought would be a simple pick-up. What resulted was a line that lasted for approximately 500 years. We were directed to the hotel next door to the conference center where the redemption center had been set up in one of the ballrooms. We squeezed into the hotel along with 1,000 of our closest friends. We were then directed to line up in a hallway before we were allowed to proceed upstairs, where we proceeded to get into another line. After that then we were finally allowed into the ballroom, which was filled with the kind of switchback queue you expect to see for a line at Disney World except here it was a line for a row of folding tables laden with t-shirts, posters, and pins. Fortunately, the three of us were able to chat amicably to fill the time as we crawled our way back and forth across the industrial carpeting. Though we eventually claimed our free packs of stuff, the experience left us scarred. Jonathan would joke at several points through the rest of the day that he felt exposed and needed a line. He would ask for someone to stand in front and behind him so he could be in his “line safe space.”
Free from our line purgatory, we returned to the main convention floor where we met up with Pete and Alex of Star Wars Minute. They had spent most of their time at the convention at the Collector’s Stage hearing about toys and collectibles of the Star Wars galaxy. We chatted for a while, pulling in other Star Wars Minute fans, including someone who walked past us in a Snagletooth Twins t-shirt Alex designed and only noticed us after Joe yelled out “SEBULBA!!!” I couldn’t have been happier. These are the deep cut references I live for.
While we were standing there talking, a man stopped to ask me if I was a priest.
“Yes!” I replied.
“Like, a real priest?” he asked.
Laughing, I said, “Yes!” Perhaps my Greatest Priest in the Galaxy t-shirt wasn’t enough of a clue (a gift from one of the music ministers at my last parish – thanks, Jean). He shared with me that he was Catholic and we chatted a bit before he took a picture with me and then melted back into the crowd. Though brief, the interaction was exactly what I had hoped would happen while I was at Celebration. I was especially glad to talk to him since it seemed like he was otherwise on his own at the convention. I hope I was able to provide a small sense of community and solidarity for my brother in Christ.
In the course of the conversation, I mentioned to Pete and Alex that I was bummed that I wasn’t going to be able to come to the live recording they were having on Sunday as I hadn’t gotten a ticket for a third day at the convention. But then, a Star Wars miracle: Alex produced an extra ticket he and Pete had been holding on to! I was stunned by the sheer luck of it all and profuse in my gratitude. When your friends are in town, you want to make sure to see as much of them as possible, so I was glad to have the opportunity to see Pete and Alex the next day. The fact that I was also going to be able to spend another day in the Star Wars universe was a much welcome bonus.
Our impromptu gathering broke up. Joe and I met up again with Anakin (again, yes, a real person), Eric, and Charlie along with new friend Jesses. We first headed to a Star Wars trivia competition but then discovered two hundred other people had done the same thing and we stood little chance of winning fabulous prizes. After some deliberation, we decided to set up a drinks-and-dinner meet up for fans of the Star Wars Minute podcast, hoping to catch some folks we hadn’t had a chance to meet yet. We swung through the main exhibit hall before we left at which point I spent far too much time thinking about buying a replica of Count Dooku’s lightsaber which would have looked killer on my desk. My good sense won out over my nerdiness and I left for the day without an expensive but really cool paperweight.
On my way out I had three more people ask me “Are you a real priest?” and took another picture with someone. Though I gave my name to all those folks, I know that I’ll be “the priest I met at Celebration” for most of them, one unique event among the many experiences they had at a Star Wars convention. Yet it will be a unique experience with someone explicitly witnessing to Jesus. So even if those pictures languish in their phones until they’re deleted in an effort to create more space, I hope even that brief interaction will help build up the awareness of the presence of God at all times and in all things, even in some way at a Star Wars Celebration.
Our group shivered as we waited for the L train which took us to a pub where two Star Wars Minute fans were already waiting for us: Jennifer (who works with real space ships!!!) and her son Remi (who proved he was cool by being able to quote WAYNE'S WORLD). We were also joined by Jimmy (who had to leave before I took the picture below) and by Tom, tallest Star Wars fan and a host of the Indiana Jones Minute podcast.
We laughed, we quoted Star Wars, we talked about our reactions to the new trailer, and a good time was had by all. We broke up at a late-for-a-priest hour and I walked back to the hotel, slowly feeling the excitement of the day drain away until I arrived back in my room totally exhausted a ready for bed. Hilariously, at about that same time, the hosts of Star Wars Minute, Pete and Alex, showed up at the bar having seen the details of the get-together on Facebook. We were long gone by then, which was a shame! A hangout with them would have to wait until the next day, my last at Star Wars Celebration.
But that is a story for another time….