The Battle of Yavin

A dream fulfilled in a video arcade

It was our middle son’s birthday. To celebrate, Shawn asked if he and his best friend Cody could go to a local arcade, eat pizza, play games, and have a good time. My wife and I readily agreed — it was an easy birthday wish to accommodate.

It was a lovely autumn Saturday when we picked up our son’s best friend. Our youngest son Kyle was there, too, but Shawn was in such a good mood for his birthday, he did not object to his little brother tagging along.

In the backseat of our SUV the boys talked animatedly about video games and famous YouTube stars. I quizzed my wife on what the day’s events would hold. She had always been the keeper of the schedules in our family.

“We will go bowling first, then we can buy tokens and let the boys play whatever video games they choose. The pizza will be served about an hour and a half after we arrive.”

I nodded, following along, visualizing each step and firmly placing it in my memory. If she had told me these details a week ago I never would have remembered. Now that the event was imminent, I had the schedule down solid.

The conversation in the back seat turned to Minecraft, discussions about updates, red stone, and dragon-slaying techniques. My wife was more conversant in Minecraft that I was. She had started playing when our middle son was younger so that she would understand the game when he asked questions. I expected her to join in the conversation, but she seemed content to leave the boys to their own world.

The boys fell out of the car and stormed the arcade as soon as the engine turned off in the parking lot. My wife and I caught up with them in time to pay for the bowling shoes and the lane.

“The sport of bowling was first played by the ancient Egyptians,” Kyle announced as they changed their shoes. He could always be counted on to offer relevant trivia. Fortunately, Shawn did not tease him about it and Cody looked interested until Shawn started the game with a tremendous gutter ball. From then on, it was the thump and smack of balls hitting the wood of the lane and pins hitting each other as they fell.

My wife opted to not play, to save money, and cheered us on from the seats, occasionally looking at her watch. She had an amazing ability to engage in an ongoing mental calculation of how long the game was taking, and how much time would be available for arcade games before the pizza arrived.

At the end of bowling the boys scored so close to each other, there was really no room for gloating. I had scored higher, but they discounted me as competition because I was an adult.

The arcade section was behind the bowling alley, and as my wife bought tokens for everyone (except herself — to save money), the boys and I explored the available games. It had been many years since I played at an arcade and I was amazed. These were not the video arcade games of my youth, where you stood in front of a small television screen and handled a joystick. These were much more immersive. You sat inside a kind of cabin, in front of a huge screen with multiple controllers for movement and firing at targets.

Shawn and Cody crowed with delight at the “Jurassic Park” game and soon were ensconced playing out a scenario where they were rescuing civilians from rampaging dinosaurs, both on the ground and in the air. Speed demon Kyle chose a race car game, and was soon blasting a Lamborghini through the streets of cartoon London.

I left my wife watching Kyle race and I made my way to the back of the arcade. There was a Star Wars game there. It was a fully-enclosed pod, with room for only one player. Unlike the other games, the screen in this one wrapped around so that a player would get peripheral vision views, as well as video in front of them. There was a throttle for controlling velocity, and a joy stick for firing at targets. With the door closed, the sound of music and battle sounds all around me, it was amazing.

I came very close to defending the rebel base in the snow planet Hoth; however instead I chose to fly a speeder bike on the forest moon of Endor, chasing down storm troopers and assisting the rebel forces in bringing down the force field that protected the as-yet unfinished new Death Star space station.

I chased after stormtroopers on speeder bikes, flying under and over giant redwoods, firing and missing, firing and hitting my target while the sound and visual surrounded me. It was exhilarating.

When it was over, I found my wife still watching our youngest race. Shawn and Cody had moved on to a zombie-themed game.

“You need to play this game,” I said.

“What game?”

“It’s a Star Wars game,” I answered with a smile.

My wife and I had met at a movie theater in high school at a showing of“The Return of the Jedi.” Star Wars always had a special place in our hearts, and still did if her responding grin was any evidence.

I gave her some of my tokens and she climbed into the pod. She sat for a long time, getting her bearings on where everything was, reading the instructions and the rules. I opened the door to the pod.

“How are you doing?”

“Good. I think I have figured it out, though the wrap-around screen is reflecting weirdly on my bifocals. I think I can ignore it.”

“Ok,” I said. “Have fun!”

She chose the Battle of Yavin, the final battle scene from the original Star Wars movie, where Luke flies his x-wing fighter and fires into a thermal exhaust port, thereby destroying the Death Star.

I couldn’t see very well through the pod door, which was a smoke-colored clear plastic, but it appeared that as an x-wing fighter pilot, she was a natural. She adroitly dodged enemy fire, neatly destroyed TIE fighters, and was soon racing at top speed into the trench that lead to the exhaust port. There was enemy fire everywhere, and space station outcroppings and TIE fighter debris to navigate around, all at top speed. It didn’t stop her. She approached the exhaust port, lined up the target and fired.

The shot went in, first time. She pulled up and away, towards the planet Yavin, and the Death Star exploded behind her. The game was over.

I expected her to bound out of the pod, glowing with excitement at her success and the fun of the game. But she sat there for a while. Long enough for our sons to wonder where we had gone and to come stand with me.

When she stepped out of the pod, my wife was crying.

Kyle looked frightened, and Cody and Shawn looked alarmed.

“Mom, are you ok?” Kyle said in a voice much younger than the one he had used to talk about Minecraft in the car.

She smiled through her tears and cupped his cheek in her hand.

“Yes, sweetie, I am fine.”

“What’s going on?” I said.

She took a deep breath.

“I was… it was just…” She tried again. “When I saw those movies as a kid, all I wanted to do from then on was fly an x-wing fighter. It was my dream to be a fighter pilot in space.” She looked back at the pod. “This is the closest I will ever come. This was like a dream come true.”

Kyle hugged her, and then I did too. Shawn was too cool with his friend around to join the hug, but he smiled with the rest of us.

There was enough time for each of the boys to fly an x-wing on a crucial mission for the rebel alliance before the pizza arrived. I didn’t let go of my wife’s hand until we sat at a table and Cody served me a slice of pepperoni with cheese.

Image from Pixabay

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Making the leap from non-fiction to fiction… Geronimo! Please visit to learn more about me and my works in progress