This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 5.2.
Unless you’ve been living on the edge of the frontier, there’s no doubt that you’re at least familiar with Star Marine. InterDimension Software’s red-hot ground combat simulation game has been tearing up sim pods across the empire. Since its release, countless appearances have made James Romanov the go-to face of the ‘realism in gaming’ debate, while technical mastermind James Vandyke has been declared the ‘Next Gaming God’ by Hitbox magazine. While the release has had its fair share of detractors, with complaints ranging from ethical questions about whether it’s appropriate to let players assume the role of outlaws in the Walzer Massacre to a recent spate of illegal hacks, the game has still managed to garner an impressively loyal community who’ve embraced Star Marine, flaws and all.
The group as a whole is hard to strictly quantify: there is no stereotypical Star Marine fan. Players, who refer to themselves as “Starheads,” range from UEE veterans lured by the incredible attention to detail to successful politicians and even to the Empire’s elite — businessman Silas Koerner keeps a sim pod in his office for regular Star Marine breaks. It seems that fans of all ages, genders, and species have found something that speaks to them in the historically-grounded battles and shoot-outs the game portrays.
The heart of Star Marine community discussion takes place at a dedicated spectrum hub known as MARINE ONE. The core of the hub is a news and broadcast arena which collates every conceivable piece of Star Marine news for the waiting public. From plans for future updates to previews of new game assets in the process of creation and even outright gossip about the game’s developers, MARINE ONE has become the one-stop spectrum spot for all things Star Marine. Hundreds of thousands of Star Marine players can also be found casting their gameplay at any given time, with the most popular being traded around the Empire. Big name streamers like GoodTimeDuke and MARSHMALLOW run casts that have become appointment viewing, attracting sponsors and dedicated fanatics of their own.
Then, there’s the Forge. Managed by a team of die-hard ultrafans, this Marine One forum is a wild, ever-expanding gyre of discussion, speculation, argument, incomprehensible in-jokes, and more. Generally good-natured despite the kilometer-a-minute movement of the conversations, the group is known to fixate on the smallest aspects of the Star Marine experience in a big way. From generating lengthy backstories for each of the game’s corpses to forming what can only be described as an unlikely cult around a cola dispenser prop created for the game, the one word that best summarizes the group is passionate.
Art is also popular form of expression. Star Marine fans have turned their talents to everything from traditional pen-and-ink sketches (an ongoing comic titled Jaeger is the best known) to the creation of mods or minigames that celebrate the smallest details of the Star Marine world. Countless talented artists carefully pose in-game ‘feel shots’ to create their own, increasingly elaborate scenes. In some cases, dozens of players might work together for hours posing not only their characters in particular positions but also rearranging set pieces, props, and lights to improve a composition.