I can’t remember a time in my life before Star Wars. The movies and related content shaped my identity and fostered my creativity. My first crushes were Han Solo, Luke, and Anakin Skywalker; meanwhile, Princess Leia ignited a years-long queer awakening. I watched the movies over and over, read the Expanded Universe (now called Legends) novels, and played the Lego games until my PS2 was barely functioning. I scrolled boards.theforce.net for hours, where I discovered the magical world of fanfiction. From childhood to my late teens, Star Wars and the fandom were the twin suns around which my world revolved.

As I got older, my love for the series began to fade. Not because I felt embarrassed about loving Star Wars or because I felt I’d outgrown it. Rather, it was the fandom that had begun to poison things for me. When The Force Awakens was announced, there was no shortage of awful comments and hate occurring online. When continuing a series as beloved as Star Wars, it was inevitable that not everyone would like the new content. But these “fans” weren’t expressing personal dislike or valid criticism of the new movies. They were sharing vile racist and misogynistic comments, harassing actors including Kelly Marie Tran until they left social media altogether.

It wasn’t all Star Wars fans behaving like this. Not even the majority. But the “fans” who behaved this way were loud and persistent. I felt unable to keep filtering out the terrible things while focusing on the good. And eventually, I stopped trying. The fun was gone. Thinking about Star Wars no longer made me feel joy, and no longer made me want to create stories of my own set in the wider universe. I began to feel that if I didn’t know every single detail about the world of Star Wars, online gatekeepers would call me a fake fan. And as someone already struggling to figure out who I was and how to be confident in that as I went from teenager to young adult, any sort of criticism, even from anonymous people online, would have been devastating to my fragile ego.

So I stopped engaging with Star Wars content almost entirely. I still saw The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker, Rogue One, and Solo in theaters, but that was the extent of it. I stopped reading the novels and fanfiction, I didn’t rewatch the older movies. And that was that for years. I had fond memories of Star Wars, I still considered myself a Star Wars fan in that I liked the franchise, but my passion was dormant, overtaken by a variety of other fandoms. I reluctantly accepted that my avid fan days were behind me.

And then, after multiple delays, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga dropped. I was so out of the loop with Star Wars I hadn’t even known the game had gotten an official launch date. I was alerted to the fact when my cousin sent a message to our group chat talking about how they’d brought back the Beach troopers (from Lego Star Wars II and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga), as an Easter egg in The Skywalker Saga. I thought, one, “that’s hilarious,” and two, ”hey I loved the original Lego Star Wars games, so why not check it out?” Plus, I’d finally be giving my PS4 a job beyond serving as a way to watch various streaming services.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to expect; it had been years since I’d played a Lego game, and I was very behind the times. While it did take me a bit to figure out how the newer aspects of the game worked, The Skywalker Saga hooked me from the very first level.

With all nine of the main series movies included, as well as tons of side quests and missions, there’s so much to explore. It’s a delight to play, with upgraded and improved mechanics from the old games as well as several new features. And when you’re not playing a level, the game doesn’t force you to follow a strict order or force you to immediately move to the next step in the plot. If you want to fly all over the galaxy chasing down mouse droids for a mission, you can do that. If you want to move directly onto the next level, you can do that too. The Skywalker Saga allows you to create your own story.

I spend a good amount of time between levels running around hunting for Kyber bricks and completing side missions to unlock characters. Consequently, despite putting quite a few hours into The Skywalker Saga, I have yet to beat all nine movies. Is it because I’m easily distracted, or am I savoring the experience of the game? Honestly, it’s a bit of both.

The game isn’t afraid to be silly sometimes, which adds to the fun of playing. One particular moment that stands out to me is a side mission that ends with bounty hunter Aurra Sing bouncing on a trampoline. As others have written, this game reminded me that Star Wars can be fun. There are serious moments, dramatic moments, heartbreaking moments, and funny moments; but through it all, an enjoyable story is being told.

The Skywalker Saga has been pivotal in helping me remember why I loved Star Wars so much. Exploration and the variety of storytelling is something I’ve always loved about Star Wars: there’s an entire galaxy of stories to learn about. And in the time I’ve been away from the fandom, many of those stories have been turned into animated shows, books, and comics. Thanks to this game, I can’t wait to dive back into them.