Illustration by Christoph Niemann

The two most highly anticipated online games in history are just months away. And after getting a sneak preview of The Sims Online and Star Wars Galaxies, it’s fair to say that both have a good chance of luring newbies into the online gaming arena-even at $10 a month.

Scheduled for November, The Sims Online is a wired adaptation of the bestselling computer game of all time (more than 6.3 million copies sold). It’s like Tamagotchi on steroids, a contest in which

players create virtual characters and guide them through love interests, careers, and adventures in home decorating. The key advance of online play, of course, is that while Sim-folk in the PC game are computer-generated, every virtual Tom, Dick, and Harriet in The Sims Online will be a creation of a real person (perhaps cast in the mold of said person), each with his or her own hopes, dreams, and idiosyncrasies. When there’s a voice balloon to be filled,

a player will have to supply the words; Simlish, the odd, not-quite-coherent banter of Sims characters in the PC game, is going away (a crying shame, if you ask us, though a unique online language will no doubt appear in its place).

A month after this great virtual social experiment is launched, Lucasfilm and Sony Online Entertainment will open the doors to a world set long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. A key challenge: making sure all the Star Wars minutiae we’ve soaked up in our movie seats is recreated with anal-retentive care. From the previews we’ve seen, Galaxies won’t disappoint in any way. The cantina, the towns of Tatooine, the banthas and wookies and droids are all lovingly crafted. You’ll be able to become anything from a bounty hunter to a baker, but not, sorry to inform you, Princess Leia or Han Solo (though you’ll get to interact with them if you play your keyboard right).

When a game arrives that lets you immerse yourself in great modern mythology-well, that’s entertainment. As Yoda would instruct, play it you will.

-Steve Morgenstern