Remake, Remaster, Reboot – The difficulty of creative originality and the power of nostalgia

I always thought it was “out with the old and in with the new”, not the other way around.

The modern day 3 R's - Remake, Remaster and Reboot. Photo by Martyn Foster.

It has become quite noticeable to me over the past decade the amount of “recycled” material that has been bestowed upon our lives, most evidently in our entertainment industry. I say this, however, having enjoyed some of it, either because I missed it first time around or I appreciated the updated version. For example, the “Mafia” trilogy remaster released today and I never experience this acclaimed series of games first time around so I’ll probably pick it up at some point. Nevertheless, there is a more recent trend of “prettying up” old games for the latest console and selling them (again), and thus we reach the point of today’s post, the difficulty of creative originality and the power of nostalgia.

To create a new IP (intellectual property) is hard work and requires adept talent, plus you don’t (necessarily) have a bankable audience to comfort you and assure sales (build off a sure thing), so it is understandable why companies pump out the remakes, remasters and reboots. It is safer to do so, at least financially, and as long as money makes the world go around it is unlikely to change. Turning down a guaranteed audience and revenue for a chance at a new creative venture which may not resonate is a risk some are not willing to take. Who is running the show though? Is it the accountants or the creators?

Creative people want to create new material all the time, it allows for greater freedom and flexibility as well as satiates a need. The goal for every creator is to produce an original piece of work that is a success, but sadly we all can’t write “The Lord of the Rings”, can we? I’m not going to lie, some weeks it is more of a challenge to come up with two quality pieces of original writing and I’m certainly at the lower rungs of the writing hierarchy. It’s not always easy to know what will resonate with people and what won’t. Now take this to a broad scale, the next Hollywood blockbuster or AAA video game, you’re not only dealing with lots of people’s livelihoods, but millions of dollars as well. A lot is riding on creative decision making, with some choices making or breaking the creative endeavour.

Any time a remake or series reboot is undertaken, all I can hope for is that they pay homage correctly and do right by the long-time fans. The balance is difficult to obtain between doing right by what once was and garnering a new audience with an updated version that is more current or relevant or explores a different aspect like an origin story, for example. The Tomb Raider video game series reboot in 2013 is a good illustration of this done right.

I’ll save this for another post, but modern society’s love of making the old new again has extended to some absolutely beautiful creations in motor vehicles. Companies like Singer in California who “reimagine” classic Porsche 911s and Eagle and Alfaholics in the UK who do a similar thing with classic Jaguars and Alfa Romeos respectively, are genuinely amazing and lotto wishlist items.

When trying to create something original and unique, you’re probably going to have more misses than hits, but when you do have a hit, my god, it really is something truly special.

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