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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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Martyn Foster
Martyn Foster
Sep 25, 2020

Yeah, you're absolutely right. It can be a no-win situation sometimes; you've either ruined the original or just applied a HD-filter. Whilst I sort of understand where you're coming from, that those not already familiar may feel they have to watch/play the original to get the most out of it, I think there's more risk in deterring too far (aka taking too much creative freedom) from the original concept, whereas the reboot/remake opens the door for newcomers to experiencing something they never have and/or go back to the original afterwards if they so wish to. Or yes, you create such a high demand product that you'll have audience wherever you go, like Demon Souls. I never really look at it…


Unknown member
Sep 25, 2020

It's definitely a fine line to walk to keep existing fans of a work happy, and whatever you do you're most likely going to upset someone. Some remakes get slammed for not having the same feel as the original, while others are almost exact recreations and get called lazy!

It also seems like they could be risky in their own way, because while a remake or reboot can have a target market built in it might also seem less inviting to those not already familiar with it - unless you've practically got a captive audience like the Demon Souls remake for PS5 where it's going to be one of the few PS5 games not available elsewhere.

As you said, these…

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