I started playing video games when I was in elementary school. As an only child I never had any older siblings expose me to games earlier than that. But do you know what that means? Even now being in my twenties, my first console was a PS2. I never owned a PS1, let alone a SNES or NES or any other early consoles that made the gaming industry what it is today.
I never played the early Final Fantasy games, or Castlevania, Tomb Raider, Syphon Filter, or even Crash Bandicoot. Worse still, my PS2 collection mainly started off with a good helping of EA sports games, and not much else. Of course, since then, my game library has grown considerably, my tastes have changed, and my eyes have been opened to the wider world of gaming. Nevertheless, that is a solid chunk of history I missed out on. And to me, that’s unacceptable.
Before I go any further, it might be best to point out I’m one of those people that sincerely believes video games are an art form. To go even further, I honestly think there is an argument to be made for the fact that video games have the potential to be a better narrative medium than anything that has come before, but that is a topic for a different article.
Basically, in simplest terms, I love video games. And just like any art form, from paintings to novels, the works that inspired the artists of today are just as important as the new pieces being created now. Specifically, not loosing those older pieces, not letting them slip away into the abyss of history, should be of the utmost importance.
Just looking in the news from the past week or so, it’s clear I am not the only one that feels this way. Speaking with GamesIndustry last week, Al Alcorn, creator of pong, spoke to his fears about how the historical artifacts and knowledge of the video game industry are being handled. At the same time however, just this past Tuesday, The Strong Museum in Rochester New York launched the Video Game Hall of Fame. While concerns over, and large gestures towards, preservation are all well and good, and much appreciated, at the end of the day, games are meant to be played, not looked at in a museum. And that’s where remakes come in.
Ever since the new generation of consoles launched, more and more games have made the jump from old generation game to new generation remake. Even before that, Sony’s HD collections of classic games have dotted store shelves for years. But over the past year I have heard more than a few of people saying, ‘Enough with these HD remakes! Make something new!’ a sentiment that actually has me worried.
So let’s break it down. Many, even in the gaming media, have criticized the number of re-releases, the main one coming to mind being the multiple (joking) promises on IGN’s Podcast Unlocked to never talk about re-releases again. But the way I see it, sure, maybe a lot of people aren’t going to buy a redone DMC for new generation consoles, but in the end, bringing the 2013 DMC: Devil May Cry to new consoles isn’t for gamers now, it is for the gamers a decade from now whose first console was the PS4 or Xbox One.
Remakes aren’t a money gouging scheme from developers to prey on their devoted fans, they are opportunities for those who love games to either get them again on new consoles or for new gamers, who have never played the game before, to not miss out. As for those who see remakes as ‘monetized backwards compatibility,’ your concerns might be valid, but in that case, simply don’t buy the re-releases. Ultimately, since it is each gamer’s choice whether or not to buy a game, remakes and remasterings hurt no one, and can only help the industry keep up a sense of history moving forward.
From where I sit, remakes are only a good thing. It’s no secret that the video game industry can be particularly brutal to developers. So if spending a degree of time and resources now on a Resident Evil remake makes the developers enough money (which it did) to allow them to continue making even more games in the future, then so be it. Just thinking of ‘what’s the next big thing to come out’ can be a dangerous mindset.
Video games are still a relatively young art form, compared to the more established formats, and it is getting to the point that a degree of thought towards the future, and just how that future will see the medium’s past, might not be the worst thing ever.
Of course the debate over what deserves to be remastered will never stop, but anyone who feels a remake is a total waste of time can take solace in the fact that, if you’re right, it won’t sell very well. But since most remakes do seem to be financially viable, and since new games continue to come out each month of the year, my question is: why not? As someone who only enjoyed Shadow of the Colossus, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, Spyro, the Metal Gear Solid games, the original Killzone, and the first Resident Evil, just to name a few, because of remakes, as we go forward, I say keep them coming.