Opinion: The Nostalgic Spring

Opinion: The Nostalgic Spring
Sean Cleaver

By Sean Cleaver

April 25th 2017 at 11:00AM

This season sees the release of many games with names we know and love, but Sean Cleaver wonders why games receive less criticism for the constant remasters and reboots than Hollywood does.

You might come across it nowadays as one of theose interesting asides at a pub quiz, but nostalgia was for a time thought of as a disease that lead to melancholic feelings. For Queen Elizabeth I it was not considered a good thing for your subjects to be wistfully thinking back to happier times, when your father was doing your job.

I mention this because April, and even a small part of March, has very much been marketed with nostalgia in mind. Mass Effect: Andromeda builds on the love for a series with a huge fanbase, even though the developers concluded its narrative arc four years ago. By the time this issue of the magazine reaches you, ParRappa the Rapper Remastered will be out and Thimbleweed Park’s love letter to the point and click genre will also appear. Later this month, classic platformer inspired Yooka-Laylee will hit shelves, Double Fine will give us another remaster in Full Throttle, and both Micro Machines and Constructor will return as well.

This sounds like I’m setting myself up for this to be a negative, which I don’t necessarily think it is, but there is a potential danger in focusing on retreading old ground. To help make my point, I'll direct your attention to our celluloid entertainment bretheren over in Hollywood.

THE MATRIX REBOOTED

Who in their right mind reboots The Matrix? This conversation seems to happen quite often and it is infuriating that ideas seem to be stuck in a cycle of repetition. I can understand why it happens, though.

If you’re a studio looking to make a commercially successful entertainment product by taking advantage of previously unavailable technology and directors and actors already on your books, then it makes sense to greenlight scripts with established characters, whack in some VFX and ride the wave of nostalgia all the way to the bank. For example: Power Rangers, Beauty and the Beast, Ghost in the Shell and Kong Skull Island. There’s even a re-release of Donnie Darko in 4K.

The games community seems to have less of a problem with this recreation or rebooting of IPs than film, but as a friend of mine complained to me recently “I’ve become less of a gamer because they’re not doing anything new, though that sometimes works for me because I know what I like.” 

The games community seems to have less of a problem with this recreation or rebooting of IPs than film 

THE REBOOTED AND THE REMASTERED VIII

My friend is both right and wrong. Of course games are doing new things, and not just in the way the industry uses and develops technology. The blurring of lines between triple-A and indie development, the narrative explorations we now enjoy and the evolution of portable gaming (mobile or console) are far more positive for our industry than it is constricting. 

There are definitely more new games than there are remasters, but that does include sequels. However, a sequel, or an instalment in a franchise, is much more forgiving and has a lot more growth potential than our cousins on the big screen. 

We take a great deal of pride in progress in games, both in terms of technology and diversity. While sequels have a dedicated audience of fans, they are also chances for us to try and adapt to new technologies, engine improvements and the unleashing more graphical and processing power.

It’s nice that games can occupy both sides of this bridge, compared to other mediums that are constantly criticised for churning out derivative or unoriginal products. But at the same time people know what they like.

That doesn’t mean that people don’t try new things and maybe that’s the job of a critic in the modern age. To highlight games’ successes and broaden the minds of players, steering them towards games they wouldn’t otherwise play while they wait for annual instalments of their favourite franchises.

It’s tricky ground to tread though and gaming nostalgia is, while an integral part of being a gamer in my own personal view, not tarred with the melancholy about the media and the franchises that are rebooted or remastered.

Unless Reddit isn’t happy in which case DRTC:

Don’t read the comments.