The entertainment industry has fallen to a trend of going back to old works, remaking them and publishing them as fresh content. I refer specifically to the ‘Film Industry’ as well as the ‘Gaming Industry.’ You must have heard about the ‘Mass Effect’ remaster that ‘Bioware’ announced some time ago. Even in movies, the past couple of years have been characterized by remakes of old movies being released as ‘new movies.’ You must have noticed Disney’s inclination to release ‘live action remakes’ of some of its classic films like ‘The Lion King.’ They have taken precedence over ‘original’ films.
Why is this happening? What is resulting in the entertainment industry to rely on its roots to create and publish new content? The dearth of original content is worrisome. Although I am not involved in these industries directly, I do have a keen interest and try to keep myself updated with them. My perspective may seem like speculation, to a certain extent it may be so. Regardless, in the field of creativity, we have to be speculative sometimes,
I believe that the answer to this question lies partly in an economic approach. We must bring in two concepts which are the foundations of ‘Economics’ i.e. supply and demand. In an economy, the price of goods and services is determined by the interplay of supply and demand forces. Putting things in a nutshell, higher demand and low supply means higher prices for goods and services. The inverse of this results in lower prices for the same. In the context of the topic of this article, the supply side refers to the companies publishing the content whereas the demand side are the consumers.
As far as the supply side is concerned, companies seem to have realized that it is easy to make a quick buck by remastering old content as they are playing off of the ‘nostalgia’ of the consumers. Remember that 10 year old game that you played as a kid? Here’s a new version of it that will bring back all of those sweet memories. Taking example of, The Lion King (original), it had a flare, it felt alive and was heartful. You could feel the emotions the film was meant to target within you. In contrast, The Lion King (2019) lacks all of it. Yes, it does improve upon the visuals and sound design, but that’s about it. The latter received a lower score on IMDB (5.9/10) than the original (8.5/10) did, it featured the same story as well. Clearly, the problem here is the increasing dependency on previous work and not originality.
On the demand side, consumers have become susceptible to churning out the same old ‘trash’ over and over. When I say trash I don’t mean that it’s bad (although a lot of them are) but that once you have consumed something and taken it out of context, it’s no longer ‘good’ in the same way that food becomes trash as soon as you put it in the sink. (Read Bennett Foddy’s monologue from Getting Over It here). In my article titled ‘Getting over it‘ I had talked about how “the internet has created a focus on consumption rather than creation. Publishers and creators are expected to keep up with the newer trends.” (I hope you understood what I did here by referencing to an old article of mine) We are so used to the constant flow of content that we no longer value the quality. The vast majority of the content that we consume on a day-to-day basis is literally the same thing reskinned.
Instagram reels is a suitable example for this phenomena. Today, if you start watching one type of reel, you are guaranteed to see 10 more reels with similar content in it. No, I don’t blame the algorithm alone here, but as people we aren’t creating original content anymore. ‘Trends’ or being ‘trendy’ has resulted in blatantly copying others instead of creating something that’s fresh. While scrolling through my Instagram feed one day, two people I follow (these are two mutually exclusive social groups) had put up the same type of reel as part of a ‘trend.’
Are all remakes bad? No. Some are able to enhance the essence of the original even more. Microsoft took up the task of remastering the Age of Empires franchise which is almost 20 years old. Not only did it improve the graphics, it also incorporated new gameplay mechanics which were needed in the original game. It also went on to add more content in the form of ‘DLCs’, adding new civilizations and historical campaigns of military leaders that were previously unheard of. But that was not the end of it. The remastering is part of the mega cycle of bringing the entire franchise up to date with the soon-to-be released ‘Age of Empires 4’ which is a new instalment into the series after almost 15 years of absence. It is adding something ‘new’ and ‘original’ to the franchise. These kinds of remastering is desirable.
Could there be a dearth in talent in the entertainment industry? It’s possible, but I cannot say for sure. But it seems to be more of a deficit in vision than muscle. Moreover, the pandemic that struck the world with a heavy blow has definitely restricted us in the creation of new content in the entertainment industry especially films. I can only imagine that once this tides over we will be witnessing the release of too many ‘pandemic themed’ films, TV/Web series and games which could potentially repeat this cycle all over again. There was a period in the gaming industry when too many zombie themed games were releasing and the core concepts in all of them were the same. Kill zombies, loot, and survive.
In conclusion, all I can offer as a solution is that we as consumers will have to become more demanding of original content and get out of the void of ‘mass produced internet content.’ The mind is an engine for creativity and it doesn’t permanently exhaust like fossil fuels. Yes it might run out of fossil fuels like the world will one day. Then, it would have to shift to a different source in such a situation like solar energy or hydropower to keep the creativity alive within us. If talent is being repressed then it must be allowed to flourish. If old content has to be remastered, do it with the ultimate goal of going beyond what it originally was like Microsoft did with ‘Age of Empires.’
Just some food for thought, till then I will see you in my next article.
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