Why Are There So Many Game Remakes?
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl dropped this past Friday and I guarantee that I am playing them as this video is dropping. I am a lifelong PokeNerd and diehard fan of the series and so I was pretty excited for the announcement that Diamond/Pearl would be the next remake from the franchise. But with the release of Cowboy Bebop, teased images of One Piece live action, and the announcement of a remake of one old video game after another - are we remaking too many things? Do we really need a new version of every Pokemon game? And does the Bible possibly have a hot take on Pokemon remakes? Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to Checkpoint Church - where nerds, geeks, and gamers come together to talk about faith, games, and are we sure we want to go with chibi? I’m your Nerd Pastor Nate. If you like these weekly deepdives, be sure to sub and hit that bell to find out when our next one drops.
Ecclesiastes 7:10-14 (NRSV)
Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
Wisdom is as good as an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to the one who possesses it.
Consider the work of God;
who can make straight what he has made crooked?
In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other, so that mortals may not find out anything that will come after them.
Okay, before we even get started on this one I want to get the elephant out of the room - I know that this is probably one of the biggest stretches I’ve made in these nerdy sermons so far. Those of you here for the Pokemon content are like, “Really? Jesus cares about Pokemon remakes?” and those of you here for the Jesus stuff are like, “Really? Ecclesiastes and Pokemon?”
I get it - I understand that I’m just a meme of myself at this point. I can’t help the way that my brain works and I really do think that there is an argument to be made here. So please, if you’re a naysayer just watch the video all the way and let me know *after* if you think the exegesis I’m doing here at least makes sense. Holy Spirit, help me!
Let’s start with Pokemon - what is the deal with Diamond and Pearl?
So, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl are the fourth generation of Pokemon games that originally were released for the Nintendo DS back in 2006.
These games were a pretty huge transition from the world of literal cable connection between devices to the Internet being used for Pokemon transfer and battle. This allowed for a serious surge in the game market and many call this entry ‘their Pokemon.’
Since the Gameboy Advance first dropped a remake of the original Red/Blue versions of the game called FireRed and LeafGreen, which contained additional endgame content, updated graphics and more, the Pokemon Company has been slowly remaking the backlog of games with each new Nintendo console; HeartGold and SoulSilver were updated for the DS, OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire for the 3DS; and it was only logical that they would announce Diamond and Pearl for the Switch soon.
However, no one really expected what we actually got - or maybe you did, I don’t know. I was personally hoping for the artstyle of Let’s Go Pikachu but with traditional gameplay. What we got was chibi art in the overworld, harkening back to the OG Gameboy days with full versions of the characters in battle, along with some other flavor touches, updates, and things brought back from the original games.
The Internet pretty swiftly revolted against the series in rage, as the internet is wont to do
I’m personally pretty excited and I know that I will be playing through these games entirely and fully intend to fill up my Pokedex, maybe even do a little shiny hunting if the mechanic is fun.
However, this brings up the issue of remaking things from the past. The biggest argument against remakes that typically rises to the top comes out of expectations. There are some that say that games just shouldn’t be remade. Same with anime, movie, cartoons, all that stuff. These aren’t really the folks that I’m addressing today - because if you feel that way, I don’t know what argument would be enough?
But the argument that really stands out comes from expectations that people have for the remake versus the actual product.
By this I mean, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have a team behind their production. That team is addressing the questions, concerns, and processes by which this game will be remade. They choose what to cut. They choose the art style. They choose the changes and evolutions that the game will make as it jumps to a drastically different console. Even more than that, the odds seem pretty high that you’re not on that team. I’m not on the team. I don’t get to make those calls. But I do have my own vision of what I want this game to be. Because I’m me and I get to make that imagination for myself, but that doesn’t make it the reality.
So what’s actually fueling my imagination? Nostalgia. When I first played this game I was in 6th or 7th grade and I can remember my favorite highlight of the game was when my dad was having a huge fundraiser for his church plant. Me and three of my best friends at the time who I haven’t spoken to in years now sat outside of the event (because it totally would have been boring to my 11 year old mind) and we traded Pokemon and had battles. We had never really done that before because none of us had the proper cables. So that was monumental on the importance of this game.
Now, how on earth would the dev team possibly wrap up that memory and give it to me? They can’t. I’m not 11. I don’t even have those friends phone numbers. Most people don’t even speak over phone numbers any more. And my dad’s church plant is over twenty years old.
So, going by nostalgia alone, Diamond and Pearl are a flop for me already, right? There’s no way they can’t be.
By that metric, the folks that say we just shouldn’t remake anything are objectively correct, right? It simply can’t be done.
Before we tear apart that argument, let’s somehow make this relate to our scripture for today.
Our passage for today is an excerpt from the infamous book of Ecclesiastes, which is an old testament text typically attributed to King Solomon, the song of King David who asked God for all of the wisdom in the world.
What Solomon actually got was quite a bit of pretension, as instead of calling himself Solomon and the author of this text, he gave himself the title of Teacher with a capital T and led to a lot of discussion about the legitimate author of the text.
Did I just call King Solomon pretentious? I’m cancelled. This is it. Performance of my lifetime and they never suspected a thing.
Anyways, the book of Ecclessiastes is not only a difficult book to spell, it’s a difficult book to pin down its purpose and place in the canon of the Old Testament as a library of sacred text
At its core, it’s a book of searching for the meaning of life by a wise person who may be the wisest person in history. It’s filled with stories and advice and exploration and is an interesting read cover to cover. It kind of takes the chunks of Proverbs itself and exegetes them and expands upon them, kind of like Directors Commentary on Proverbs
This passage in particular is provocative as it presents the value of pain over pleasure. We like to think of the path of God as being the straight and narrow, but the author calls God out for making things crooked. Not the God we typically like to picture.
But the author is speaking to a specific group here - the folks that like to reflect on the good ol’ days. Specifically the folks that not simply reflect, but prefer the older days to the current ones.
Kind of like those who, say, think that an older game is better than anything being currently introduced could be - love you Retro friends
The author then explains that this statement in and of itself is unwise, literally
Wisdom cannot ask this question, because wisdom is a literal inheritance, we become wise through experience (or through a mystical God dream that grants us all wisdom, but I digress)
The author then explains that wisdom is like money, it provides security - but knowledge is greater still than money because it gives life, bringing more fulfillment than simple prosperity
Then we get this diatribe about crooked paths, good times and bad times, all these being made by God in the long run… why this? Why there?
The author is further cementing this argument that we can’t live in the past, but whether it is a time of good or bad, we have to take that as the true advantage of getting wisdom even if we aren’t getting prosperity financially in the situation
It’s an acknowledgement of the control that we have on the situation, which is minimal. We can’t control what we can’t control, but we do have the ability to control how these things affect us and if we choose to learn from them or not.
So, back to these Pokemon remakes and remakes in general, odds are you and I have very little control over how these things are done. Unless you’ve managed to work your way up the ladder into a prestigious dev team, then odds are you simply don’t have the ability to affect change there.
And that’s a tough thing to accept, so absolutely no shade if you have trouble there. We all do.
So, then what do we have control over? Easy - it’s how we consume the newness. We have the choice to simply avoid it, not consume it, reject it. That’s an option. Or we can give it a shot. We can love it. Or we could discover that we really do hate it. Prosperity in discovering your next favorite game or the adversity of discovering the disappointment of something that doesn’t meet your nostalgia. Those are viable options as well. They may hurt, but are at least an acknowledgement of the reality of the situation.
Then there’s a third option - and it’s my personal favorite. The third option is that this isn’t actually about you at all. Maybe Diamond/Pearl aren’t made with me in mind. Maybe these games are being made for the current 11 year old sitting outside of a church function with their three current best friends that they won’t know in a decade. Maybe this is their chance to form a memory and to gain the wisdom that I have that’s over a decade old at this point.
Maybe these remakes aren’t for you. Maybe they aren’t for me. Maybe the truth of this wisdom is that it’s an inheritance being passed down, but not being passed down by you or me, but by that dev team. Maybe this is a chance for the wisdom of friendship, of growth, of evolution, of change, to be experienced by someone new. In our lack of control, I choose to let loose of the control at all - allowing someone else entirely to gain the wisdom I already have.
The former days aren’t better than these days, these are just former days being formed for someone other than me. Taking the focus off of the self is remarkably humbling for this circumstance and encouraging for the future of the remake culture.
So, what does this actually mean for us today? Hopefully a lot of things. Ideally, I’ll have at least presented a different perspective on this tricky topic. That’s my real goal, anyway.
As someone who is the dad to a beautiful baby girl, about to be two baby girls, I am just thankful for the opportunity to share the wisdom that I have with them. That’s something I have control over, who I am in their lives, that’s on me.
So before you type that raging comment in this video or tweet out that hot take, just think about the control in the scenario. You have the awesome opportunity to choose how these things affect you and how you learn from them. My opinion? Don’t waste it on 250 words or less. Instead, maybe share a memory like I did about the most important moment I had in Diamond back in ‘06. Even if it’s a bad memory, share it. Rant it. Share your wisdom, do good, do no harm, strive to grow.
Remember: even your least favorite game may have changed someone’s life.
And please don’t tell anyone I said Solomon was pretentious. I hope my MDiv didn’t burst into flames.
Question: What was your first Pokemon game?
God loves you. We love you. You matter.
Until next time,