What Games Can Learn From The Taylor Swift Remasters
Listening to Taylor Swift’s newest single is a strange experience. I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since Fearless in 2008, the same time her newest song, You All Over Me, was first recorded. It didn’t release back then, although she recently brought out a “new version” (not that we’d heard the old one) as part of the Taylor’s Vault series, which includes 2021 vocals over a 2008 instrumental. Probably because of how much time I spend playing, thinking about, and writing about games, it made me consider how gaming does remasters, and how we could stand to do them differently.
The situation around Swift’s music is complicated and not that related to the point I want to make here, so I’ll be brief. Thanks to some legal shenanigans, Swift no longer owns the rights to her first six albums, and she doesn’t much like the man who does – Scooter Braun. His name is Scooter, so just picture a grown man that goes by Scooter and yep, that’s exactly what he’s like. To counteract this, she’s re-recording all of her first six albums from scratch (she owns her most recent three already), with the same lyrics and arrangements, but with new vocals. So far, only two songs (Love Story and the previously unreleased You All Over Me) have seen the light of day, but that number is set to accelerate quickly as full albums get the same treatment.
The even shorter version is that she’s going to re-record and re-release six albums’ worth of songs, probably all in the next 12-18 months. I would love to see game developers do the same.
I realise this is unrealistic, but I’ve previously asked for a Sunset Overdrive sequel, for Bryce Dallas Howard to make a Star Wars game, for a Horizon Zero Dawn palette, for a Pokemon theme park, and for a Tony Hawk’s game that’s just Tony walking around. It’s fun to be unrealistic sometimes. I do write insightful articles and reported features too, I promise. This isn’t one of those though.
The reason You All Over Me is such an odd experience is because 2008 Swift and 2021 Swift are vastly different, and as a fan growing up with her music, I was a very different listener back in 2008 too. I rarely listen to her early stuff anymore, so it’s weird hearing that country-fried strumming behind her, especially when it’s her modern alternative contemporary voice and trite Americana lyrics telling tales about (probably) Joe Jonas. The blend of old and new; that’s what games are missing. Gaming remasters often paste over the old, rebuilding it in a like-for-like that looks better, but sometimes feels hollow.
We’re getting the Mass Effect trilogy remaster soon, and that will just be the same games but with better graphics – that’s how it should be, that’s what a remaster is when it comes to games. Hell, when it comes to music it’s usually just making the audio crisper and cleaner with improved technology, not the rerecording of Taylor’s Version. But, in a hypothetical world of infinite resources and gaming publishers willing to take risks, wouldn’t it be cool to see the original Mass Effect team actually make the game again? Not just polish the graphics, but make the exact same game with the exact same missions, but with more experienced eyes. Approaching the same scenario in the same way, and reaching the same outcome, but with a completely different journey.
Imagine modern day Kojima going back and rebuilding Metal Gear Solid, today’s Masahiro Sakurai redoing Kirby’s Dream Land, or Shigeru Miyamoto back on all his greatest hits. Following The Last of Us Part 2, Naughty Dog having another go at the first instalment could also be interesting.
Games cost much more money and take much more time to make than a song, so this is never going to happen, but it would be fascinating to see a studio take more of a risk on what it means to remaster a video game.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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