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Rewriting the Past With Remasters

Every publisher wants to re-release remasters of their game and sell a billion more copies. Extra points if it’s to people who’ve already bought it multiple times before. But sometimes there are relics of the past that might not make the trip… I’m talking butt shots, off-colour jokes and dated satire.

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The latest example of this involves Rockstar and the Grand Theft Auto V remaster. It supposedly removes a character model for “drag queen” from the game, as well as associated dialogue. Why? Because some people – probably assholes – decided these models represented transwomen instead of drag queens.

And thus you get into the murky world of rewriting the past. Remastering a game should be done with love and attention, but beware a publisher who is only looking to rewrite their wrongs.

Being the Butt of Jokes

This isn’t a new thing. As long as there have been remasters there have been content changes. Some have been for the better.

And it’s funny that the loudest voices weren’t annoyed with the major changes of Mass Effect 2. Nobody was taking to Twitter up in arms over UI changes or morality system updates. It was all about shots of Miranda’s butt.

EA found themselves in a position where they leave in the ‘offending’ scenes, or change them. They decided to change them.

To defend their inclusion, you have to take up the position that Miranda’s rear was integral to those scenes. Or you have to admit you just enjoy the titillation. Neither are indefensible, I guess.

Personally, I laughed and rolled my eyes a decade ago, then got on with the game. Others took it far more seriously.

Other recent removals include taking the confederate flag out of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy.

These are not major changes. They will not destroy the thread of any of these games.

What they do is ‘correct mistakes’. More specifically, things the publisher might be criticized with by a modern audience.

And this is where I begin to struggle. Not because I care that you can’t see Miranda’s arse in certain cutscenes any longer. But because decisions were made to include that, and EA shouldn’t get a free pass there. It was wrong then, or it was right. We know what the answer to that is.

By making these changes, EA or Rockstar get to have their cake and eat it. The only people really offended, for the most part, the kinds of people you don’t necessarily want to appease. And so everybody gets on with their lives and EA gets a marketing win.

Rewriting the Past With Remasters – Conclusion

The truth is that anything that makes a game more accessible is a good thing. Removing the ridiculous butt shots from Mass Effect 2 is cowardly, but makes Miranda less of a sex object. Is that a good thing? Depends on why you want to play in the first place, I suppose.

But that simple change arguably alters the balance of how those scenes come across. Removing the “drag queen” from GTA V makes a clear and concise comment about what Rockstar is willing to allow you to decide for yourself. If bigots decide this is what transwomen look like, it reflects poorly on Rockstar, regardless of what’s in the file names. I don’t believe the removal was a bad thing, but I also don’t believe it was done with the best of intentions. Today’s acceptable satire will play throughout GTA 6, and the PS6 remaster will alter as the developers of the time see fit. And so, time and time again, we are forced to few older content through the lens of what corporations deem acceptible.

Changing the past is a dangerous business. In an ideal world you’d be able to trust your audience to approach older content in a mature and accepting nature. But that is not the case. Unlike film, where older products are usually the domain of movie buffs who accept changing tastes, every game release must be mainstream. Would Mass Effect’s targetted multi-million person audience understand that those butt shots are a product of the past? Should they?

I don’t know that that’s such an easy question to answer.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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