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A Remastered Faith
Should Christians try to remaster, remake, or reboot their faith?
Back in 1996, when I purchased the original Sony PlayStation, one of the first games I bought was Resident Evil. I still remember hooking the console up in our basement, the satisfying “click” of the CD catching into the machine, and the iconic PlayStation startup sound.
The PlayStation was an incredible departure from the cartridge-based systems before it. It felt like video games were growing up with me as a teenager, maturing from the child-like (yet amazing) library of the Super Nintendo to the brash “U R NOT E” marketing blitz of the PlayStation.
Resident Evil was an out-of-nowhere surprise of a game. There was nothing like it on a home console. From B-movie quality full-motion-video cinematics to polygonal characters moving around pre-rendered backgrounds in pseudo-three-dimensional space…it all felt like gaming from the future.
Resident Evil became a franchise that was critically acclaimed for every subsequent release, hitting a peak with Resident Evil 4 when it initially came out exclusively on the Nintendo GameCube. In many of the same ways that the original Resident Evil set a tone of innovation and excellence, Resident Evil 4 pushed the envelope of the survival horror genre that they created.
For years, Resident Evil 4 has been revered as the gold standard of survival horror. Any game in the genre was compared to it, and it felt like many would never let another game take the mantle of its greatness.
In 2019, Resident Evil 2 came to consoles with a wonderful remake that breathed amazing new life into an already great game. This was followed up with a remake in 2020 for Resident Evil 3, giving hope that we might see Resident Evil 4 finally get a remake as well.
When great games come back to us as a remake, a remaster, or a reboot, what is the key to it being successful?
After a lot of rumored development, the Resident Evil 4 remake arrived this week, and all early indications are that it’s a fantastic reimagining of the original game. Beyond simple graphical enhancements, the game controls better, enemy AI has more options, and early reviews say boss fights and paths in the game have changed.
But despite these changes, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Every article I’ve read and podcast I’ve listened to has the same refrain: “I can’t wait to play more of this game.”
It sounds like the developers found a way to make a great game even better in this remake, which led me to a question: When great games come back to us as a remake, a remaster, or a reboot, what is the key to it being successful?
And as I think about my faith, is it possible to take the origins of my faith journey and find ways to breathe new life into my walk with God?
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Remake, Remaster, Reboot
First, we should define the difference between the three paths that video games (and other media) tend to get reinvented.
Like what we are getting with Resident Evil 4, a remake keeps most of the story and characters the same but often recreates everything else. When there have been advancements in technology, this is a natural evolution. Still, sometimes it ends up being a shift in artistic direction that can also alienate the original audience.
A remaster avoids that potential pitfall by keeping very tight to the original material in every way but only increasing the quality of the original visuals, audio, and general presentation. In recent years this has happened the most with games that are only a handful of years old but can benefit from upgrades that the latest generation of hardware can showcase.
Finally, a reboot essentially says, “You know that thing you love? Well, what if we did something totally different but just kept a few key elements?” In many ways, this is the riskiest path for offending a loyal audience, but it also has considerable potential for creating something innovative.
I don’t envy the position that most developers and publishers find themselves in when considering these options. Once a successful franchise/universe is created, the risks of squandering it are quite high. I suppose that’s why we see more sequels that seem “safe” or remasters that hold tight to the original than remakes and reboots.
But when a remake is well executed, it also allows for some fascinating moments. It broadens the original scope of a beloved story, allowing the audience to experience new things while still honoring what they love.
It’s growth both for the story being told as well as those experiencing the story as well.
Can We Remake, Remaster, or Reboot Our Faith?
How will we take this conversation from a survival horror franchise like Resident Evil to our faith? By looking at the respective source material for each.
But first, let’s look at another instance with Resident Evil that wasn’t as well received. In 2002, the original Resident Evil game I described my nostalgia for above had a remaster. It held tight to the source material, giving it a graphics update but little else. When I went back to play it, even though it objectively looked better, it felt worse as an experience.
There are times when we look back fondly at something we experienced earlier in life, and upon revisiting that experience, it feels much less than we remembered it. The sense of nostalgia overrides our personal growth and lived experiences. As we grow, our past experiences often don’t keep pace.
I have experienced this in my faith as well. When I look back, there are times when my faith felt so strong. I long for specific church communities I was a part of or personal disciplines I had. When I look at my current connection to God, I fool myself into thinking that what I had before was somehow better and more meaningful. I long for specific church communities I was a part of or personal disciplines I had.
The reality, though, is much different. The places that grew my faith for a season likely wouldn’t have the same impact on me now. Some of those moments might even feel surprisingly uncomfortable now that I have had more experiences that might have broadened my view of the world.
This isn’t to diminish purists that hold tight to the same places of faith for generations. The same is true of video games, ironically. Retro games thrive because some find the greatest satisfaction in the original content.
But what about the third option?
What if we could remake our personal faith? What could that look like?
For a game like Resident Evil 4, the success of its remake is rooted in honoring and holding tight to the source material but in broadening its scope and potential. It has dynamically improved the mechanisms while holding onto the elements that made the original great.
In our faith, couldn’t we do the same?
Rethinking Our Construction
While holding onto the teachings of Jesus to love our neighbors, to seek justice and mercy, to help the poor and broken, all while acknowledging our own brokenness…couldn’t we also radically change the mechanisms of how we live out these truths?
When I hear stories of how church communities are taking their old, massive church buildings and repurposing portions to provide food pantries, community education, and warming shelters, I think we are remaking the church. Digital ministry like Checkpoint Church is remaking how we have a Christian community and fellowship. Efforts to broaden who we welcome rather than who we exclude are remaking the church.
On a personal level, there is a lot to talk about when we consider deconstruction and the hopeful reconstruction of someone’s faith. The hope is that when the building blocks of personal faith are carefully taken apart, that original cornerstone can be found. Hopefully, that initial belief that Jesus loves us unconditionally, that the gospel's message is not only true but necessary, and that the news of a savior is something we are eager to not only acknowledge but to share so others can experience that hope as well.
The hope is that when the building blocks of personal faith are carefully taken apart, that original cornerstone can be found.
The key to that beautiful remake remains the same, though. Can we identify the beautiful simplicity of the source material that captured our hearts at the start? Can we refine that source in our lives, stripping away the parts that might have been distracting, harmful, or just unnecessary? A continual pursuit of a better remake than our nostalgia is worth the consideration and the effort. Especially if it brings us to a closer connection to God and a more joy-filled life that can bring hope and love to a hurting world.