Originality is scarce amongst new content. Nowadays, most of the things you see, hear and read are all inspired by, or remakes of, previous works. The Fast franchise, originally a remake of Point Break, has spun off into its own ridiculous Die Hard-esque action franchise, Marvel’s Secret Wars event literally rehashed every major comic story arc of the 2000s, and franchise reboots are flooding the videogame market.
I’ve noticed this trend has spun out of control in recent years, even influencing great works of art. It’s no secret that Super Mario has inspired thousands of games, but have you stopped to consider how Crash Bandicoot blatantly rips off every trope from Mario, right down to his mute demeanor and wacky onomatopoeia? Isn’t it strange that every major first person shooter after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare conformed to the same look, feel and control scheme? Do you remember a time before God of War when action/slashers didn’t have quick time events? Heck, the most original thing I’ve seen lately is Irrational’s Bioshock franchise, and even that borrows elements from other shooters and survival-horror games.
Borrowing elements is not necessarily an act of plagiarism. Some games, like The Force Unleashed, thrive on concepts and combat designs from God of War. Other titles, like 2010’s Dante’s Inferno felt impudent in their mockery. Even Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed—which is now a flagship title for the company—was born by trying to reinvent the Prince of Persia franchise.
A true archetype of this notion is Tomb Raider versus Uncharted. The latter was initially inspired by the former and, with the Crystal Dynamics reboot, became the afflatus for the new Tomb Raider, bringing the cycle full circle. I mean, come on—the opening to Rise of the Tomb Raider features a snowy environment, everything is crumbling and then there’s a flashback to a sandy environment? Dude, that is pure homage to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Don’t believe me? Youtube a couple gameplay videos and compare the first 15-20 minutes of each game, tell me I’m wrong. And it goes even deeper than that: Uncharted and Tomb Raider both use characteristics of Spielberg and Lucas’s Indiana Jones film franchise, making both of their protagonists archaeologists bent on uncovering ancient and supernatural ruins, artifacts—and yes, tombs.
I must reiterate that inspiration, appropriation, or whatever you name it is not necessarily a bad thing. If there was no Resident Evil then there could be no Outlast. Without Bioshock, could we have gotten Soma? Would there be a Golden Sun if it weren’t for Final Fantasy? Originality is, for the most part, gone, but that’s okay. In the wake of its death sprung re-imaginings and fresh takes on old concepts. So if you find yourself saying “oh, that’s like that other game”, don’t take it as a negative thing. Just give it a chance.