A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 6-End of It All

by Marcus Brown

ImageThere’s always something bittersweet about an ending to a series. Whether it’s a TV show, movie saga, book or game, becoming involved in a universe is such a strong feeling that becomes so hard to let go. To use different terms, it’s that “sense” of the looming end that makes the whole so strong and so hard to let go. This is the theme and feeling that Hideo Kojima creates for the players in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Continue reading A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 6-End of It All

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A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 5-Snake Eater

by Marcus Brown

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Have you ever noticed how your beliefs and views possibly change as you grow older or go into a new environment? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. That’s how the world can be. People’s views change with the times. Just look at our modern issues: advocation of gay and lesbian marriages, attempted legalization of marijuana use and our new proposed healthcare system are just a few of those issues. The problem of time is the proposed theme of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. In Snake Eater, Kojima uses the theme of the scene of times to show how an era such as the Cold War creates a whole new type of perception on what exactly is right or wrong. Continue reading A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 5-Snake Eater

A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 4-Metal Gear Solid 2

by Marcus Brown

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Sometimes, the hardest thing one has to think about is what exactly is important enough to pass on to the children of tomorrow. After all, everyone has different morals and values depending on how they were raised, what they’ve learned from life experiences, and so forth. How much is too much? Many would hope that this is their decision to make, and Kojima makes this perfectly clear in his title Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Continue reading A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 4-Metal Gear Solid 2

A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 3-Metal Gear Solid

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Is humanity destined to act and be a certain way? Some believe that their fate is decided based off of their heritage and who their ancestors were, while others would create their own destiny based off of choice. Is one’s genetic code a layout for how their life will be? Hideo Kojima brings this discussion, and others, to light in the first iteration of the most well-known saga in gaming, Metal Gear Solid.

MGS was created in 1998 by Kojima and his team at Konami. With the recent creation of the Playstation console by Sony, Kojima saw an opportunity to put his famed protagonist, Solid Snake, in 3D, thereby allowing for more interaction with the character and the stronger development of a story. Improvements were made to the radar system, now that the game screens were free flowing instead of a grid-like system, and also the alert system and enemy AI. Weapon and item switching became much easier. One of the most important innovations was the addition of better music and voice acting, with David Hayter becoming the voice of Snake for the next 12 years. image

Metal Gear Solid became the name of innovative gaming on the Playstation console for many years.

MGS takes place in 2005. FOXHOUND, the former commando unit of previous games, has taken over a nuclear weapons disposal site within Alaska’s islands and has threatened to launch a nuke somewhere if their demands are not met. Solid Snake is sent in to rescue hostages and determine the nature of this threat. Many familiar elements of the previous games can be seen in this game, both to the benefit of veteran players and newcomers alike. Read up on the full synopsis here.

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With MGS, Kojima begins a trend of including a major theme within each of his games. This theme encompasses many of the main plot points and drives the story to an inevitable discussion of the world the players live in. However, this one theme is not the only thought Kojima creates for the players, as there are many supplemental discussions that can be taken from the series. These all will be brought up in each iteration of this essay. For now, one can focus on the main theme of MGS, which is Gene.

This game focuses on the genetic disposition of society. To explain it another way, this title discusses the nature side of the Nature vs. Nurture discussion, in that it asks whether or not one’s fate is tied to their genetic composition. One of the characters in the game, Naomi Hunter, explains that she studies genetics in order to discover who she really is. She later goes on to try and type other characters based off of what is in their genetic makeup, though she is not always correct. Another main character, Liquid Snake, believes it is his genetic destiny to start conflicts around the world and to give soldiers a place in that conflict. The question here is, are we products of our heritage or our decisions?

Background of this genetic discussion comes from real world data. The Human Genome project, completed in 2003, successfully mapped mankind’s genomic structure, thereby allowing scientists to study and understand DNA much better. This project identified certain genetic markers and traits that exist within humans. image

This project is constantly referenced within the game, giving base to the plot of using a process called gene therapy to change one’s DNA structure to better a person or eliminate weaknesses. The intended results, in the context of MGS, is to create the perfect soldier, one who doesn’t need years of training to hone his or her skills.

This raises ethical questions. If one has the ability, should they alter themselves genetically for the sake of improvement, much as people alter their physical appearance nowadays? Is tampering with the human genome legal or right? Answers can vary depending on who you ask. In any case, this research would be revolutionary, despite the ramifications of making a right or wrong decision.                                                                                                                                            image

So, if one knows how their DNA is aligned, does that determine who they are and what they will accomplish? If this is the case, then a plumber’s son would most likely be a plumber, and the daughter of a clothing designer would be predisposed toward fashion. We know though that this does not always happen. Therefore, genes cannot tell us completely who we are, but rather tell us where our heritage has been. Perhaps knowing how one’s genome is mapped could help us know what mistakes to avoid in the future.

Though the genes are the hot topic for this game, Kojima brings another discussion to light: the mass number of nuclear weapons on the planet and their misuse, storage and continued existence.image

Kojima’s numbers as of 1998 state that there are around 20,000-25,000 nuclear weapons on the planet. Nuclear reduction treaties, including START, were created in order to reduce the nuclear stockpiles of Russia and the US by many as 17,000. However, many characters within the game bring nuclear proliferation to light, stating that black markets of nuclear materials exist and that the race to maintain nuclear superiority still exists. This is also backed by real world information. According to the Arms Control Association, America alone has over 5,000 nuclear warheads, with over 1,600 ready to launch. The only other country that matches America is Russia, with a total of over 3,000 weapons. So many were created during the Cold War, and the dissolving of this conflict has   left the world a giant warehouse of nuclear materials.                                                                                                                             image

A staple character, Hal Emmerich, finds himself and his love for science being used to make a Metal Gear, though he wanted to create it for defensive purposes only. Emmerich, later titled as Otacon for his love of Japanese anime, was a gaming representation of a nuclear tool, one that is used for the better of America’s power. In fact, later plot sequences show that the whole creation of Metal Gear and testing of nuclear weapon strike capability was an act created by those who felt so strongly towards American power in the world that they would risk global scrutiny in order to keep America at the top of the food chain. Kojima uses all this to show just how far humans are willing to go in order to maintain power. 

In MGS, Kojima brings the topics of genetic disposition and nuclear power to the gamers. Metal Gear Solid is a forerunner of espionage action games that bring innovative gameplay with meaningful characters and story. If a gamer has not played a single one of these titles, Metal Gear Solid is the place to start. And with its 15th anniversary arriving very soon, now is as good a time as any to meet Solid Snake.

Articles used:

http://metalgear.wikia.com/wiki/Metal_Gear_Solid

http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat

http://www.genome.gov/12011238

 

A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 2-Metal Gear 2

by Marcus Brown                                                                                     

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War is a terrible machine, and Hideo Kojima wants you to know it. His sequel to the breakthough hit Metal Gear gives players a view of the damaging consequences of battle and what it takes to keep going on in the face of adversity. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake once again takes players on a mission of espionage that they won’t forget.

Three years after the revolutionary title Metal Gear, fans and co-workers of Hideo Kojima were clamoring for a sequel. Players could not get enough of the espionage action that came with the story of Solid Snake. Many wondered what Kojima’s next Metal Gear project would be. 

Surprisingly, Kojima never intended to make another game. However, Konami decided the world was ready for the sequel and had one created for release on the Nintendo Entertainment System in the West. This title, Snake’s Revenge, was not well received by fans of the series, citing that it strayed too far from the original character and that it didn’t feel like a Metal Gear game.

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In fact, one of the members of the Snake’s Revenge team ran into Kojima on a train in Tokyo and practically begged him to make a true sequel. Thus, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was created. This game would not see Western consoles until 16 years after its creation, being released with its prequel on Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

Metal Gear 2 was released in 1990 on the MSX2. The player once again took control of Solid Snake, working for the special unit FOXHOUND. This time, Snake is to infiltrate Zanzibar Land, an independent military nation bordering China, Russia and India, in order to rescue a Czech scientist that holds the key to the world’s oil futures. Snake once again encounters Metal Gear and other familiar characters. This was the true sequel fans were waiting for. Read up on the full story here.

Additions to the gameplay were created to give the players more freedom. Snake could now crawl under tanks and tables to hide from the enemy, who would now continue to search for Snake across multiple screens. Here was the implementation of two other elements: the 9-grid screen radar that allowed the players to see what the enemy was doing across multiple areas, and the alert system that forced players to hide when caught, rather than fight until the alarm silenced. Enemies also had better lines of sight and could spot Snake more easily. Again, Kojima created an environment of the sneaking mission.image                                                                                                    image

 

 

 

 

 

With better visuals and gameplay also came a more serious tone to the characters. Here, Kojima uses the nation of mercenaries to tell a darker story of war and its consequences. One of the main motivations of the enemy that is discovered is the cycle of war and its participants. The player sees how war displaces people and ruins their home. These orphans and citizens are then forced to survive by the only way they know how: participating in the next war. Finally, they create more war orphans to fuel the armies around the world. 

The cycle is not so far-fetched. According to Orphan Hope International, a site dedicated to the aid of war orphans around the world, every day gives birth to almost 6000 new orphans. The site also details that in Colombia alone, the site of a 40-year civil war, there exists an estimated 577,000 orphans. Many of these orphans end up trafficked for other uses. So, a player can understand how the war cycle is perpetuated here in this fictitious place. 

A couple of other themes come together in this game, namely the idea of finding purpose and the betrayal that sometimes comes from this. Snake finds two characters in this game that existed as allies in the previous game but are now his foes. Both give reasons for this switch of sides, citing that they experienced their own betrayals at the hands of NATO and other military organizations. Therefore, their need for revenge and to set things right puts them on the opposite side of the fence, so to speak. 

One more interesting thing to note here is the subject of this game’s title: Solid Snake. Here, the player gets a more in-depth look at Snake, who speaks a lot more and often holds conversations containing his thoughts and outlook on life. It’s almost as if this game is as much about Snake as it is about the mission. The player begins to learn what really makes him tick. 

All of these elements come together to give a very cinematic feel to an already amazing franchise. With this game, Hideo Kojima cements his name in video game history. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake sets the bar for other game franchises as well as its own name, taking players into a world of intrigue, emotion and action that would carry them 25 years later. 

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake can be found in both the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection.

Sources Used:

http://metalgear.wikia.com/wiki/Zanzibar_Land_Disturbance

http://www.orphanhopeintl.org/facts-statistics/

A Thinker’s Guide to Metal Gear: Part 1-Metal Gear

by Marcus Brown

Every gamer seems to have that one game that changed their whole outlook on the video game industry. Whether it was the game that convinced them that being a gamer isn’t so bad or it was the game that sold them on a specific console, gamers around the world have that one special IP, like the best friend they’ve had since high school. This title and any sequels that may have resulted from it have cherished and nurtured gamers through years of problems, boredom and want of something more than just a boss fight and a happy ending. 

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For me, that title is the Metal Gear saga. Starting in 1987 as a sort of eleventh hour project by Konami and director Hideo Kojima, the Metal Gear franchise has grown to become the series that defies conventional gameplay mechanics, easily digestible plot lines and cookie cutter characters. The tale of Solid Snake, the espionage operative turned heroic symbol, is one that becomes less about saving the day and more about saving himself as time goes on. The series lays out plenty of material for discussion, and that’s what I plan on doing here. So, join me on this and other parts as we discuss what exactly makes the Metal Gear saga great, in regards to thought and play. 

Metal Gear was a title for the MSX2 computer gaming system and was released in 1987 by Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. The project director was Hideo Kojima, a recently employed game designer who, at the time, was struggling to release a product that would succeed. imageOriginally, Kojima was tasked with creating a war game for the MSX2. However, the fact that the MSX2 could not properly handle the graphics and action needed made Kojima consider other types of games he could make. He decided to do the exact opposite, creating a game that encouraged players to not fight rather than destroy every character on screen. Kojima credits his inspiration for this to the game Hide-and-Seek, stating that he was fascinated by the idea of role changes in an instant. He understood the allure and rush of going from the being the seeker to the hider, and he wanted his game to reflect that. This became the beginning journey for his legendary hero, Solid Snake.  

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To give a brief synopsis, the player controls Snake, a rookie operative in a top-secret spec ops unit known as FOXHOUND. Snake is tasked with infiltrating a mercenary-run military compound in South Africa known as Outer Heaven. Though he has to go in alone and weaponless, a staple situation in the whole saga, Snake has radio support from his FOXHOUND commander, Big Boss. (If you’re unfamiliar with the series, just accept the names of these people. They are code names.)                            image

After Snake infiltrates Outer Heaven, he spends the rest of the game trying to rescue another FOXHOUND operative, Gray Fox, and to figure out what Metal Gear is. What follows is a basic starting story but gameplay mechanics that are unheard of. (Note: if you would like a full synopsis of the game, click here.)

As mentioned before, the main idea of Metal Gear is to not get caught by the enemy. This means that Snake is able to hide behind cover to avoid the sight of enemies, which works fairly well even in this 2D environment            

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If Snake is seen by an enemy or camera, an alert phase is triggered. The only ways to escape this are to either run to another screen or kill all the enemies that appear. Other elements that have become defining Metal Gear characteristics include using a cardboard box as a hiding item in plain sight, using a variety of weapons in certain situations, and fighting bosses that require learning individual weaknesses in order to beat them. All of these parts come together to create a gaming experience that was ahead of its time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         imageimage

The Metal Gear saga is known as much for its espionage gameplay as its underlying messages and themes that Kojima wants the player to understand. The entire saga has a tone of war and the military complex as it relates to individual lives. Though Metal Gear is a little more basic in its story and does not reflect strong themes, one can still see 2 of Kojima’s thoughts in the gameplay. 

First, the character, Snake, is a rookie to this mission and environment, as is the player. Kojima has been quoted to say that he expected players to project their own personalities onto Snake, in order to feel part of the world and to understand Snake’s mission and struggle. As Snake learns more about Outer Heaven and the intentions of its occupants, so does the player. 

Second, the game is about flight, not fight. Though there are mandatory battles in the game, most of the violence can be avoided with patience and practice. Kojima is trying to introduce players to a thought of using stealth to accomplish tasks rather than fists and guns. Here, a thinking gamer can see undertones of creating peace and using wits to achieve ends. Hideo Kojima wishes the players to understand that there are alternatives to war. 

Metal Gear began a new type of gameplay that future generations would experience in titles such as Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed. Through revolutionary game mechanics and strong characters, Hideo Kojima created a legacy for himself and for Konami. This was the start of something extraordinary, and it would only get better, if not a little stranger at times. Whether you’re a newcomer to the series or a long time fan, make sure to start your story’s journey here. 

Metal Gear can be found on both the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection, both available now. 

Cited articles:

http://metalgear.wikia.com/wiki/Metal_Gear

http://youtu.be/Ra7RjYJEh6E