Saturday, September 8, 2012

You've Got Friends In Them...

I have to admit, sometimes I feel like a hack. No, it’s not because I will compare Beyond Good & Evil to the wars in the Middle East. I love talking about video games, and if it goes into territory of interpretation of political messages- I’m game. I feel like a hack sometimes because of the huge amount of important games I’ve never played. I simply haven’t been around the block enough times to play all the games I should. Slowly, through the miracles of the Internet, I’m cutting down on my backlog. This feeling of ineptitude and self-doubt prompted me to finally play Hideo Kojima’s Playstation One classic Metal Gear Solid. 

"Otacon: Have you ever... loved someone?
Solid Snake: That's what you came to ask?
Otacon: No, I was wondering if even soldiers fall in love.
Solid Snake: What are you trying to say?
Otacon: I want to ask you. Do you think love can bloom even on a battlefield?
Solid Snake: Yeah. I do. I think at any time, any place, people can fall in love with each other. But if you love someone, you have to be able to protect them."

 Metal Gear Solid's story is a Westernized, military-spy-thriller romp fit for popcorn consumption and emphatic bro-high-fives. It's the sort of affair that, in any other medium, would be best enjoyed with friends and drinks (alcoholic and otherwise.) The game is both a campy adventure with a roster of characters that are referred to only by badass-sounding code names (Solid Snake, Psycho Mantis, Revolver Ocelot) and a somewhat long-winded indictment of America's military actions and worldwide politics.  

"Revolver Ocelot: We live in a sad age. Imperialism, totalitarianism, perestroika... 20th century Russia had its share of problems, but at least they had an ideology. Russia today has nothing." 
Humans are social creatures. Generally speaking, we don't do well without each other. Metal Gear Solid recognizes this fact and plays on it to emotionally attach you in ways that you wouldn't expect- if you let it. 

 The main method of communication you have with the outside world on your one-man-Alaskan mission is a device called a Codec. This Codec (tuned to the frequency of your eardrum) is a source of communication between yourself and your allies.  From a mechanical standpoint, the Codec is handy in that it opens up windows that otherwise wouldn't be open (for example, you can get information you might not know about your mission). However, it is not a purely mechanical part of the game. 
 You see, the people on the other end of the Codec aren't cold and heartless military bastards with crewcuts and cigars constantly being crunched.. They aren't as shallow as you might expect from talking heads in a video game. For example the tech girl, Mei Ling, makes a habit of inundating you with information ranging from Chinese proverbs to Shakespearean quotations when you call her. She explains to you in one scene her dreams of being a pilot; dreams that were crushed by a hesitance to kill and poor eyesight. Your commander, Campbell, provides necessary information and support when things get hairy. In a game defined by long-windedness, the brief characterizations of your accomplices are refreshingly concise.
 Metal Gear Solid makes you want to care about fulfilling your mission. The people on the Codec constantly remind you of your importance, your indispensability. You are able to learn more about your allies, if you want to. They aren't just talking heads- they are people, people who care about what happens to you. 

 Metal Gear Solid was a revolutionary game both from a gameplay and storytelling perspective. However, I have the unique (and not entirely pristine) perspective of playing MGS after it revolutionized storytelling in polygonal games. What really stands out to me is the focus the game puts on interpersonal relationships with coadjutors, and the fact that unlike every other focus the game seems to have, it doesn't beat you over the head with it’s existence. I wish more games focused on side character's actual character, not just their gameplay functions. 

No comments:

Post a Comment