"dreaming in an empty room"
(a defense of Metal Gear Solid 2)
by tim rogers
07222002
(edited 07302004)

 


Metal Gear Solid 2 is highly illogical.

And I love it. In the end, as many said, it's just plain laughable. And . . . to a certain deeper extent, creepy as hell.

As a fourteen-year-old with an IQ as high as my weight (I was a big kid), I found myself confused by the movie "Patriot Games."

I mean -- what the hell's going on now? There are so many turnarounds -- all of them logical -- and, to a point, it's ridiculous. All these movies about terrorists and nuclear weapons and/or terrorists with nuclear weapons . . . they're so serious they're ridiculous.

As a twenty-two-year-old living in a run-down apartment in northern Tokyo, I was confused beyond belief by the last two-thirds of Metal Gear Solid 2.

To quote Cypher in "The Matrix," what a mind-job.

I wasn't sure I liked the game.

And now, I'm hoping Metal Gear Solid 3 features a battle against the ninja-ghost of Gray Fox atop a bullet train moving toward an alien landing site somewhere in the Yukon.

How did I get from one extreme to the other? Simply, I played the game again, not skipping the plot sequences. I reread some modern Japanese literature. I found a picture of Yoko Ono in an old Rolling Stone magazine, cut it out, and taped it to my wall. I sat down, then, looked at Yoko, and thought.

In several interviews, Kojima said he got the idea for Metal Gear Solid 2's story when he read an article about the lawsuit against Napster. The idea that the US Government could seek to prevent the world from sharing music with one another struck him as one step closer to a science-fiction world of mind-control. At the same time he got this idea, he was playing his son's friend's copy of Pokémon Silver. Hideo Kojima, I hear, has one of every Pokémon on every possible version of Pokémon. Most of them are on level 100.

Metal Gear Solid 2 took so long to develop, Kojima says, because he was playing Pokémon Crystal about six hours a day. He called it his "part-time job." This might or might not have been a joke.

Now, is this the kind of guy we want making our videogames?

I mean, he sits around and . . . plays videogames all day!

. . . Exactly.

Lover of the game that I am, I’ll admit: Metal Gear Solid 2’s story is so full of holes it's like a string of bad jokes.

Yet, I consider it about 100 times more "literary" than the most classy RPG -- more than Final Fantasy X, with its surprisingly mature handling of father-son themes.

Metal Gear Solid 2 is about taking the conventions of videogames and turning them around. It rips open the spy-thriller genre and puts it back together from the inside-out.

For crying out loud, one of the people monitoring our hero on his mission is his fiancée, who won't stop talking to him about movies they watched together. Sappy piano music plays in the background.

Electronic Gaming Monthly printed a picture in their review. I bought that EGM for ten bucks at a foreign bookstore in Tokyo, and read that review.

"Sappy piano music actually plays in the background during this romantic interlude. Ugh," the caption reads.

I paid ten bucks, I was thinking, to read a review from people that didn’t "get" the joke. Sure, they gave it a high enough score. This isn’t about the score, though. This is about the story, or, more specifically, the wrongness of the bashing thereof. So I ask a question:

Am I the only person who got it?

Am I the only person who found the game to be bold and risky? Am I the only person who thought, "If Haruki Murakami wrote a spy-thriller, this is what it would be like?"

Kojima has made the first postmodern videogame.

Okay, so Earthbound was the first postmodern videogame. Well, Mother was, if you want to get all technical.

Nobody argues with Earthbound. They know it's supposed to be wacky and illogical.

People argue about Metal Gear Solid 2. They don’t know that it's right in the same boat as Earthbound.

That's what makes it so damned brilliant.

Metal Gear Solid 2 is not a departure from the first one. The first one was lucky to not be too postmodern for popularity. Kojima is only now letting his more literary tendencies emerge.

Why would I call the first MGS "pleasantly postmodern"? Let’s take a look: it's a semi-realistic military thriller about terrorists with nuclear weapons and hostages -- with the curious additions of the prototype for the world's first robotic tank, the world's most powerful psychic, a giant Eskimo shaman, and a cyborg ninja.

All the sequel does is raise that bar a little higher.

[Next: Haruki Murakami, the Kangaroo Pocket Calculator, and the
laws of postmodernity [or: THIS IS HOW THE WORLD ENDS]]


 

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