Rivals is †my attempt at an ongoing series that looks back at memorable battles in video games. This instalment of Rivals is about Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation and contains minor spoilers.
The only video game related injury I endure with any regularity is a weird dull pain in that fleshy part under my thumb. I get when I've sunk too many hours into Battlefield 3, I think itís those small movements of the sticks for aiming that does it. But thatís more of a side effect than a feature Ė even the most violent video game shelters us from any real pain.†
Yes, your teenage heart may have broken when a certain silver-haired megalomaniac stabbed your flower-selling girlfriend through the guts with his long, over compensating sword. But thatís a different kind of hurt and unless youíre wearing a gimmicky headset that zaps you for taking damage chances are you havenít felt real pain from a game.
Unless youíre a Metal Gear Solid fan.
Series creator Hideo Kojima waned to hurt you for buying his ground-breaking game. But heís a busy guy, so instead of showing up on everyoneís door and giving them a dead arm he carefully constructed an ingenious trap that ensures gamers like me would do it to themselves. How? By knowing gamers would rather sustain a repetitive strain injury than lose. Duh.
After a lot of talking about the dangers of nuclear weapons and sneaking around the icy fortress of Shadow Moses our hero and in-game avatar Solid Snake is captured by his yet to be revealed brother and strapped to an electrified torture rack operated by Revolver Ocelot, an agitated, blood-thirsty Russian. This may sound like the plot to one of those movies that were kept in that special section of the video store where a young soldier learnt that even Ďlove can bloom on the battlefieldí. But sadly this is just a part of Snakeís everyday life. No wonder heís perpetually pissed off.
Anyway, Ocelot tells me all I need to know to survive Ė mash the circle button to regain health while he shocks you, press select to give up and donít use an auto-fire controller. Heíll know. Oh and if I die I go back to my last save, which was hours ago, and if I surrender Meryl, my in-game girlfriend of the past few hours, will suffer a horrible, off-camera death.
And so begins the torture, both in and out of the game. At first I figured I could do it with my thumb, but the health bar dropped quicker than I could replenish it. Still, I canít stop now, itís so close! This simple repetitive task of bashing that one poor button over and over is a lot more painful than it looks. Okay, okay, round one is over.
This time the controller is on my leg as the torture begins, my thumbnail rubs over the button. Clicking furiously I try not to slip as the health bar is staying just above death. My upper arm is beginning to ache. But thatís it right? Well, no, thereís one more. Mashing furiously like my life depends on it my technique changes to suit whatever hurts the least. Even the index finger makes a cameo and taps away as fast as it can.
The torture is over, Snake is dragged back to his cell and for the first time in a video game I felt pain. Real physical pain. A quick call to my friend Mei Ling on the Codec radio and Iím told to hold the DualShock controller against my arm as it begins to rumble. At this point thereís no denying it - Ocelotís torture is about more than showing what a bad ass he is, itís about making the player empathise with Snake and in turn want him to succeed.
So if all that isnít enough I now have to figure out how to escape this prison or the whole process will begin again. The rest of the story involves an invisible scientist, a bottle of tomato sauce and a solider with diarrhoea. But I digress.
The point is how many video game villains can actually claim to have hurt you? Physically hurt you? Most gaming related injuries Iíve sustained have been self-inflicted. A jerked knee hitting a desk during a jump-scare or sore wrists from awkwardly holding a 3DS for a few hours. But these donít count - they werenít by design. But Ocelot was. Heís the only bastard I can think of who has physically assaulted me as a player.
Ocelot stands as testament to Kojima and his incredible understanding of the medium of video games. He created an adversary who was more than just another boss with a health-bar that needed emptying, he was an tormenter to both Solid Snake and you, the player. Give in to him and you lose the girl, die and thereís no continues or endure and suffer the consequences. Those are your options.
Though Ocelot remained a great foil for Snake through-out the series it was my first encounter with him that really left its mark on me.
Emotionally and physically.