Remembering gaming's greatest moments
[Back in April of 2007, former Destructoid writer Chad Concelmo started a recurring series called "The Memory Card." The purpose was simple -- to share some of the greatest events in gaming history, and give them the respect they deserve. But in 2011 the series ended with no resurrection date in sight...until now. With Chad's blessing, please join us for Season 6 of the Memory Card - Chris.]
It wouldn't be a true season of the Memory Card for me unless I touched on one of my favorite franchises of all time. You know, that one, filled with fantastic tales of tactical espionage action.
The Metal Gear franchise, Solid or otherwise, is packed full of some of the most emotional moments in all of gaming. Whether it's the first time you encountered Psycho Mantis or the last time you'll ever encounter The Boss, tears and screams of joy have been had over the franchise's many classic entries.
But one particular event stood out for me after playing Metal Gear Solid in late 1998. It was an event that was never shown on-screen, but had a lasting impact on me for years to come. It was the first time a videogame had pulled the wool over my eyes, and as a result, I felt utterly betrayed, and ready for revenge.
It simultaneously fueled my desire to complete my mission, and broke my spirit. That doesn't happen often in a game. Such is the Solid series.
From the start of Metal Gear Solid's opening act, it's made very clear that you're going at it alone. Tasked with infiltrating a remote island in Alaska, your only hope resides on a small group of individuals by way of codec frequencies -- which is hardly a substitute for real, human contact.
Until you meet your on-again off-again partner Meryl, it's a very isolated, emotional experience, as Solid does a great job of making you feel hopeless at every turn. Limited ammo, larger-than-life bosses, and contacts that die mere moments after you meet them all contribute to the mentally-draining exercise that is operation Shadow Moses.
But there's one person who remains constant -- a shining light in the dark shroud that Liquid, your nemesis, has created. That light is none other than Kazuhira "Master" Miller, Solid Snake's close friend and confidant -- and by extension, your companion. After entering that first vent and opening contact with him, I was immediately drawn to Miller's aura, and his cocksure attitude.
It was a stark contrast to the urgent tone of your commanding officer Colonel Campbell, and data analyst Mei Ling's almost too calm demeanor. Miller was a survival coach through and through, and I trusted him to help me get the job done.
Until that moment...
It began innocently enough. Towards the end of the game I was nearing ever closer to my objective: to topple Liquid's plans and stop an international incident from occurring by way of Metal Gear Rex -- a mobile nuclear missile launcher. After being told exactly how to shut down Rex by my trusted mentor, I put my plan into action, and enacted the shutdown sequence. Then a bombshell blew everything I thought I knew wide open.
Miller was not only dead, murdered by a nameless assassin, but I had just activated Rex and potentially sealed the fate of countless nations. There was no "Master Miller" -- it was Liquid Snake the entire time.
This might not sound like a big deal, but I was 12 years old when I encountered this fateful day, and I wasn't used to getting tricked in any form of media. Although I had experienced "twists" in the film industry, nothing quite compares to a building of trust for over 10 hours through direct conversations, only to be betrayed at that final moment.
To pour salt in the wound, Master Miller had moved to Alaska to live in solitude -- helping out the locals and spending time with his huskies like any normal human being. Although it was clear he had spent time in combat and possibly had done things he wasn't proud of, he was still someone I could trust. There were hints -- I just didn't see them. If you try to contact Miller while fighting Liquid Snake's Hind D, he won't answer. Perhaps if I had relied on him even more than I already had, I would have uncovered the secret before it was too late.
But at that point, I had to finish the mission alone. Right back where I started.
Metal Gear Solid director Hideo Kojima caused me to question everything. Although many games didn't actually use the same brilliant tactics employed in the Solid series, I was put on edge, and still am to this day. It's a mindset that's served me well, especially with the Souls series, where you can't trust anything.
Solid pulls a lot of tricks throughout its experience. It breaks the fourth wall and scans your memory card. It makes you panic when you realize that you rented the game and can't locate Meryl's codec frequency that's on the back of the case, forcing you to call a friend or run out and buy the game yourself while your PlayStation is on, hoping your Mom doesn't turn it off.
At the end of the day, Metal Gear Solid not only tests your resolve, but it questions what it means to be a videogame. Games don't always have to adhere to your rules, and they don't always have to play on your side. That's one of the main reasons why I love the Solid series -- it keeps you guessing.
No matter what, you're always going to go into a franchise iteration knowing that something is askew. It could be at the end of the game; it could be at the beginning. But some way or another, something is going to happen that throws your whole world off balance.
We all have different reactions to any given event. Some of you may have brushed this off and said "I knew it the whole time!" But for me, on that winter's day in 1998, I had a life-changing moment.
And I'll always have Kojima to thank for it.
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