How the Metal Gear Solid series changed my life

As you may or may not be aware, Anthony and I have been on a bit of a Hideo Kojima kick lately. This was initially brought on by his desire to get me, a person who had never played Metal Gear Solid before this point, through one of his favorite series of games. Now that I’m done with them all, I want to discuss the many ways in which the games impacted my life outside of the MGS world.

Now, this article is probably not going to continue on like you think it will. I am not here to sing the series’ praises or go on about how the story and gameplay reached into the very depths of my soul. After going through all four games, I have found that I do not like the Metal Gear Solid series very much at all. However, even though I do not feel the same way about these games as most people do, I did not walk away from the playthroughs empty handed. There are several things that the experience left with me.

WARNING! Do not read any further if you have not played the Metal Gear Solid series in its entirety. There are some spoilers here!

It deepened my appreciation for robotics

Much like the original Transformers cartoon series ignited my love for robots way back when, the Metal Gear Solid series fanned the flames. As a big fan of the Dinobots specifically, the various models of Metal Gears, with their dinosaur-ish attributes, made really interesting enemies, and even more interesting allies. One of my favorite parts of Snatcher was Metal Gear, the little robotic sidekick that accompanies you throughout the game. I knew that a similar model was to appear as an ally in MGS 4, but nothing could prepare me for the coolness of Metal Gear Mk. II.

Instead of following you around, taking samples of crime scene evidence and speaking in a slightly robotic feminine voice as its future counterpart would, Metal Gear Mk. II follows you around, can go out on its own and whip enemies with an electrically charged arm, and speaks in the voice of a lovable nerd. It also does a little dance when it is “happy”, and shows signs of clumsiness. All the neat little things the little guy can do added a lot to my experience. But it’s not just the Metal Gears that have helped me to better appreciate those who are made of metal. Robotics also helped to make the most unappealing character of the series into a surprisingly good one.

Like many others, I spent most of MGS 2 lamenting the fact that the game forces you to play as the (then) unknown pretty boy Raiden, instead of Snake directly. It really put a sour taste in my mouth that lingered through the entirety of the game. But come MGS 4, Raiden has transformed from an annoyance to a complete badass, all thanks to the fact that he had basically turned himself into the complete opposite of an effeminate man: a cold machine. Now that I’m really thinking about it, it’s very shallow to find a character infinitely more interesting after the addition of a metal exoskeleton, but I can’t help it. I find it so interesting, I’m willing to try again with Metal Gear Rising if it focuses on Raiden’s change from man to machine, in spite of my general dislike of the series from whence he came.

I am aware that there are plenty of other games out there with robots in them, but up to this point, I never really delved into any. From here, I think I will move to yet another robot-filled Kojima production, Zone of the Enders. Who knows where I will go from there? Thanks to the Metal Gear Solid series, I’m looking to expand my mecha horizons beyond watching my old VHS copy of the Transformers: The Movie every now and then. I think I may be ready to jump into the cockpit a little more often.

It gave me my first crush on a character from a videogame

The appearance of videogame characters is perhaps one of the most often discussed subjects among the gaming community, but I personally never really understood how one could find a virtual entity attractive. I find plenty of them adorable, but sexiness is a form of attraction that never crosses my mind when I’m playing games. I guess it is a bit easier for those who are attracted to females, seeing as how they are the demographic that most game developers pander to graphically. Those who are attracted to males do not have much outside the muscular and the overly feminine, both of which do not tickle my fancy as much as it may others.

I’ve been able to go through most of my gaming life with this mindset. But the Metal Gear Solid series flipped my world upside down with its main character, Solid Snake. It took a while, but around the time we got to MGS 3, I finally realized that, oh my god, Solid Snake (and Naked Snake/Big Boss) are hot. It’s not an extreme attraction, but an honest-to-goodness “I’m really enjoying looking at this guy”, a feeling I have never felt for any other character in a game.

I cannot pinpoint exactly what is is about the character that I find attractive, because everything about him points to feelings that should be the exact opposite of what I feel. Muscles have never done much for me, so it can’t be that. Mullets are the most unappealing hairstyle ever, but he pulls it off somehow. If David Hayter’s sweet, sweet voice had anything to do with Snake’s appearance, I could place the blame squarely on it, but I can’t. It’s all very confusing, but it is an interesting first for me. I already feel fangirly about the whole thing, but what’s even worse is that I cannot decide whether Snake or young Big Boss is more attractive, due to a strange attraction to eye patches.

Having played it, I now understand all the MGS references that I never got before

“Fission mailed.”

“Time paradox.”

“Metal Gear?!”

“War has changed, etc.”

I now know the context of all these things I’ve seen so often. That, and I can read spoilers without Anthony getting upset with me. It’s really quite hard to get around the Internet without running into something MGS related, especially if you work for a gaming blog.

It gave me game characters that I can identify with

One does not feel closer to the characters they play as and interact with in games because of their superhuman abilities and heroism, but because of the small things that make them more human; the things that make them more like ourselves. In recent years, developers have really pushed for realism in their games, and a large part of it shows in modern game characters. However, a lot of this realism is only visual. As much as that space marine looks like a real human, he is still a heroic, tough-as-nails space marine; as much as we want to make some sort of connection with them, they are ultimately something that none of us on the other end of the controller are, making it difficult to do so.

Honestly, the only times I have felt sympathetic to a character is when the game developers leave their back story and a good chunk of their personality to the player’s imagination, so that I could fill in the blanks with things that I could relate to. But now I have not just one, but two characters who are so much like myself, it’s almost scary.

The first is Emma Emmerich, who made her appearance as an ally in Metal Gear Solid 2. She and I are both very soft-spoken and fearful of most things, even water! As she whimpered about having to go underwater in her world, I whimpered about having to go through an underwater section of the game on the outside. Sharing that fear with her, and having them coincide like that was a very surreal feeling that brought me very close to her character, making her untimely death hit me harder than pretty much any other in the series. With every new aspect of her personality that was revealed, my jaw dropped just a little further in disbelief. It was on the floor and on the other side of the room by the time Otacon found her parrot once she was gone, affirming that she too was a bird lover.

Even so, the other character that I found a lot of myself in surprised me even more. Sunny Gurlukovich, the young girl who accompanies Otacon throughout Metal Gear Solid 4, is a mirrored image of my youth, many elements of which have followed me on into adulthood. She is an extremely sheltered young girl with no friends her age, only a single “parent” to depend on, and is comforted by technology and knowledge. She is also extremely eager to please, as evidenced by her struggle to cook eggs correctly for the few people in her life. She even gives her all to Snake, who consistently brushes her aside and gives her no emotional reward for doing so. Her eagerness, insecurities and childishness were all things that I saw in myself as I watched the events of MGS 4 unravel.

One of the moments in MGS 4 where I got the most emotional was not the ending, where most people seem to have had theirs, but after Naomi betrays Snake and company to go back to Liquid Ocelot . I wasn’t mad that she had (seemingly) double crossed Snake and toyed with Otacon’s emotions, but the fact that she had betrayed the trust of Sunny. Because we are so much alike, I knew that this occurrence would break Sunny’s heart, and this in turn broke mine. When a game can evoke such a strong emotion out of me, like my protectiveness of Sunny and my sympathy towards Emma, I know that it contains something special. I have these two characters to thank for this, and I don’t even mind if Kojima spied on me my whole life to create them.

It introduced me to Ga-Ko and Kerotan

You know these guys, right? They have both appeared in the MGS series several times.

Apparently, these two characters do have their origins within Konami, but not in videogames; they are the creation of a divison of Konami called von Traumer. From what I can figure, they are a set of characters aimed toward children that appear in several Japanese educational books. They are also best friends and adorable. I really love how they have nothing to do with games, adult material, or the Metal Gear Solid universe, yet Kojima still managed to fit them into the world in the odd, neat little ways shown in the above images.

It helped me better understand myself as a gamer

As I’ve mentioned several times now, I don’t really like the Metal Gear Solid series. I can appreciate the story they tell, but as games, I hate them. Stealth and first/third person shooting are two game mechanics that have never done anything for me, and none of the four MGS games allowed me to bypass this aversion like I hoped they might. The biggest reason why I dislike these two this is simply because I’m not good at doing them, specifically the latter. I only played a scant few PC shooters before this generation of home consoles, making my aim unworkably shaky without a mouse, and my patience short.

I openly admit: I did not play through the majority of the games myself. I gave each one a chance in the beginning, and then handed over the controls to Anthony in frustration before too long each time. But even through my frustration with the gameplay, Anthony was determined to keep going just to get me through the story, in hopes that I could at least get some pleasure out of it. Besides the above notes, I didn’t.

Needless to say, for most of the duration of these playthroughs, I was thoroughly convinced that there was something wrong with me. Why could I not enjoy something that countless others have? Everyone loves the Metal Gear Solid games, except for me. Due to the fact that so much of the MGS experience is purely visual and audial, I felt like I should have loved the games. Could it be only my inability to play the game that is holding me back from loving these games as everyone else does? Well, that’s only half of it.

All my life, I’ve simply played all of the games that I liked. If you asked me why I liked them, I would not be able to give an answer. If you asked me what my favorites were, I would fumble through a huge list indecisively. Going through the MGS series forced me outside of the comfort zone of platformers and puzzle games that I have always kept myself in. Doing this opened my eyes to the things that I actually like, and more importantly, the things that I dislike when it comes to gaming: cutscenes. Codec calls can also be grouped in with them.

Not to say that I loathe storytelling in videogames. Story is a big part of the overall experience, evident by the fact that if one is missing, most gamers will create one of their own. But what I seem to loathe is when that story is told through unplayable cutscenes. As we all well know, the Metal Gear Solid series is one of the worst offenders of cutscene overusage. Having them happen so often, and for so long, helped me understand that I would much rather have a story told to me through gameplay. If I’m immersed in something, I don’t want to be taken out of it. Cutscenes and codec calls do just that, and violently so. One moment I’m sneaking around, and the next, I have to give up control to watch myself sneak around from another angle or to take a call about something I already know. Even though the stories Kojima had to tell were interesting enough, the way they were presented, coupled with my inability to play the games well, is what killed the series for me.

But you know what? I’m probably just as glad I got through them all as the biggest Metal Gear Solid fan (my better half). The phrase “changed my life”, although a little too much to describe some of the sillier points, is a pretty accurate description of what the games have done for me. No other series could have had the same impact on me, and for that, I am grateful to Solid Snake and Mr. Hideo Kojima.

Ashley Davis