New York Times and Metal Gear Solid 4

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New York Times and Metal Gear Solid 4

Mensaje por Sephiroth el Lun Jun 23, 2008 10:12 am

Here's an article I found recently:

The Shootout Over Hidden Meanings in a Video Game


If there’s a subject that’s as contentious as war itself, it might be a video game about war. It’s
been just over a week since the release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of
the Patriots, the latest chapter in the popular video game series about
a covert military agent named Solid Snake. And already, fans are
exchanging rhetorical fusillades on the Internet, teasing out what the
underlying political and philosophical messages of Metal Gear Solid 4
might be.Encrypted within this discussion is a more
sophisticated argument about the nascent medium of video games. Can it
tell a story as satisfyingly as a work of cinema or literature? Is
the Sisyphean mission of Solid Snake — to rid the world of a robotic
nuclear tank called Metal Gear — a parable about the futility of war or
about its necessity? A critique of America’s domination of the global
stage? A metaphor for the struggle between determinism and free will?
If the creator of the Metal Gear Solid series, Hideo Kojima, has
answers to these questions, he isn’t telling.“He doesn’t interview very much,” said Leigh Alexander, an associate editor at Kotaku.com,
a video game blog. “Sometimes he will speak about it, and other times
it’s left to the critical peanut gallery to disassemble what his
intentions might have been.”Devoted players have no shortage of
opinions about what Mr. Kojima’s games are saying. The original Metal
Gear Solid, released in 1998 for Sony’s
PlayStation console, combined stealth combat with cinematic
intermission scenes, full of dialogue and imagery that directly invoked
the bombing of Hiroshima and the birth of atomic weapons. The game
called attention to the scourge of nuclear proliferation, and forced
players to consider the morality of their own lethal actions. These
messages were complicated by a pair of sequels: Metal Gear Solid 2:
Sons of Liberty, released in late 2001, introduced a shadowy
supernational group called the Patriots, so powerful that even the
president of the United States answers to it. (A commentary on the
disputed 2000 election? The cabal theories of post-9/11 politics?) And
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, released in 2004, explored the cold
war origins of its characters, whose personal stories are intertwined
with the rise of the military-industrial complex.“This is a
just-off-center world that gamers can almost believe in,” said Rob
Smith, the editor in chief of PlayStation: The Official Magazine. “All
the important world history of the 20th century matches up in ways that
say, ‘If we’d gone down this path then, this is what we’d now be
facing.’ ”Metal Gear Solid 4, released for the PlayStation 3
console, further upends traditional notions of heroism and villainy: in
this game Solid Snake (think James Bond meets Rambo) has aged
considerably, as have several of his archenemies; the forces he battles
are not the soldiers of identifiable nations but the mercenaries on the
payroll of private military companies. “The issue of good guys and bad
guys doesn’t exist anymore,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s just: here’s the
guys.”Even as gamers ponder what this symbolism means (an allegory of war in the era of Blackwater Worldwide and stateless enemy combatants?), they are also debating whether the
story of Metal Gear Solid 4 is a satisfying one, and if its
storytelling techniques are used effectively. “You get so
caught up in just figuring out, Does this story need to be here?” said
Stephen Totilo, an MTV News reporter who covers video games. “That’s
not a question you wind up asking yourself when you’re reading a novel.
Of course the story needs to be there! Otherwise you don’t have a
novel.”Players like Shawn Elliott, the senior executive editor of the gaming Web site 1up.com,
have criticized the game for its preachiness, and for its reliance on
lengthy cinematic interludes that can run 30 minutes or longer. “It
can basically become a movie for long stretches,” Mr. Elliott said.
“It’s not necessarily a game catching up with movies, but a game kind
of cheating and using a language that isn’t native to its own medium.” Others
object to the sheer density of the story, spanning seven games released
over 20 real-world years, that players are asked to master. “Let’s just
say it’s not something any of us gamers are nearly as used to doing
when we’re playing a game as when we’re reading a novel,” Mr. Totilo
said. Players can skip over the storytelling elements in Metal Gear Solid and still play the game.But unrepentant fans like Ms. Alexander of Kotaku.com argue that,
coherent or not, the narrative of Metal Gear Solid 4 is an inseparable
part of the “package experience” that makes it an evolutionary step
beyond fare like Halo 3, a first-person shooting game designed to soothe itchy trigger fingers.Metal Gear Solid, Ms. Alexander said, “has the characters and the narrative,
the symbolism and the metaphors, and all of the lore that ties it
together,” whereas Halo is popular “not because of any of its
peripheral elements or anything else about it, other that you shoot
people.”

So, what do you think about it ?

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