In my infinite quest to search out all things Metal Gear, I stumbled across this on Youtube. I thought it was funny, at least a little. Wanna know how nerdy I am? My favorite detail is that the actor playing Snake actually gets the inflection on the phrase “Metal Gear” exactly right…
I know, I’m sad.
Widely praised across a variety of gaming media, MGS 4 marks an interesting point in the early life of the PS3. American and Japanese critics laud the game as a watershed moment in mainstream game design. European gaming critics are a bit more circumspect in their praise, defining Snake Eater as the pinnacle of the series. If there is one criticism that stands out about Guns of the Patriots, it is that the final third of the game slowly gives way to being primarily an animated movie with a few full-on gameplay sequences and several interactive cutscenes.
Let’s establish one thing from the beginning: when you come to a game by Hideo Kojima, be prepared to play his game, not yours. Despite Kojima’s repeated denials of games’ ability to be an artform, he is one of the closest examples of an auteur the medium has to offer. Kojima has a story to tell, a method to tell that story, and sense that the gameplay should reflect something about that story. The indulgent cutscenes in MGS are notorious, sometimes leaving gameplay off for cinematic presentations more than an hour long. The scenes have a true film-like quality — staged, directed, and stylized to near breaking points. The attention to detail in an MGS cutscene puts the vast majority of hollywood films to shame:
Figure 1 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004). Read more…
If I am wrong, someone please correct me, but I’ve spent some time pondering soem things I haven’t found much mention of in the literature discussing narrative formation. I’ve taken to the term “narrative multitasking” as at least a preliminary step to defining narrative phenomena that seem endemic to modern expressive cultures:
- The ability to tell a story simultaneously across multiple media forms. This isn’t remarkable in itself, except that these simultaneous retellings often alter elements of the narrative to fit the expressive capabilities of the different modes used. Sometimes, this means simply emphasizing different aspects of the narrative, depending on whether the mode used is written, visual, or playable. The distinctions between films and novels have been given a lot of attention now that it’s quite common for movies to be adapted from books (and vice versa). Games have presented a different problem because the aesthetics, rhetoric, and semiotics of gaming have yet to be firmly established. Just to taste the potential complexities, read Consalvo and Dutton’s article from Gamestudies (2006), or Stephen Malliet’s article from the same issue.
- Narratives are now also responsible for accomodating expectations from their audience that are new and constantly shifting.
The easy contemporary example of this is the Harry Potter franchise. Read more…
In preparing for my presentation at the College English Association conference in St. Louis this week, I’ve been kicking around a lot of ideas of games as a brand of social commentary. Specifically, I’ve been analyzing Grand Theft Auto as a combination pastiche/satire that lovingly mocks great pieces of American pop culture to point out the vices of that culture in general. I’ll post that presentation up here after I give it (Thursday afternoon).
In a similar vein, I’ve always considered Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid games to be extremely good pieces of postmodern fiction set into game form. Kojima lets the player work his way through different scenarious using whatever skills and hardware Snake is allowed, and ties those abilities thematically back to his story arc. The character is a combination of stealth, intelligence, caution tempered with daring, and emotional reserve. All those qualities are woven into both the cutscenes and the gameplay segments, turning them into something of a mutual metadiscourse continuously commenting on these themes and how they are addressed within different segments of the game. One might justly criticize the series’ indulgence with cutscene length, especially given the way narrative components are more strongly tied into gameplay scenarios in current games. But little of those cutscenes is wasted.
The opus has always served as a warning of the very problems videogames so widely represent for modern culture: the potential that our reliance on and affinity for technological advancement might lead at least to our dehumanization, at worst to our collapse. Touching on subjects like genetic manipulation, nuclear arms, political and cultural loyalties, individual identity in an increasingly networked world, and the simple perils of war without consequences often makes Kojima’s games seem like some of the more topical and relevant narrative discourse on modern life. Read more…
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