I think it was on twitter, but once I likened a Hideo Kojima title to watching someone shoot a basket. You watch with bated breath as the ball circles the rim for what feels like an eternity. Trying to master interactive cinema, the art of giving players freedom in a story that by nature has restrictions, is no easy task. He's come the closest. Cutscenes can be a little long-winded (I haven't played MGS4 yet) but as of MGS3, little tidbits like allowing to you to see the scene from Snake's POV show the progress he's making.
Last night, I made a horrible mistake.
Okay, wait, let me slow down a bit. I managed to make my word quota for nanowrimo and I was in a good mood. So I come home from dinner with the fiance and her mother (which went surprisingly well) and pop in MGS3, hoping to make some headway before hitting the sack. I plan to do this around eleven PM. After (finally) defeating The End (if you've played the game, then you know how long this can take) I kinda lost track of time and before I know it, it's three in the morning.
I should have gone straight to bed after popping the geriatric End right in his peasy-ass head. But no.....
One instance in the game, I was warned about. Funny, no matter how hard someone tries to prepare you for something, it's never quite enough when you face it.
Enter The Sorrow, the most chilling experience I've played in a game.
In between life and death, you wade, waist-deep, through an uncomfortably narrow swamp littered with gutted fish. Deliberately slow, macabre music plays as you painstakingly make your way through this swamp, unable to run, unable to dive, unable to do anything to increase your rate of speed.
The environment is a cold, drab, off-olive green that can only be described as dead. The Sorrow taunts you, hovering above and ahead of you, telling you how you will suffer for all those you have killed. Weird, those nut shots were funny at the time...
I fire a shot at him. It goes right through him. "You've got it all wrong," he hisses...
And then it happens.
Out of the distance, in eerie, jagged patterns, reflecting the injuries you inflicted, the ghosts of the slain come at you. Some more slowly than others; I'm wondering if Kojima-san wanted their walking speed to reflect their anger. Some of these corpses are horrid; still spurting blood from the arterial vein I slashed open when I had them at my feet. They touch Snake and the damage, at first, seems minimal. When The Sorrow claps his hands at you, he releases this tentacled energy that winds its way towards you. It touches, and for just a second, you see a shot of someone you (Snake) murdered, sometimes at the moment of their death. This seen brought my mind back to Stir of Echoes and each time I heard that damn scream, I jumped.
Eventually I made it through, but then I went to bed. Can you guess what I dreamt about?
I've played a lot of great games in my life, but Metal Gear is about as profound as I've ever seen. Kojima-san is a genius in the way he conveys his message because its forceful, and almost impossible to ignore, and at the same time, he's not waving his finger. He presents you with fiction based on proven fact and allows you to come to your own conclusion.
But beneath it all, Kojima-san is calling for change. He hates war, he hates how it is fought, why it is fought and what it costs. And while he's not preachy, I walk away from these games and I understand what he's trying to say. We're all products of our own choices.
But it begs the question; can video games change the world? Because I sincerely believe that to be Kojima-san's chief aim. The franchise has been around since the eighties, it is one of the most hailed franchises in the world, but when the power goes off, it's not spoken of widely outside of those in the know. I don't think the Joint Chiefs in the world pause and say "Well, wait a sec. My son was playing this game where there was this bipedal monster capable of launching a nuclear weapon from anywhere in the world. If this one guy--I think his name was Reptile or Amphibious or something--hadn't stopped it, the world would've gone up in flames."
No, I doubt that happens. I find it easier to believe that they sit around and try to beat our enemies to the punch.
Either way, I would perfect my Japanese just to speak with this man. Kojima-san has chosen video games to tell his story but he's reaching for something much higher. Now that the series has come to a close, I guess history will be the judge. But I tip my hat to the man for at least trying for something other than the bottom line.
Um, I can't go back to that game right now. It's not that I'm scared, but,well, I have things to do. Important things.
And as soon as I think of them, I'll let you know.