In part 12 of the Sold Out series, we look at a small, interesting speech given by Big Mama regarding the Paradise Lost Army, and what it really means.
Part 12: Resistance Gamer Kids
Following Big Mama’s explanation of Big Boss and Zero’s conflict in terms of fundamentalist religion in Act 3, she and Snake are spotted by a Dwarf Gekko and forced to evacuate the church hideout. Before getting on her motorcycle though, Big Mama takes a moment to comment on the tragic story of her followers: (Watch)
Big Mama: All of these children were orphans. They work in arms factories, and when they grow up, they want to join a PMC. They seek revenge on other companies… PMCs that killed their parents and use their earnings to support their younger siblings. There are countless child soldiers like these in the PMCs.
Nowadays, anyone with a computer can get combat training. The FPS games these children love are distributed for free by these companies. Of course, it’s all just virtual training. It’s so easy for them to get absorbed by these war games. And before they know it, they’re in the PMCs holding real guns. These kids end up fighting in proxy wars that have nothing to do with their own lives. They think it’s cool to fight like this. They think that combat is life. They don’t need a reason to fight. After all, for them it’s only a game.
(1) Background of the Paradise Lost Army
This short commentary by Big Mama tidily explains the origins, motives, and even the training of the Paradise Lost Army — all of which we’re otherwise left to guess at. Considering they rescued Raiden from Area 51, it’s good to know something about where they came from, but too much long-winded talk about them would be unnecessary. Big Mama’s little speech, when seen alongside the visuals of the resistance members running around, does the job.
(2) FPS Genre Commentary
It serves as a commentary on real propaganda video games like “America’s Army”, which is still being distributed (for free) by the U.S. Army in order to show how fun killing and dying in war can be. No doubt Kojima, who thinks war should be recognized as horrific and serious, has some problems with that kind of blatant state indoctrination.
More than that, however, it’s probably a commentary on the glorification of war in FPS games in general. Kojima of all people must be faced with the bombardment of pro-war games that have flooded the market, considering his life is built on the success of revolutionary action game in which combat is shunned. His works of art are constantly being measured against stuff like Splinter Cell, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and other patriotic hoo-rah bullshit. Kojima is a subversive philosophical thinker, and shoving this extra jab into MGS4 is no doubt a way of once again pushing against the status quo.
(3) Continuation of S3 Plan
On another level, the speech also serves to show the success of the “S3 Plan” introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, in which both Raiden and Solidus’ “rebellions” were orchestrated and exploited by the Patriots’ system. Toward the end of MGS2 we’re treated to the following conversation:
Raiden: You want to control human thought? Human behavior?
GW/Colonel/Rose: Of course. Anything can be quantified nowadays. That’s what this exercise was designed to prove. …. The S3 is a system for controlling human will and consciousness. S3 is not you, a soldier trained in the image of Solid Snake. It is — a method, a protocol, that created a circumstance that made you what you are. So you see, we’re the S3. Not you. What you experienced was the final test of its effectiveness.
The Patriots are well-known for controlling their own opposition; somehow, using their pervasive networks of control and access, they manage to invalidate and even incorporate their enemies schemes for their own benefit. Much like Raiden in MGS2, the Paradise Lost Army is simply following the Patriot’s mindless cycle of vengeance, despite being led by Big Mama. According to her, “they don’t need a reason to fight”, and “they think it’s cool”. The Raiden we see in MGS2, with his virtual training and clueless obedience, was the same way, and in fact helped to “perfect” the system.
The theme of virtual training runs deep in Metal Gear. Even the genome soldiers from Shadow Moses are called soldiers of the digital age, conditioned using the Force XXI virtual reality programs and lacking real motive or experience. The discussion about “soldier genes”, figures like Big Boss, and real experience is explored by Kojima. MGS2 focused on memes instead of genes, so the S3 Plan was a method of trying to ensure that even “heroes” (who oppose the Patriots) could be generated at will and, theoretically, at a mass level. The resistance gamer kids known as the Paradise Lost Army are just another example of pawns in their endless, pointless game.
As much as I love Kojima’s commentary on society and the videogame industry, I’m an even bigger fan of the meta-commentary about the Metal Gear series itself. Lots of artists use their work to comment on society, history, religion, and so on, but not many are willing to address their own misguided followers.
For as fascinating as the S3 Plan is, it pays to remember that it’s really a commentary on the player’s relationship with Kojima and the game itself, the allegorical purpose of which is to tell players to stop demanding more Metal Gear games from him and start looking at the memes, themes and anti-war philosophy behind them. By breaking the “fourth wall” and talking directly to the player — albeit under the paper-thin pretense of a malfunctioning A.I. system inside Raiden’s head — Kojima tried his best. Of course, nobody bothered to pay attention to this, and so the “S3 Plan” from Sons of Liberty evolved into the “System” we see in Guns of the Patriots. It only makes sense that the allegory evolved along with the inspiration for it. The speech about the Paradise Lost Army relates to this because they, like the players, think that fighting is cool, and don’t need a reason to do it.
The missing puzzle piece here is, of course, Metal Gear Online.
The fact that war has become a “well-oiled machine” in the words of Snake is no coincidence. Without true ideological motivation, the Metal Gear series has become like a machine that only knows how to generate conflict after conflict, like the “System”. The redundant, self-perpetuating Metal Gear storyline needs to be put to an end once and for all. This is a brilliant, sad, and hilarious story, and Metal Gear Online is punchline of it. Knowing that fans were going to demand a strong online component (more mindless combat), Kojima purposely gives the combat in Metal Gear Online the context of “PMC versus rebels”; in other words, the plot of the single-player story spits on the story of the multiplayer. The Paradise Lost Army is a reflection of all those players who enjoy mindless combat like that. Big Mama’s speech is a clear shot at those same players.
Now let’s review:
- Metal Gear games carry a strong anti-war message
- Players don’t care about the message and just want more Metal Gear
- Kojima doesn’t want more Metal Gear, because players always miss the point he’s trying to make, and just want more combat
- Players don’t give a shit and threaten to kill Kojima if he doesn’t give them more combat
- Kojima gives them more combat, but purposely robs it of any and all significance, and in fact designs the whole story to highlight how stupid it is
- Players ignore the hidden (yet rather obvious) theme of how stupid it is, and play the multiplayer happily like dolts anyway
- Having satisfied the stupid fans with an intentionally stupid game with an endless multiplayer component, Kojima effectively destroys the “System” he’s been trapped in, and is free to do what he wants
The Paradise Lost Army, like Raiden in MGS2, are meant to comment on those players who Kojima hates, although the preaching is kept to a minimum here. Big Mama simply explains that they’re kids who are stuck in a cycle of violence, that the games they play are like virtual training, and that they think it’s cool. For those who are keeping up with the meta-commentary of the previous games, this message is neither new, nor surprising, although it is important.