Design Choice #2: Ladies Man
It’s only when we get past the introductory phases of the two games that we can become personally invested in what our character does. All the ego-stroking in the world won’t matter if it isn’t reinforced along the way, by our actions and interactions.
MGS1 reinforces Snake’s charming first impression by making him a hit with the ladies throughout the mission. Videogames rarely offer a chance to interact with normal human women to begin with – females usually take the form of aliens, spirits, holograms, magicians, hybrid animals, divine aristocracy, or otherwise laughably aggressive and hyper-tough clichés, as if to hide the fact that game designers don’t understand women and need to mystify them. This also means it’s very rare to have an interesting chemistry between them and the main character.
Solid Snake is one of the few videogame characters who actually meets human women, and he manages to flirt with and win over each of them, despite their being psychologically conditioned to hate the opposite gender, or trying to kill him secretly. Or, trying to kill him openly! Typical women, am I right guys?
That’s a rough count of the number of times a player might take some pride in his interaction with women. Don’t take it too seriously, I threw in some parts for humor. The point is, Snake is a sexy man; a tough exterior and a true heart buried somewhere behind all the scar tissue, et cetera. If you’ve played MGS2 but are ignorant about the first game, you may be surprised to see how starkly different it feels. Well now you know. He’s on a mission to save the world, but he still has time to seduce every female he meets. He’s like James Bond, if James Bond was cooler.
So, what about Raiden? He’s a good-looking metrosexual boy, I’m sure he must have some…
…Oh, he’s pretty much a joke in that department.
The irony of Snake’s relationship with Meryl during the Shadow Moses incident being cited as the reason for including Rose as the mission analyst is staggering, considering how badly she shatters the immersion of the game. She interrupts the mission with her boring conversations, instantly dragging our attention a mile away from the action at hand, and then just as suddenly stops and swerves the conversation back into some promise about “tomorrow”, before cutting off. Together, their chemistry is the polar opposite of Snake and Meryl, and comes off about as dry and passive-aggressive as possible. Don’t misunderstand: Raiden’s annoyed reaction to these selfish, ill-timed inquiries are clearly designed to admit and emphasize this fact over and over, almost as if to punish players who loved the sizzle of the first game.
The other females aren’t much better for our ego. Emma is too smart, distraught and preoccupied to even look at Raiden as anything besides a bodyguard. Fortune’s fatal attraction to Raiden is short lived, as he fails to “satisfy” her “need” – serving as a parallel to the intense relationship between Snake and Sniper Wolf, who ultimately got what she wanted from her “special prey”. Burly tomboy Olga has zero interest in Raiden beyond manipulating him, even when she’s faced with his naked body on the torture table. The whole room is perfect recreation from Shadow Moses, but rather than groping Raiden’s abs and calling him handsome, Olga pounds her fist into his gut. Not a coincidence! Raiden is purposely and repeatedly made to feel frustrated, inadequate and lost when it comes to women, in ways that are perfectly juxtaposed against his idol’s previous exploits.
And speaking of his idol’s previous exploits…