21st Century Don Quixote
Perhaps you’re still not comfortable with the idea of a protagonist who lives in a delusion. It’s important to understand that this is not a new or unpopular concept.
The oldest example is also one of the greatest: the masterpiece novel “Don Quixote de la Mancha“. Don Quixote is easily one of the most famous and influential novels ever written and is often called the “first modern novel”. It tells the story of a man who goes insane from reading too many stories about knights and adventures, and starts to believe that he himself is actually a knight-errant like those he’s obsessed with. He sets off on a crazed adventure, re-imagining everything to fit his fantasy. He perceives his sick, dying horse as a huge noble steed; whores and lowly peasants become beautiful princesses and wealthy lords; and he believes that windmills are actually giants. By tunneling deeper and deeper into denial, he overcomes the attempts of those around him to awaken him to reality, vanquishing his perceived enemies by bashing innocent folks on the head with his lance.
The book was written in 1605, but it’s still as powerful as it ever was. It serves as a hilarious and potent attack on fantasy writing, escapism, and all those obsessed with fiction. There’s no evidence to suggest that Kojima is a fan of the story, but MGS2 certainly treads similar ground whether it knows it or not.
The big difference is that the narrator of Don Quixote is constantly explaining the hero’s delusion to the reader, while Metal Gear Solid 2 insists that players figure it out for themselves. In fact, the central theme of the game is that we must decide for ourselves what’s real/true, and what’s only a fabrication of somebody’s imagination. To suddenly lay the cards on the table, and reveal that it was all a dream, would defeat the whole purpose.
Like Don Quixote, Raiden is obsessed with imitating a hero and escaping reality, and this is central to the game’s plot. The “Solid Snake Simulation” works only because he thinks of himself as Solid Snake due to VR regimen where he followed in Snake’s footsteps.
Indeed, with his mask on and his codename of “Snake”, he seems to think he is Solid Snake.
Raiden is a 21st Century Don Quixote, playing out a delusion partly generated from his own memories and expectations and partly supplied by the A.I. system, for the purpose of the S3 Plan. He’s been fantasizing about being a hero for so long, and undergone so many VR missions, that he embraces the illusion when he has the chance, logic be damned.