Part V (MGS2: A Complete Breakdown)

Kojima’s Final Thoughts / Last Laugh

Snake’s monologue is perhaps the most intellectual and sincere speech ever included in a videogame.  Watched free from context, it’s obvious that Kojima wanted to pass this message on to his staff (many of whom were married and had children during their years of working on MGS1 and 2) and to the players (who were generally young men with their lives ahead of them) which is a testament to how sensitive and introspective a man he is.  In some ways, the whole the story of Raiden and the Big Shell is to justify this speech, contrived to maximize the impact of these themes, even at the cost of the Metal Gear franchise, it’s fictional world, and the millions of fans who were obsessed with the plot but not its message.  We’re supposed to avoid being like Raiden, who blindly worships Solid Snake, wanted to imitate his “bad ass” attitude, but overlooked the real lessons in the story of Shadow Moses.  Raiden is told to “start over”, pick a new name, and look deeper.  This monologue is a bit of pure philosophy, discussing the purpose of life itself.

Immediately following this we have the final plot twist: the Wisemen’s Committee being dead for a hundred years.  This means the trail is now cold, effectively stopping the hunt for the Patriots before it even begins.  I consider this Kojima’s last laugh at the audience, confounding those who were hoping for some kind of exciting Patriot-hunting sequel, full of answers and resolutions.  There was never supposed to be a sequel, nor was there supposed to be resolution, and this was Kojima’s way of shrugging off all the loose ends so he won’t have to deal with them later.  (Time proved that the joke was on him, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t try.)  To this day, even for myself, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the fiction, wondering about the validity of carrying out the S3 Plan in a VR system, or how the world would react to the story about Arsenal Gear crash-landing.  We can speculate on the answers or read between the lines to make a guess, but when you really look closely, the whole logic of the situation vanishes like a desert mirage.  The final twist is a sharp reminder of that.

Metal Gear Solid 2 ends up being a complete breakdown.  It’s absolutely fair to call the plot a convoluted, messy, and unsatisfying wreck; something that not even the VR Theory can salvage.  There are just too many missing puzzle pieces for it to be solved, and for the simple reason that it was never meant to be solved, but contemplated.  It’s an open-ended question, asking “Where do you want to go?”  There is no right answer.  It’s up to you to decide, and it’s your responsibility take what you want.  Sifting through the wreckage and picking out the truths from it is the whole genius of the conversation with GW, where they accuse people of not being able to think for themselves.

So there you have it!  The ending is not the end, but a new beginning altogether.

Note: Just four days after publishing this piece, revealed their Top Ten Worst Endings for videogames, placing Metal Gear Solid 2 all the way at #3.  Although plenty of people came to its defense in the comments — even accusing GameTrailers of trying to bait controversy — it’s worth noting what the video criticizes.

The ending’s flaws, according to GameTrailers, pick on the “borderline conspiracy theory porn” of Kojima’s “ridiculous diatribe on the dangers of the digital age”, saying that the game clearly takes itself too seriously.  After literally saying “blah, blah, blah”, they conclude that Kojima “threw logic out the window” and accuse him of being lazy.

Needless to say, they’re correct about logic being thrown out the window.  But to accuse it of being “lazy” is beyond absurd and, I can only imagine, motivated by petty spite.  It shows a willful ignorance to the postmodern nature of the game, and (in the context of the rest of their list) betrays an assumption that game endings should be gratifying and congratulatory, and nothing more.

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