Ridiculous or Not
Think of External Gazer as the the ultimate trolling attempt by Hideo Kojima, even though he only had a supervisory role and the actual contents were written by Tomokazu Fukushima. The truth is, this may make it an even sharper reiteration of what Kojima was trying to accomplish with Sons of Liberty.
Tomokazu Fukushima is a mysterious figure who is nevertheless prominently credited as the writer of the following games: Metal Gear Solid, Integral, Sons of Liberty, Twin Snakes, Snake Eater, and Subsistence — along with Kojima himself. That’s like, every game. He’s probably the only person who could replace Kojima in the writer’s seat if Kojima dropped dead. Although I haven’t been able to find much out about him officially, there’s little doubt he’s played a big role in helping Kojima shape the series, and is intimately familiar with the themes, hidden motives, and world itself; there must have been many interesting conversations between them about what they were trying to accomplish. Snake Tales was another golden opportunity, too good to pass up.
I edited together the first three screens of text given. Pay attention to the bluntness of it, and try to think of how it would be perceived by somebody hoping to play a meaningful story mission featuring Solid Snake (and not shitty Raiden!):
This is speaking to players. To me, it might as well be the unofficial tagline for Sons of Liberty: “RIDICULOUS OR NOT – A MISSION IS A MISSION!”
Think about it: Raiden’s mission briefing at the start of the Plant Chapter includes blatantly false information claiming the Tanker was carrying crude oil (we know it was transporting RAY), along with the claim that Solid Snake is the leader of the terrorists who kidnapped the President for — get this — cash. Gimme a break. It’s almost as ridiculous as rumor of Gurlugon, when you think about it. Sons of Liberty was specially designed to mock the “a mission is a mission” mentality, and Snake Tales are reinforcing it, much to the dismay of fans begging for the Snake Tales in the first place. Talk about having balls.
It touches on a deep point: if Snake thinks the mission is ridiculous, why is he still doing it? What does it say about this legendary mercenary, that he walks into obvious traps and follows along with this routine over and over? Or for that matter, what does it say about us, that we enjoy roleplaying as a willing pawn? (Answer: boredom, thrill-seeking addiction, drama.) But the plot soon thickens when we get to the spot and see the water move suspiciously…
This was dangerous territory to take Snake Tales, if they wanted to please fans. VR had become a dirty word in the Metal Gear lexicon by the time Substance had been released, at least as far as the story went. We loved to play them in our free time as stupid action filler, but mixing it with the story was asking for trouble. The “VR Theory” was in its infancy, and nobody liked it. Certainly, we’d prefer a “real” story, with important world events — like Shadow Moses.
But the story doesn’t let us have that. Instead we play as Snake through a series of VR missions within Otacon’s machine, including ones set on the Tanker, and in the Shell Core.
The first thing I’ll point out is that these environments are lifelike, not stripped down virtual playgrounds with floating vectors and honeycomb shapes on the floor. This is much like the ones shown in the “Alternate Missions” portion of Substance, which I don’t know how you’d explain in a story context. Perhaps if Raiden says VR was “indistinguishable from the real thing”, he experienced something like this; and if this is possible, it lends credibility to the idea of the VR Theory. Not that it really matters at this point.