4. The “Death of the Author” Argument (And Why It Fails)
In the past, I’ve been accused of trying to “control the discussion” by trying to keep things grounded in Hideo Kojima’s SENSE of the Metal Gear Saga. I’ve been told that it ultimately doesn’t matter what Hideo Kojima thinks his games are about. To bound discussion in “authorship dogma” is “limiting”, and that players should be free to interpret Kojima’s games as they wish.
In short, these people espouse “Death of the Author”, an argument that is inherently self-defeating and void of any logic, yet continues to persist (because it’s such a convenient excuse for willful ignorance and denial.)
I’ve even encountered those who try to use Solid Snake’s advice to Raiden, to justify dismissing Hideo Kojima’s authorship.
Solid Snake: There’s no such thing in the world as absolute reality. […] Listen, don’t obsess over words so much. Find the meaning behind the words, then decide.
I find it amusing how these people use Solid Snake’s advice to Raiden, to defend a game where Raiden rejects Solid Snake’s advice (30:12).
If you truly understood, and agreed with, Solid Snake’s advice to Raiden, you should be detesting Metal Gear Rising for undermining Solid Snake’s advice to Raiden. Solid Snake was trying to teach Raiden that he “can stop being part of a mistake [Jack the Ripper] starting now.” Snake wanted Raiden to not be a prisoner to his past, and live the life he wants to live (with Rose.)
Hideo Kojima creates his games with a lesson in mind (18:53). This lesson is woven into the very core of each of his games. To remove that lesson from his games, is the equivalent of removing too many blocks from a Jenga tower; it falls apart and loses what makes it special.
When describing the lesson he wanted to convey through MGS1, Kojima used the story of a chubby kid not giving up on himself (in spite of his or her parents. (18:30)) The game itself uses Solid Snake defeating his genetically superior brother in a fist-fight atop REX to convey this message.
But there are plenty of other ways that this lesson can be applied to; for example, I have a friend who struggles with keeping a lid on her autism. Another friend of mine has his biological identity mismatched with his social identity (GENE vs MEME.)
We each took different things from MGS1, but ultimately, its message is always the same; you, not your genes, decide your own fate (01:13).
Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear is optimistic; it acknowledges that, yeah, the world has its problems, but you can make it better, starting with yourself, and by setting a good example for others.
As Hideo Kojima explains, both in his GDC 2009 Keynote, and in a 2011 interview with Geoff Keighley at USC, his life’s motto is “to make the impossible possible.” (31:55)
It may not be easy to take control of your fate. You may struggle, and you may fail time, and time again. But ultimately, your fate is up to you.
But please, let Metal Gear Solid stand proudly as one of the few gaming franchises that isn’t generically happy, but doesn’t bask in the comfort of nihilism either.
And please don’t celebrate a game whose sole purpose seems to be to undo the lessons that Kojima has worked so hard to express through his games… Especially when the game in question has the intellectual value of a simple-minded zombie shooter. (01:03:07)