The following guest article was written by a friend and author, Alexander Sylazhov, who you ought to remember fondly from his Big Boss as Che Guevara article; I titled that article in order to highlight one of my favorite aspects of it, but it certainly went well beyond that. I’m deeply honored to be able to present his new article, which is the kind of analysis I would love to be able to do myself. With the upcoming release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain less than a month away, this in-depth exploration of ideology, politics, and pop culture in the Metal Gear series is a fascinating must-read from a talented writer from a different side of the world.
Expect to see more from him soon, and please check out his science fiction novel series if you want to see more from him and support his work.
Kojima and the Soviet Union
An analysis of the political overtones of the MGS series and Hideo Kojima’s ideology
(Note from A. Sylazhov: Because I am Uruguayan and the author of this website is Canadian, I will refer to citizens of the US throughout this article as “Unitedstatians,” derived from the official demonym in Spanish “estadounidense,” which we use in the Spanish language to safeguard our right to our American identity and avoid confusion over usage of the term. From Canada to Argentina, we are all Americans, and the US shall not deprive us of this right.
Throughout the Metal Gear series, we play usually aligned with the US, but not in the same fashion as in other more mainstream games. Although featuring mostly good guys hailing from the US or its classic allies – usually intelligent and very humane people – the series’ has been highly critical of US domestic and foreign policy, and bears a strong anti-militaristic and anti-nuclear message. Unlike the typical US techno-thriller genre, with the fascination with guns and military technology being used to instill feelings of chauvinism and hardcore patriotism, the fascination with military tech in Metal Gear has always been used to shows us the incredible destructive capacity of these weapons but also the humane and helpful side to them. As we’re told through MGS2’s Plant Chapter opening message, “computers and atomic bombs, both products of WWII, grew up together.” We have derived incredible technology from military use, using devices that have become primordial in our everyday lives. Videogames are but an example of the good that can be done with computers. Yet, even videogames can be used as a double-edged blade, for good or evil. Videogames teach us and inspire us, and can be used as tools for political indoctrination or cultural conditioning. They are starting to become a part of social engineering, and at least here in the West, they have traditionally carried with them US values, almost invariably. Even videogames from European and Asian developers try to make their games as Yankee as possible, because out of inertia, they know it’s what the public is used to, and what it must surely demand. But they fail to grasp the fact that the public’s tastes can be conditioned and changed as well. To be brief, videogame developers are not bold, and go along with whatever cultural or political values are considered correct, or “normal” by the public. With videogames such as Metal Gear, we have seen that even mainstream videogames can be used for “good,” to challenge these established cultural clichés and try to instill free-thinking attitudes in people.
So far, the Metal Gear games that challenge this consensus more remain MGS2, MGS3 and Peace Walker. MGS2 gave us a plot highly critical of the US as a do-gooder democracy and showed us an alternative face to it that rang curiously more appropriately than what we’re usually told to believe. MGS3 showed us the true nature of the Cold War and the fickle, fleeting bonds between world superpowers. Peace Walker, on the other hand, included not only a plot full of elements against US intervention in Latin America, but countless cassette tapes serving as briefing files to add more weight to the story, praising Latin American heroes such as Che Guevara and Augusto Sandino and criticizing US-backed dictators such as the Nicaraguan Somoza, as well as filibusters like William Walker. The US-born characters such as Big Boss and Kaz Miller passionately criticize their own country while praising the efforts of the Latin Americans not to be dominated. As I said in a previous article, it’s absolutely unprecedented in the realm of gaming, and to us Latin Americans, emotionally-charged and welcome.
However, not everything’s so black and white. Kojima’s relations with the US may be quite dysfunctional, but so are his relations with the most feared rival of the US, the former USSR and its successor, the modern Russian Federation. In this article we’ll analyze that dysfunction and speculate on how Kojima views not only these two specific superpowers, but all superpowers in general.
Let’s start from the beginning, looking at the hints in MGS games. We’ll start with the Metal Gear Solid games featuring Solid Snake as a protagonist, ignoring MGS3, Peace Walker and MGSV for the time being, which we’ll save for last.