Despite what you may have heard, it is no longer disputable that the Big Shell chapter of Metal Gear Solid 2‘s story was a computer simulation from beginning to end. The whole scenario of Raiden on the Big Shell was a VR mission. This isn’t a theory, but a fact. It has been a fact since 2002 when Hideo Kojima directly stated in this interview:
No matter how you may feel about it, this is the most official and authoritative statement that exists regarding the subject. Anyone who disputes this statement from the creator himself is a crackpot theorist trying to somehow disagree with the creator of the game. It’s nonsense. If you believe Hideo Kojima, which you should, you don’t even need to make an argument to support your belief; although all of the in-game evidence does support it, as you would expect.
Sometimes facts and statements directly from the creator are not enough for people, however. These people prefer to be hilariously wrong, and they say very stupid things to try to defend their wrong position. Here are things that wrong people say when they find out about this fact.
He may have said “VR mission” but he meant the opposite of VR mission
There is no evidence to support this.
The term “VR mission” was somehow translated incorrectly despite not even being translated
Stupid people love to talk about Japanese creators without knowing anything about Japanese language. They don’t know that the Japanese people haven’t invented their own equivalent for the the English term “Virtual Reality”. Like thousands of other terms, they simply borrow the English words and use them directly. They sort of like using English terms mixed into their own language. If you ever listen to a Japanese person talk about anything modern, you can hear it all the time. So when they talk about VR they just say the actual English letters “VR”, and this means a computer simulated virtual reality. There is no translation involved.
Too stupid to accept this? Here is an interview with an actual Japanese person — who you may recognize as Hideo Kojima — where he says the English term “VR” while speaking in his native tongue within the first 2 seconds of the video:
Hideo Kojima always simply says the word “VR” when he wants to talk about a computer simulated scenario where the user is immersed in a virtual reality. He has used the word dozens of times in interviews over the course of decades, and it always has the exact same meaning. There is no room for misinterpretation, or even translation. Strangely enough, unlike almost any other word he might use, the specific term “VR” used by Hideo Kojima is 100% guaranteed to mean a digital computer simulation. To say that the whole Big Shell scenario was a “VR” mission therefore only has one possible interpretation.
If you think about it, the fact that Japanese people use the term “VR” directly means that even the term “simulation” can’t be mixed up with it in translation, because no Japanese-English translator would ever translate “VR” into something other than “VR” since it isn’t translated.
It’s all just metanarrative
This doesn’t change the fact that the Big Shell event was a VR mission.
Yes there is a metanarrative parallel to the story, but you actually need the VR Fact to have the metanarrative add up to something interesting. The player can simply turn off the PlayStation 2 and quit the game if he wants to, but unless Raiden could do the same thing the metanarrative lacks punch. If the game’s events actually took place within that fictional universe, then what is the significance of Raiden’s choice to continue his ridiculous mission despite the absurdity around him? If he is really surrounded by deadly enemies and important events, he basically does have an obligation to finish things and try to stop the nuking of the population. If Solid Snake really is alive in the flesh next to him, and he’s fighting for some real cause that isn’t a byproduct of Raiden’s hallucinations and expectations, Raiden would be stupid to give up and leave the Big Shell to go home and watch TV or whatever. Again and again, the question is raised about whether Raiden will proceed with his mission in the face of fourth-wall breaking insanity and illogical crap. That needs to be a real choice, especially since the S3 Plan is about manipulating choices through the Internet using only information and delusion, not elaborate multi-trillion dollar orchestrated schemes for each individual.
It’s up to the player to decide
There’s lots to interpret in the game’s themes, social commentary, character writing, and even parts of the plot, but the Big Shell being VR isn’t one of those things. It’s just a fact.
Let’s stop pretending that the Big Shell wasn’t intended to be a VR mission. It is a fact, even though it was retconned years later in MGS4. I know that the game’s story itself leaves it open to interpretation and downplays the significance of whether it was real or not, but Hideo Kojima solved the mystery officially, so that’s that. The case is closed. You can whine, cry, or throw a fit about it and humiliate yourself by saying ridiculous things, but this should never have been so controversial to begin with. It’s pretty obvious, actually. The VR Theory was always the best and most interesting perspective on the game, and it’s not surprising to it was correct because I only invented it after originally reading the interview where Kojima said it. I lost access to the interview, so it fell into “theory” status.
For any other argument you could possibly think of against the VR Fact, like the game’s themes or plot, I have written a 400+ page book on the Metal Gear series including Sons of Liberty and Substance which, among other fascinating things, expertly explains why the VR Fact is so important to appreciating what Kojima was trying to accomplish. People who have bought it are saying that it’s a masterpiece of analysis and greatly helps them appreciate just how much thought went into the game. I suggest everybody gets a copy and puts aside old pointless arguments in order to finally embrace and enjoy the truth of the matter.