Review vs. Analysis

I received an email recently from a reader who wasn’t impressed with my review.  He said that it felt like a kneejerk reaction against the game, without all of the nuance and insight that I usually give.  This was my reply to him, which may interest some of you:


My review was written as a judgment, not an analysis.  Most of my articles do not review MGS games, they study them, as you said.  For a review, however, the purpose is to decide what I personally like or dislike, and to criticize the product as a product.  MGSV is a product that costs money, and which either meets or fails to meet expectations of consumers who paid to experience it.  I am one of those consumers.  I’m not a disciple of Kojima.

If you read my actual review of MGS2, which follows at the end of my “Complete Breakdown” analysis, you’ll see that I also give it criticism in ways that I never did elsewhere.  Perhaps it’s rare, but I can simultaneously understand the deep intentions of Kojima and step back and judge his output from a more unbiased point of view.

With that said, my review is positive.  Perhaps you interpreted it as negative because you expected an analysis instead of a review.  My analysis will be in my book, and its too early for me to even get into that side of things at this point.  Once we know about what the hell happened during production with Konami and him I’ll feel more comfortable doing a meta analysis, but honestly, everyone else is pretty much on the same level as me until we hear more.

I appreciate the email and I knew that it would come off that way.  I also felt bad giving a judgment on it as a product, because my role has been an analyst for years, but that’s not nearly all I have to say about the game.  I hope you’ll look forward to a deeper analysis without judgment down the road, because I am too.

Like I said, though, I genuinely give it a positive review and don’t hate it.  Trust me that I can see the attempts at meta things better than anyone else out there, trying to be smart about the artistic intentions and the twist.  I have some important things to say about the meta aspect that I haven’t shared yet.  But i just wanted to get my EVALUATION of the PRODUCT out of the way while it was fresh, and I felt that I may as well articulate what people were experiencing.

I did pretty much insult the way it tried to be clever, but there is a sick habit going around the gaming community as a whole where people defend games based on everything except enjoyment and user experience.  We’re all experts now, familiar with behind-the-scenes production struggles, sympathizing with various creators, or even just what they represent.  “This game isn’t fun but it represents the indie scene and anti-corporate practices so I’m going to defend it!”.  But what about the experience itself?  Is it impossible to separate our view of a product from the production itself?

My REVIEW is about that 16 year old who picks up the game without knowing anything about Konami politics, but played some of the old games and wants to experience something worth their money.  My analysis will be about Kojima and the meaning of it all.

Kojima and the Soviet Union

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

Flag-Pins-Japan-USSR

 

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Solid Kenny presents “Seeing Things For What They Are: Rose Analysis”

Here’s something I’ve personally been anticipating for a long time.  Solid Kenny–who you may remember from his huge analysis of Metal Gear Rising –has made another video.  This one is narrated by ItsDragonBlade, and whether you’re a fan of MGS2 or a hater, it should give you a new appreciation of the Raiden-Rose relationship.  14 years after the game was released, it’s amazing that there’s still more to think about in the game.

 

IT’S JUST A BOX: Why #AHIDEOKOJIMAGAME Is Misguided

its_just_a_box2

The embarrassingly naïve outrage over Kojimagate continues on, and although I don’t have time to flesh this out the way that I normally would, I’m going to race through the points and try to point out how silly fans are acting right now.  This isn’t just about the hashtag, but all those fans who are getting upset because they seriously think that Kojima has been betrayed by Konami…

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Kojima’s supposed erasure from Konami

Hideo KojimaUPDATED: I’ve added some more thoughts on the situation, and the possibilities, toward the bottom of the post.

Joakim Mogren must be laughing right now.

Despite the fact that E3 is only three months away and MGSV is going to be released in less than six months — creating what could reasonably be called the official hype season for MGSV and Hideo Kojima — people on the Internet are actually believing the story that Konami is now publicly humiliating and extricating themselves from the only thing that keeps their corporation afloat: game design superstar and fellow Konami executive, Hideo Kojima.

The evidence is straightforward and brutal, if you believe it.  Konami is literally erasing Kojima’s name from promotional materials and websites, renaming Kojima Productions’ studio altogether, creating a new official Twitter account for Metal Gear Solid in order to replace Kojima Productions’ account, and changing their corporate structure to exclude Kojima and… take all the power for themselves, I guess?  An anonymous source has also come out of the woodwork to leak juicy details about a “falling out” between the parties, saying that Konami is even disabling their Internet access to prevent them from talking or something.  Oh, and Kojima made a cryptic tweet of Big Boss climbing onto a helicopter to leave Mother Base.

Kotaku seems to be aware that this is very fishy.

VG24/7 has collected the evidence.

Gamasutra is reaching to to anyone affected by this development.

There are huge problems with this story, and we should know better than to take any of it at face value, even though there are obviously aspects of truth to it.  Below is my theory.

mgs2_fortune_orchestrated

In order to generate the maximum amount of controversy and buzz around Metal Gear Solid V, it makes sense for Kojima to orchestrate a major stunt leading up to it, especially involving himself losing his job and status.  To foreshadow and then fulfill his role as a martyr during this project fits perfectly with the themes of the series at this point, and guarantees the kind of tidal wave of attention that we’ve already seen.  Not only did Kojima talk early on about dealing with taboos and being afraid of having his project rejected by officials, but he even posited that he might losing his place in the industry if something went wrong.

Fans are being provoked into coming to Kojima’s “rescue”, and thus generating a marketing campaign on behalf of the man at no cost to Konami.  Already we’ve seen a barrage of sentimental photos from fans displaying their collection of “A Hideo Kojima Game” games, with hashtags and everything.  No doubt we will see petitions and rallies by the time E3 rolls around, demanding that Kojima be given credit for his games!  Kojima will either not be heard from, or will fan the flames of concern with more cryptic hints, as he supposedly slaves away at his final Metal Gear game in silence and shame.

It’s possible that Kojima really is leaving Konami, or at least stepping down from an executive position, but there’s no way that either side would handle such a move with so little taste as this.  And what about Silent Hills, the intriguing reboot of the franchise designed by Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro?  Kojima has been happy with things leading up to now, and only gaining more power with every passing year.

The official statement from Konami?  “Konami Digital Entertainment, including Mr. Kojima, will continue to develop and support Metal Gear products. Please look forward to future announcements.”  This is just a reassurance to shareholders that this isn’t serious–not that any self-respecting shareholder would believe in such a turn of events without better evidence and reasoning anyway; as a corporation, Konami has nothing to gain from rejecting Kojima, and everything to lose.

mgsv_kojima_game_troll

 

Remember Moby Dick Studios

Before The Phantom Pain was officially unveiled as Metal Gear Solid V, Hideo Kojima directly stated that he had no involvement with the game.  According to the promotional materials and official branding, it was the work of Joakim Mogren — a man wearing bandages all over his face — and “Moby Dick Studios”.

This is how far Kojima was willing to go in order to create buzz around the game.  Lying to the press, staging fake interviews with Geoff Keighley, and appearing on stage to take off a silly rubber mask at GDC.  Apparently nobody remembers this, or understands what it really tells us about Kojima’s strategy with MGSV.

Kojima (and therefore Konami) knows very well how much weight his name carries.  Teasing The Phantom Pain as a game unrelated to Kojima Productions was a ridiculous and even morally questionable hoax, aimed at harnessing the speculative power of social media.  To not even be skeptical about the current erasure of Kojima from the game is to be stupid.

 

Worst case scenario

The above theory is my initial reaction to the whole situation as a fan of Kojima’s PR stunts leading up to this point, and a believer that Konami is smart enough to work out something at least a little bit congenial if they did have to part ways with the man who’s keeping their company in the big leagues.  I could be wrong, though.  If things are as bleak as it seems, and the betrayal of Kojima is as real as everyone seems to think, it’s still not that bad of a situation.

If there has been a genuine fallout between Kojima and Konami — which is possible, though incredibly foolish of Konami — and even if this has resulted in the company turning him into a contract employee who will be done his service once the game is released, the good news is that Konami will suffer greatly as a result.  Maybe Kojima even demanded this, and it wasn’t Konami’s choice.  Who knows.  What we do know is that if Kojima Productions is canned, Kojima will be free to pursue any projects he wants, which is what he’s been wanting for a decade.

Does this mean Silent Hills would be cancelled?  Did Kojima actually plant the foreshadowing of his “potential career move”, not to generate buzz, but to inject as much irony as possible into his final mission for Konami?  I could see that.  He certainly wouldn’t have been blindsided by any of this, so maybe he just wanted to make sure the metanarrative he’s been constructing over the course of the series was properly appreciated before he left.  We’ll see.

Whether his name is on the box or not, I’m still going to enjoy the hell out of The Phantom Pain, and you better believe I’ll be looking for as much meaning as I can from it.  If Konami begins to pump out non-Kojima MGS games when he’s gone (which they certainly would) I’ll be eager to see what they do without him.  He wanted other people to take over the series, and although he doesn’t have a “successor” he can hand it off to, that doesn’t mean they’ll be awful.  Which brings me to another possibility…

 

A new deal?

Perhaps there’s just a new arrangement for Kojima, albeit a less-than-ideal one.  Perhaps he will continue to support the Metal Gear franchise (as the press release stated,) by writing the basic plots for new Metal Gear games, but not go as far as to make them “A Hideo Kojima Game” by directing and producing them as well.  He’s said he’d be willing to do this plenty of times before.  And perhaps he’s willing to sacrifice the Kojima Productions label (which was never really a productions company of its own, and played up the Metal Gear angle by having a FOX logo) and his membership as an executive in order to become a regular game designer for Konami again.  Maybe he’ll create Moby Dick Studios for real, and Konami will simply publish his games like they would for other developers.

At this early point, I’m still very skeptical about the worst-case scenario people have been freaking out over.  I trust that Kojima and Konami have some kind of mutually beneficial understanding, at least.

More thoughts on the CIA, American exceptionalism, and the culture gap

A reader of the site from Puerto Rica now living in the USA has decided to respond to the Big Boss as Che Guevara article, focusing on the misunderstandings and culture gap between Americans and the rest of the world.  It’s not nearly as long as the original article, but it does cover quite a few relevant issues, with a more balanced view of the situation.

I’m glad that Mr. Sylazhov’s article has struck a note with more than a few readers.  I’ve already seen criticism that his views are too black and white, but I’ve always been a fan of hearing very opposed views from people who don’t hold back how they really feel, and then decide where the truth is for myself, having looked at all sides.  I’ve never felt comfortable discussing the real-life political or historical issues, but as I said before, Kojima is trying to wake up a sense of international sensibility with these games, and I am glad to provoke some discussion if I can.

Again, check out the great response blog post here.