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This article is by Metal Gear Confidential (careful, site seems to be infected) creator Mad Jackyl, who kindly emailed it to me and gave me permission to publish it. It's an honour to be able to present it here, and we thank him for giving more Metal Gear fans the opportunity to enjoy his insight.

Author: Mad Jackyl 

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The fictional location of Metal Gear Solid’s Shadow Moses Island has long been vaunted as a standout location in the series’ 20-plus year history. Though the storyline has depicted such lush and varying locations as mountain peaks, marshes, military bases, caves, and populated urban environs, none seem to have kept the imagination of players quite like the fabled locale of Shadow Moses. Itself a pinpoint of an island in an area marked by thousands of similarly sized islands and islets, were it not fictional, the island could be presumed to be located somewhere roughly north of 53° 47' N and 166° 35' W. Being perhaps the favorite location in the series seemingly by fans and creators alike (indeed, the only location of a previous mission to be revisited in the storyline), the environment has a sense about it of true functionality.

Much of this can be gleaned from first hand experience and interactivity, but often, comments regarding the base and its environs by non-playable characters add even more to this depth. Players were first introduced to the setting at the beginning of Metal Gear Solid wherein it was presented as a fully-operational and secured nuclear disposal facility heavily guarded by the Next Generation Special Forces. Later on, in Metal Gear Solid 4, we are reintroduced to the island base again, now long abandoned and forgotten, a lone revenant of a bygone era teetering on the verge of decrepitude. These two examples of the same setting lend greatly to the feeling Shadow Moses Smash Brosthat this particular setting is alive. Not in the literal sense, naturally, but in the same sense that a corporation or founding document (such as the U.S. constitution) is said to be a “living entity”. With the notable passing of time depicted between these two episodes, it is shown that Shadow Moses is a non-static and ever-changing entity which behaves as if governed by the same organic processes that a passage of time would bring in a real-world environment. An interesting juxtaposition, there are countless ways that could be elaborated upon showing how Metal Gear Solid’s environments share an inverse relationship with the characters that inhabit them. When compared to one another, it can be incredible just how much more carefully realized and grounded in reality the players’ environments are in contrast to the outlandishness of the characters themselves!

Given the benefits of being a work of fiction, the player can be dropped into locations in the Metal Gear world with the complete ability to suspend their sense of disbelief with very little explanation as to how those locations came to be. They simply exist for the convenience of staging the plot. Upon digesting the full storyline of the series and finally coming full circle to the place where most of the Metal Gear Solid saga arose from, this second experience with the facility had me thinking about many odd things. Things I’d never had any need to think of before but now had my imagination running: Campbell’s mentioning in Metal Gear Solid of the probability that the base probably ran off generators, for one. (Keeping with consistency, another allusion is made to these same generators in MGS4.) Campbell further mentions that there are probably ventilation ducts to allow exhaust to escape and for Snake to search these out in order to gain access to the facility. Later, the reasoning for the smelting pit or blast furnace is given as being a functional in-house foundry for the casting of Metal Gear’s parts. Completely unnecessary and superfluous, maybe, but an explanation is even given for the cargo elevator which leads to the underground base. According to Otacon, originally, one elevator was used to reach the bottom but now two shafts were used because a single shaft was not as structurally stable for the depth required. In an instance from Metal Gear Solid 4, Otacon checks the power status of the base and in doing so it is revealed that backup generators are powering the elevators – yet another detail that makes the location more fully fleshed-out. Really, if one tries, a lot can be learned about your surroundings from playing. All of this seemingly unnecessary input about the environment you come into contact with really beckons the question: Why? For what reason were these details included? It would be different if these details were given as part of the main dialogue and not able to be skipped, but a lot of the things that can be learned aren’t easily accessible, meaning many of the tidbits require unusual circumstances or timing to trigger them. There are still many lines in the transcript that I have yet to see triggered even after ten years of playing the game.

There is a compelling case then to think: if this much detail has been given to the player, to what extent could the rest of the Shadow Moses be explained away? If it was seen as appropriate by the creators to retain so much superfluous information, an importance was obviously put on bringing the setting to life. It’s not a great stretch then to extend that philosophy to the rest of the environments. Supposing this was a fully-functioning base, my thoughts began to drift to how such an ultra-secret and inaccessible facility would actually operate. The word credence is listed in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, “a mental acceptance as real or true”. With that definition in mind, this article was created as an appealing and fun venture deep into some “what if?” territory. It is the author’s attempt at giving the fictional island location some real-world credence. While it is a possible explanation for many things, it should be kept in mind that this is merely conjecture on my part and is not to be taken as fact or canonical to the series. There certainly is evidence here for a case to be made that the game designers involved made very few ‘random’ decisions when creating the player’s environment, however. Nearly every area encountered is made to appear functional, though it has little bearing on game play or story, but serve a practical nature anyways and have a direct correlation to how something could function in reality.

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