If Metal Gear Solid 2 was a ship, it would be the Titanic.
It was massive and shiny, and from all of the trailers and hype building up to it, it seemed unsinkable. Everyone watched with awe as it took its maiden voyage, believing that a new era had dawned, and MGS2 would lead us into it. ...Boy, it's amazing what momentum can do.
The colossal game began to break open on the proverbial iceburg of expectations and stubborness, unable to stop, turn or deviate. It was too late — the game had already been "shipped". At the same time that the USS Discovery was scuttled, MGS2 began taking in water and losing its momentum. It was just a matter of time before it would sink under the weight of scrutiny.
But Sons of Liberty didn't just fail to meet expectations. It was playing chicken with the iceburg, hoping to destroy the expectations with brute force in order to make its own legacy. It didn't want to live "in the darkness of Shadow Moses", but escape from the pressure of its predecessor and be free. ...Sound familiar? These are some of the main themes of the game.
One of the biggest keys to attaining this (creative) freedom was to undermine the believability of the scenario. To destroy the illusion before the players' eyes, even if it meant sabotaging its popularity in the process. That's one of the reasons he included so many hints and winks about it being VR.
Will we, Olga? Will we?
That's why we got The Document of MGS2 as well; a "making of" DVD that allows you to look behind the scenes, view the character models, read the script, and disassemble the game from start to finish. We get to pull back the curtain, and see how the trick is done.
It interrupts our fantasy,
and prevents us from "getting into" the game with real enthusiasm. We're supposed to be analyzing the game as we play it, aware of its falseness. Nagging codec calls from Rose or emasculating comments from
others are just part of this. As shown in the second part of this article, a great amount of effort was put into
making sure the game produced doubts in the minds of the players, knowing that many would refuse to accept the unflattering truth.
Yet without acknowledging the VR Theory, the outcry had to express itself in other ways... "Hardcore" fans scrambled to make sense of everything, searching for explanations and rationalizations, desperate to mend the plot holes. They wanted an answer for every question. Casual fans simply "forgave" the "problems" with the story and said, "Hey, the game's fun, so who cares if the story's nonsense?" Others (such as Tim Rogers) praised the game for its "postmodern" attitude, also ignoring the real themes, and their implications, in favour of a superficial (albeit complimentary,) interpretation.
To return to this article's baseball analogy, it was the equivalent of hitting a foul ball. Kojima gave us a curveball, and we hit it far in the wrong direction. It became a divisive issue amongst fans, with many simply walking away from the series until Metal Gear Solid 3 was released later. We know that Kojima took this reaction seriously, making a point of including the infamous Raiden mask in MGS3, and including "Raikov", the gay slave of Volgin, as a joke.
Did he know that people would hate Raiden? Probably. He's proven to be great at anticipating people's reactions and playing with them, so it would be foolish to say that he didn't expect controversy. But the fact that virtually nobody ended bothered to put together the themes and hints of the game must have frustrated him. I remember him saying once, when confronted by a knee-jerk interviewer, "It's my series, and I can ruin it if I want to." Evidently, he was sensitive to the outcry, and would let it influence the rest of the series, for better or worse.
In the future I will take a look at the arguments against the VR Theory, as well as the long journey from MGS1 to MGS4. We'll look at the dysfunctional relationship between Guns of the Patriots and Sons of Liberty, and continue to make sense of the series' troubles and accomplishments. Thank you for reading.