The Metal Gear Solid series is often credited with ushering in a new age of stealth-action gameplay, alongside a level of cinematic storytelling that would set an unparalleled industry standard for years to come.
But Metal Gear Solid games, by ornate design, are much more than mindless exercises of war. Far from it, in fact. Instead, each celebrated title in the series tells its own relevant tale, spinning a web of social-political intrigue reflective of real-world issues and events.
Somewhat incredibly, even amid a hellish warzone, Hideo’s bold exploration of human themes impactfully touches the heart of who we are as people.
For instance, Snake’s infiltration of Shadow Moses bravely delves into whether genetics govern our existence and if genes ultimately define our fates. In essence, MGS1 promotes a message of profound empowerment: we are not bound to our past, no matter how troubled or traumatic, but are instead shaped by the future paths we walk.
Later, Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater would explore the notion of patriotism and blind loyalty, in a nationalist sense, against a climate of toxicity between East and West, as Cold War tensions escalated to new heights.
But arguably, Kojima’s most insightful work is found deep down in the cryptic code of Sons of Liberty. Despite subverting player expectations with the inclusion of Raiden (We’ve forgiven you now, Hideo), somehow, seemingly before anyone else, Kojima foresaw the future.
In his vision, the dawn of a new, digitally dominated landscape loomed large on the horizon, where the best and worst aspects of humanity are shared and exhibited across the world wide web. However, within this clandestine system, operating in the shadows, the flow of personal information is stored and harvested by governments and corporations to manipulate the masses, sculpting society as they see fit.
For its time, in retrospect, Metal Gear Solid 2 painted an alarmingly unsettling yet worryingly relatable picture of how organizations could use citizen information in the modern age to influence every aspect of human life. From consumer tastes, trends, and habits, to shaping stock values and sowing social, political divisions.
In this instance, knowledge is the ultimate power.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
In truth, you’d be hard-pressed to find another game – any other form of media even, whose roots resemble, and in many ways, reach so far into the future. Moreover, Hideo’s insightful commentary seemingly reflects societal trends with such precision that you’d be forgiven for thinking he doubled up as a psychic in his spare time.
Censorship, Information Age & Artificial Intelligence
In Metal Gear Solid 2, Kojima uses the Patriots – a powerful underground institution that secretly governs world events, as a plot device to illustrate how hijacking digital information could be used to socially engineer the population.
Besides, everything we do over the internet, be it responding to messages on social media to placing purchases online, leaves behind a lasting footprint. A breadcrumb trail, if you will, hinting at our deepest desires, our interests, our political inclinations, and even our belief systems.
Sometimes, though tighter regulation is being pursued, in some instances, this sensitive information is pawned off to third parties and used for financial gain. But in the worst-case scenario, Hideo probes into the dystopian possibility of governments and influential organizations using this rich database of information to reshape the truth and forge the political narrative in their favor.
Bear in mind, Hideo created this historically relevant yet fictional representation of the future before the advent of social media tech giants, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Youtube, making Sons of Liberty even more remarkable.
If ever a warning shot was fired concerning society’s forthcoming over-dependence on technology, it came from Hideo Kojima.
The Patriot’s Deception (The S3 Plan)
Up until a certain point, we are led to believe the events of Metal Gear Solid 2 had been orchestrated behind the scenes and scripted page for page by the Patriots.
But this is all a front, a deceptive ruse, for a far more immoral exercise in mass control – existing outside the accepted boundaries of democracy and political free will. Instead of standing for Solid Snake Simulation – a program that, in principle, emulated the events of Shadow Moses to create the perfect soldier in Snake’s image, the S3 plan actually stood for Selection for Societal Sanity. (Bear with me)
Even Ocelot was conned into taking the bait and fell for the false flag operation, hook, line, and sinker. Theoretically, if the Patriots could successfully manipulate information surrounding the incident, they would have proven they possessed the power to shape world events and sculpt individuals at will.
An optical AI system, known as GW, was used to censor all forms of digital information. From everyday internet traffic to media broadcasts and other essential communications. In doing so, it spied on every aspect of our daily existence – a sort of Orwellian Big Brother-style surveillance on a worldwide digital scale.
In summary, it certainly makes you think twice about where your information is stored, how it’s harvested, and whose censoring it? Thank you, Hideo, for making such a visionary masterpiece. The profound relevance of which may only truly come to light in the coming years.
Robbie is a lifelong gaming enthusiast who grew up in the glorious era of Goldeneye split-screen multiplayer. Although he's excited for Ragnarok, Robbie is often found delving back into his retro roots; entirely convinced Metal Gear Solid 1 and Ocarina of Time are masterpieces of equal merit.