Call Me Snake – UW70/71
This is a reprint of the letter from the editor in Unwinnable Weekly Issue Seventy/Seventy One, a double issue dedicated to Metal Gear Solid. You can buy Issue Seventy/Seventy-One individually now, or purchase a one-month subscription to make sure you never miss an issue!
While editing this issue, I stumbled across a detail in one of the stories that had me at a loss. Not being familiar with the later iterations of the Metal Gear franchise, I turned to Twitter for an explanation. This being a Metal Gear game, my reaction to that explanation was a howl of exasperation, in all caps with at least one expletive. The respondents, both fans and foes of the series, sometimes simultaneously, shook their heads knowingly, with sympathy.
I can’t fucking stand Metal Gear.
This wasn’t always the case. One of my fondest memories of the original PlayStation involved Metal Gear Solid, specifically the demo which consisted of the first area of the Shadow Moses facility. I played that demo over and over again in the summer of ‘98, in seemingly endless variations. All stealth, all run and gun, no kill, and on and on. It has been seventeen years, but I am sure that if you put it in front of me, I could still make my way through it flawlessly in my first go.
As for the rest of Metal Gear Solid? I finished it, but I don’t remember anything past the brilliant fourth wall-breaking Psycho Mantis fight.
I don’t remember many details of Metal Gears Solid: Sons of Liberty, either. I do remember my emotional reactions, though. They ranged from frustration to bafflement to loathing.
I haven’t played another one since.
I have read an awful lot about the series though. This week, I have become conversant in all the snakes, be they solid, liquid or venomous. I have a list here of all the Metal Gear mech designs. I crammed the operational histories of the important military units and organizations from the game into my head, taking precious space away from subjects I actually enjoy. I have suffered.
Why? Because while I loathe the series and question the game industry’s collective sanity for considering Kojima a genius auteur, there is one undeniable thing about the franchise: people – love it or hate it – write fascinating things about it.
Thus, we have a special double issue devoted to a series of games that make me want to beat my head against my desk until I knock myself out. Unconsciousness is a mercy.
I think the thing I find so aggravating about the Metal Gear games is that there is a very interesting, very ambitious story about technology and politics and the military buried under the nonsense. I see a Metal Gear game and I see a story in desperate need of an editor, or a team of editors, to tell Kojima, “No!”
It all just reads to me as a Japanese fever dream of Escape from New York. I’d rather just watch Kurt Russell. No LSD, thanks anyway.
You can keep Solid and Liquid and Venomous and all the rest.
All I need is Snake Plissken.
* * *
I hope you enjoy some of the design changes I implemented this issue. What follows is an excellent example of how I hope issues of the monthly will come together, at least for the themed portion.
While I hate Metal Gear, I love every one of these essays. Jeremy Voss wonders even louder than I about our collective inclination to ensconce Metal Gear in the videogame hall of fame. Amanda Hudgins believes how the series’ serious treatment of both the weighty and the silly winds up making everything feel insincere. Rob Rich get’s angry about Quiet – not her clothes, but the asinine explanation for them. Katriel Paige examines how the disjointed timelines of the series force players to confront the political commentary at the heart of the games.
Deep breath, there’s more.
Jack Yarwood digs into how trivia can humanize characters like Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid V in important ways. Jeremy Signor breaks down Kojima’s addiction to homage and finds surprising things when comparing the series to Mike Bithell’s Volume. Finally, Justin Keever delivers a beautiful essay attacking the sacred cow status of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and, along the way, illuminates us on camp, beauty and game criticism’s quickly ossified ideas. It may be long, folks, but it is a real tour de force.
This is a double issue, which means you should take your time reading it – we won’t be publishing next week in observance of Thanksgiving in the States. I’ll take this opportunity to wish our American friends a happy and safe holiday, and our international friends a happy and safe regular week.
This coming Saturday is Geek Flea X in Kearny, New Jersey. If you are in the area of North Jersey, I can’t recommend it enough. We have a wonderful group of vendors selling art, food, collectibles and more to an all-day rock and roll soundtrack. It is a ton of pre-holidays fun.
Have a good one!
Jersey City, New Jersey
November 18, 2015