Op-Ed: The legacy of ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ ten years later – 11/21/2014

A young Big Boss in 'Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater'

A young Big Boss in ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’

Ten years ago on November 17, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ was released for the PlayStation 2 and it truly demonstrated the storytelling craft of video games.

The game started as a way for Hideo Kojima to make amends with fans who were outraged over the bait and switch of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. At the same time the success of Vietcong had started a temporary fad of creating military games set in jungle environments.

Not wanting to settle for a game that panders to popularity, Kojima crafted an origin story that explores the political atmosphere and pop-culture of the 1960s. From the start the players is given a quick history lesson on the Cold War while the opening credits feature a theme song that pays homage to the James Bond films.

The year is 1964; tensions on the world stage are high as the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union threatens the peace of the world. At the same time the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev is being threaten by Colonel Volgin, who is plotting to replace him with Leonid Brezhnev. In the midst of all this, the Fox Unit commences the Virtuous Mission with the goal of bringing Dr. Nikolai Sokolov to the West.

A young Special Forces operative code named Naked Snake is deployed to find Dr. Sokolov. Everything goes according to plan until it’s unveiled that The Boss, the Mother of the Special Forces and Snake’s mentor, has defected to the Soviet Union. To make matter worse; a research facility is destroyed in a nuclear attack that was perpetrated by Colonel Volgin using the Davy Crockett.

As a result the world has on verge of a possible war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The only way to avoid a nuclear war is for Naked Snake to embark on a journey that will push him to the limits as he is tasked with eliminating The Boss. It is out of the tragic ashes of Operation Snake Eater will rise the legacy of Big Boss.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was universally praised by both gamers and critics for raising the bar with a thought-provoking story that explored several passionate themes while redefining the stealth genre. Ten years later it has been hailed as one of the greatest PlayStation 2 games while its story has been praised as one of the most memorable in gaming.

It’s one of the few PlayStation 2 games that have survived the test of time as several ports only updated the graphics while keeping the original content. What has made Snake Eater standout is the revolutionary gameplay it introduced and the moral themes it explored.

The gameplay broke from the traditional setup featured in stealth action as the jungle environment presented a new opportunity. It was not just about avoiding detection, but a focus on jungle survival and overcoming natural obstacles. The character had to be fed and have his medical needs attended to or it would be difficult to continue. This laid the foundation for other titles that included survival in the gameplay mechanism.

The story has been a memorable one because the game explores the themes of unquestioned patriotism and its consequences along with the bound of a mother and son.

The consequences of unquestioned patriotism is the most significant due to its role in American politics during the Cold War. McCarthyism banished the concept of questioning authority while unchallenged obedience to the government dominated the political landscape. For her country, The Boss is forced to make several life changing sacrifices, including killing her lover. In the end she was asked to defect to the Soviet Union than killed by her protege for being a “traitor.”

It’s after the success of Operation Snake Eater that Snake learns the truth. He then questions his own patriotism after his mentor was tossed to the wolves by the country she swore to defend. This sets in motion Big Boss turning his back on America that will reach to a major boiling point following the events of Ground Zeros.

The bond of a mother and son is also a very powerful theme explored during the events of Operation Snake Eater. Snake is consistently at odds with his mission of eliminating The Boss due to their past history that has created a relationship similar to that between a mother and child. Like a mother; she nurtured him as they have fought in combat together while being a major influences on his character.

This relationship and its challenges are best demonstrated when The Boss is able to easily subdue Snake on multiple occasions. It may appear that he lacks the skill, but in truth is he is unable to bring himself to hurt his mother figure. Snake is finally able to defeat her after overcoming his emotions but at a cost to his principles.

It’s because of these powerful themes that made the story of Snake Eater an emotional, driven work of art. Rarely had a video game had a story that would emotionally impact the player like Kojima’s did.

Finally, one should not overlook the musical score that was composed Harry Gregson-Williams. It’s a mix of some new sounds along with a familiar composition that helps build the dramatic tension in the story.

Looking back 10 years after its release, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is truly one of the most magnificent works of digital art. As gamers await the release of The Phantom Pain, the story of how it all began will be a true testament to the power of story telling in the context of a video game.

Written for Digital Journal 
11/17/2014
Original Article: Op-Ed: The legacy of ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ ten years later

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Gamer culture has been more progressive about the depiction of LGBT characters – 3/2/2014

Volgin_Crockett

Is the gaming community ready for an LGBT protagonist? This is the discussion that Lucien Soulban, head writer of Far Cry 3 and one of the most influential openly gay figures in the gaming industry, opened up when he stated that gamers were not ready for such a protagonist.

With all due respect to Soulban, he underestimates how progressive gaming culture has been regarding the depiction of LGBT characters. That statement may appear out of place given how the gaming community has often been stigmatized for being homophobic. Sadly its a shame that the antics of brats who play Call of Duty has been allowed to be a representation of the culture.

When a gamer takes the time to look back at the history of video games, they will realize that the culture has been more progressive about the portrayal of LGBT then Hollywood. Probably unbeknownst to Soulban, there have been games that have given players the option of being an LGBT character.

Most recently Saints Row IV gave players the option of having an LGBT character based on their interactions with a homie. Among the interactive choices, players could engage in sexual relationships with each homie regardless of gender (except for Keith David).

Several years earlier; Mass Effect 3 also allowed players to have the option of having an LGBT character based on their interaction with the game world (regardless of gender). Fallout: New Vegas also gave players same the choice while also encountering a verity of LGBT characters that are in the service of the NCR Military or trying to survive in the Wasteland.

The crowning achievement to the advancement of the depiction of LGBT characters in video games goes to Colonel Yevgeny Volgin in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. He is one of the most significant gay figures in pop-culture who broke from the stereotypical images in-favor of a strong willed character.

Metal Gear Solid has always been very progressive regarding the depiction of LGBT characters by giving them strong traits and a significant role. Gamers have encountered characters like Vamp and Dr. Strangelove, but Colonel Volgan may be the most significant of them all.

In the game; Colonel Volgan was the most powerful military figure in the Soviet Union who also lead the hawkish-faction that is plotting to replace Nikita Khrushchev with Leonid Brezhnev. His actions brought America and the USSR on the brink of war only to be defeated by Snake. However actions lead to the downfall of Khrushchev while setting the stage for the conflict between Big Boss and Major Zero.

Despite claims that he is bisexual, there are a lot characteristic traits that support the notion that he prefers the companionship of men. Most of his sadistic interactions with women have been based on a misogynistic outlook that women are inferior (with The Boss being an exception) and are not worthy of his respect. Hence he prefers to have a proper emotional relationship with a male companion who he can see as an equal (like Major Raikov).

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was released a year before the media was over-hyping the  socially progressive significance of Brokeback Mountain (because apparently everyone forgot about Midnight Cowboy). Despite the social changes achieved, Hollywood and has failed to create a strong and powerful character like Colonel Volgan.

Soulban remarks came from a position of misunderstanding his culture and was a disservice to the social progression it has made. However his remarks could only encourage the industry to continue this social progression that has put Hollywood’s slow acceptance to shame.

Written for The Gamers Progress
03/2/2014
Original Article: Gamer culture has been more progressive about the depiction of LGBT characters

Review: ‘Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection’ is a legend in one set – 7/9/2013

A young Big Boss in 'Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater'

A young Big Boss in ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’

‘Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection’ is both an introduction to the series for a new generation and a restoration for old school gamers.

With Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain coming soon; this gives gamers the chance to go back and catch up with an iconic game series.

The Legacy Collection will feature all the games in the main series (except for Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops) restored in high definition along with two digital graphic novels and a special booklet.

Gamers could go back to the Shadow Moses Incident or replay Operation Snake Eater. The collection also includes the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, released in the 90’s for the MSX.

Unfortunately if you already have Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection then there is no real point in getting The Legacy Collection. The only thing missing is Metal Gear Solid and that could be downloaded via PlayStation Network.

Also they included Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which means you will have to listen to Raiden cry about his feelings for a good two hours.

Despite its minor shortcomings; Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection is the perfect way to introduce someone to the iconic series. Just remember to skip the Sons of Liberty part.

Final Score: 4/5

Written for Digital Journal
07/9/2013
Original Article: Review: ‘Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection’ is a legend in one set

What Cigar Does Big Boss Smoke? – 6/29/2013

Snake-Smoke-0-1024x811Big Boss is one of the most iconic video game characters for his duel role as a hero and a sympathetic villain. With Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero and The Phantom Pain on the horizon, gamers are excited to once again take on the role of the Legendary Soldier. Yet one thing some gamers have always wondered is what cigar does Big Boss smoke?

A lot of gamers have asked this question on message boards but no clear answer has ever been given. Most people have just listed common cigars followed by a discussion about what cigarette Solid Snake smokes and after that everyone just gives up. Someone has even asked this question on Answers.com to no avail.

Besides being an avid gamer (also a Metal Gear-fan) who has written about video game culture; I’m also an avid cigar smoker and a cigar critic in the Bay Area. I’ve had the opportunity to sample a verity of premium cigars, meet respected people in the cigar industry, and blog for the Campbell Cigar Club.

To answers this great cigar riddle I visually examined the cigar Big Boss is smoking in the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, then compare and cross match it with other cigars. With the small details given, the cigar Big Boss is smoking has the following details:
* It has a pyramid figure (often mistaken for a torpedo figure)
* It has a mild to full-bodied strength (based on the cigars texture)
* Its of Cuban origin

The cigar brand, Habano (a reference to the Cuban state tobacco company, Habanos S.A.), is obviously fictitious. However given the amount of details and hidden content in the series, the cigar has to be inspired by a real brand.

With the details presented, I have speculate that the cigar was inspired by the H. Upmann No. 2 along with some details of the Montecristo No. 2. Both brands are among the most popular and sought after Cuban cigars while being almost identical. Besides being having a pyramid figure and identical ring gauge, the two cigars also share a similar designed cigar band. Both cigars are also well known for having a smooth draw along with a cream and ceder flavor.

It’s also no accident that the cigar Big Boss is smoking is inspired by an H. Upmann as it was also the favorite cigar of President John F. Kennedy. A day before authorizing the trade embargo against Cuba; President Kennedy had Pierre Salinger, White House press secretary, acquire 1200 H. Upmann’s. The Kennedy Administration is also credited with establishing the modern special forces to combat the rise of communists insurgences in Asia and Latin America.

With the historical context along with his background in the Special Forces and being a protege of The Boss; it could be speculated that Big Boss was given a few H. Upmann No. 2 as a gift from President Kennedy.

This is however not the same cigar he is smoking in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Despite several good opportunities to examine the cigar band, I was unable to identify or guess the last cigar Big Boss smoked in Guns of the PatriotsI was able to identify the cigar smoked in The Phantom Pain. After closely examining the cigar featured in the trailers and E3 previews, its obviously a generic Cohiba based on the yellow, white and black decor of the the cigar band.

All the conclusions are based on the details presented and critically analyzed using my knowledge of premium cigars. Other gamers who also have a rich knowledge on cigars are welcomed to present their own hypothesis on what cigar Big Boss smokes.

Written for GameBeats
06/29/2013
Original Article: What Cigar Does Big Boss Smoke?

‘Metal Gear Solid V’: Will gamers be playing as Snake or Jack Bauer? – 6/9/2013

snake-bauer-2

Konami shocked the gaming community when it unveiled that actor Kiefer Sutherland will play Snake (aka Big Boss) in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The news comes after months of speculation when its was learned that David Hayter, the actor who has provided the iconic voice of Snake since Metal Gear Solid, will not return.

Obviously fans were shocked by the change up and have been sharing their mixed reactions. Some have welcomed the change as a new perspective on the character while others are furious that the game has rejected the spirit of Snake. Its common to find gamers having some doubt that Sutherland could bring the same character motif as Hayter. The fans do have a valid point.

When gamers get the chance to play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain; will it feel like they are taking the role of Snake (aka Big Boss) or the role of Jack Bauer?

Despite his reputation as an respected screenwriter; Hayter’s performance as Snake has been engraved into his legacy (like Sean Connery as James Bond). Meanwhile Sutherland is iconic for his role as Jack Bauer in the acclaimed series, 24an espionage-themed drama that focus on the 24-hours time period of Agent Bauer and members of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU).

The linguistic dialect and its personal traits of a character have always been driven by the actors who have portrayed them. Yet the problem presented is the actor who has been synonyms with Snake is being replaced by an actor who is synonyms with another iconic character. While they may be iconic heroes admired by action buffs; Jack Bauer and Snake are two different characters.

On the surface; Snake was influenced by the character Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russell) from the classic John Carpenter film, Escape From New York. After the events of Snake Eater, Snake (aka Big Boss) has become a character driven by resentment who at first is trying to find a purpose to fight. By the start of Peace Walker; Snake has established his own private army to provide needed service regardless of nations or ideologies. Meanwhile he seeks to fight for a cause that he believes in which brings him into conflict with his former colleagues. Hayter’s performance gave Snake the same kind of tone projected by Kurt Russell but with a more dramatic respectability.

Unfortunately Bauer as a character is nothing like Big Boss.

Jack Bauer is the personification of a hero America needed to look up to in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He is a loyal government agent who has to do what is necessary to protect American citizens from terrorist threats. Like Snake; Bauer shares a similar military background with his involvement in clandestine operations as a member of Delta Force. During the series, he has made so many personal sacrifices while his loyalty has been tested at the hands of incompetent bureaucrats, trusted colleagues and crooked men of power. Sutherland’s performance as Bauer has developed a character that is guilt ridden and trying to overcome past regrets.

Therein lies the problem; Sutherland’s performance as Snake may not be the character gamers want but instead a projection of Bauer. For gamers who have been playing the series from the beginning we have grown accustomed to having Hayter as the voice of Snake. But by using Sutherland; gamers are going to have a radically different mental projection of Snake. At best gamers could play a Snake that has become more battle harden in a way that only Sutherland could depict. Or gamers may have a mental projection of two characters morphed into one.

In the end all speculation games have will be put to rest upon the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Written for GameBeats
06/9/2013
Original Article: ‘Metal Gear Solid V’: Will gamers be playing as Snake or Jack Bauer?

Kojima announces ‘Metal Gear Solid 5’ in the works – 6/20/2012

A young Big Boss in ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’

In an interview with French game magazine ‘IG’, Hideo Kojima has announced that ‘Metal Gear Solid 5’ is currently in development.

The only information Kojima has revealed is that the game will be using the new Fox Engine and the game-play mechanism will feature a blend of stealth action and interaction with other characters, similar to Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

About Metal Gear Solid 5, I can tell you two things. There will be much question of infiltration, espionage, and convincing people to give you ‘a favor’ like in the last Metal Gear Solid,” said Kojima in the interview.

Kojima has also hinted the possibility that Solid Snake might return.

However according to Dan Dawkins at PS3M, Metal Gear Solid 5 may be set in Africa during 1970’s and gamers will once aging take on the role of Big Boss. This is based on several clues revealed on the MGS-Timeline along with how characters like Frank Jaeger (a.k.a. Grey Fox) and Big Boss have a background story that is set in Africa.

Metal Gear Solid 5 will be the ninth game in the main Metal Gear-series created by Hideo Kojima. The series is famous setting the foundations of the stealth action genre along for its dramatic style of story.

Written for Digital Journal
06/20/2012
Original Article: Kojima announces ‘Metal Gear Solid 5’ in the works