A Formal Analysis of Metal Gear Solid 2

James Clinton Howell

IX: The Solid Map

The Scenario Map had resulted from the deterioration of the Series Map, but the Solid Map existed as a complement to both. Heroes are not heroes without circumstances that force them to arise. Likewise, dramas are not dramatic without heroes to tackle hard events. Solid Snake would not have been a hero without the difficulties that he had overcome, and MGS1 had prepared the player to expect that Solid Snake would respond to MGS2’s emergencies.

A crucial difference between traditional and interactive media changes the relationship between heroes and events. Traditional media require that their audiences exist apart from the objects, and, after exposure, an audience will grow closer to an object via imagination. A videogame requires overt participation. It needs the player to become a literal part of the object. Gamers who had played MGS1 knew that MGS2’s emergencies called for a hero and that MGS2’s hero called for the player. 

MGS2 used the medium’s particular qualities to manipulate both the player and the actor when they stitched their identities together. At the start of the Plant Chapter, Raiden’s Commanding Officer (C. O.) told him to access a digital node, to which Raiden responded: “Did you say nerd?” When Raiden accessed the node, the player had input his own name that later appeared on Raiden’s dogtags. MGS2 bound Raiden to the player—a nerd—when Raiden accessed the node, and it bound the player to an actor who he didn’t always like but who obeyed his commands, even when those actions violated Raiden’s character.

If the player had Raiden kill seagulls, Raiden’s girlfriend called to convey her disapproval of Raiden’s new pleasure in animal abuse. She likewise expressed disappointment if the player had Raiden punch hostages. MGS2 forced Raiden to obey the player’s commands as an actor even when those commands damaged his character and his relationships.

MGS2 affirmed Raiden’s connection to the player when it identified him as a soldier raised on videogames. He had experienced the events of MGS1 and the Tanker Chapter through military Virtual Reality training, and he outright told his C. O. that he felt “like some kind of legendary mercenary.” MGS2 supported this idea visually; scenes from MGS1 played alongside Raiden’s defense of his VR training. Like the player, Raiden had loved MGS1 and Solid Snake.

The player could no longer control Solid Snake, but he expected his new actor to act like Solid Snake. From within the narrative, Raiden shared the player’s expectations of himself as an actor.

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