Critical Resources on Metal Gear Solid 2
I have been thinking about Metal Gear Solid 2 (MGS2) a lot lately. Partly just because I’ve found some streamers and YouTubers who play the game, and I like watching people play games, but mostly because, considering that everyone is screaming FAKE NEWS at the moment, its thoughts on information control and filter bubbles have become more and more relevant, even prophetic. I’ve come across some excellent critical material on the game and thought it might be helpful to collate it here.
Definitely the most extensive and well researched look at MGS2. Howell considers MGS2 to be a formal inversion of the first game, and compares MGS1 and 2 to see where they meet, what separates them, and how any thinking about MGS2 has to bear in mind that it very much uses the expectations of the player coming from MGS1 to make its point. Howell comes to MGS2 with formal game design and mechanics in mind, but maintains a perspective acquired from broader studies in the humanities, something I wish more games criticism did. If you’re like me and have both formal training in the humanities and an interest in videogames, this essay will have a lot to interest you.
James Howell’s Big Boss rank run of MGS2
I’ve known about Howell’s essay on MGS2 for a long time, but I never knew about his YouTube channel. On his YouTube channel, you can find a full playthrough of MGS2 on its hardest difficult and that achieves the highest rank, Big Boss. It’s great to get to see the person who wrote the essay above actually play the game, but what really makes this video great is that he went back after a few years and rewatched it himself, adding commentary. He demonstrates his strategies for beating the hardest challenge in the game, but also finds time to talk further about his thoughts on MGS2, further explicating some points from his essay, and raising some new ones. Makes the point that MGS2 is postmodern, but that largely because all videogames are postmodern. If you liked Driving off the Map, you should watch this next.
SuperBunnyHop’s critical closeup
A video essay that is part of a series of critical videos on the MGS series. Coming from a humanities perspective much like Howell does, George Weidman situates MGS2 in the canon of modernist/postmodernist culture. Also focuses on the controversy surrounding the game’s release, and the way Kojima played with the player’s expectations not just through formal elements, but marketing and falsification (FAKE NEWS) as well, detailing a history that is crucial to understanding the game’s context, and why appreciation of the game has only grown since it was released to both critical acclaim and fan backlash.
An in-depth look at the ending of the game, in particular the codec conversations Raiden has with the Colonel and Rose. The game uses various formal elements to break the fourth wall and accost the player with it’s videogame-ness, but it’s the ending of the game that turns it from passive aggressive to aggressive aggressive, asking the player to turn off the console, removing the player’s abilities, and constantly breaking up the gameplay with unskippable conversations about the role of Raiden/player as manipulator and manipulated. This is an excellent piece if you to examine those conversations in more depth, as it transcribes those conversations and adds commentary.
A collaboration between Twitch streamers that specialise in MGS challenge runs and marathons. They have played so much MGS2 that not many details escape them, and their YouTube channel has videos which take a close look at the game and go over every little detail, including rare codec conversations and details in cutscenes and dialog that are easy to miss.
That’s it for now. If I come across anything else or find something I missed, I’ll edit the post. Feel free to comment. Do you have any resources on MGS2 that you’ve found useful or enlightening?