The release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has me thinking about why I love the series so much. It certainly isn't the story. And it probably, maybe isn't the character design. I could easily say that it's the gameplay mechanics the way Hideo Kojima consistently adds something new to the language of video games with every iteration. But that's not the case.
Before my brother joined the Air Force, I remember one experience we shared that was beautiful and wonderful and something that really changed the way I experience video games today. It was playing the first Metal Gear Solid on the first Playstation. We didn't argue, we took turns, we shared the game, we shared the experience of the game.
It was one of the few times we weren't arguing or bickering about something.
I can still remember the look of awe on both of our faces when we booted up the game. We couldn't believe it was real. The game looked better than we could have ever imagined. The two of us sat on the floor of our bedroom with the lights off, the game's soundtrack entering our ears, and the acute awareness I had of the bag of chips between my legs.
My brother, held the controller in his hands and craned his neck upwards towards the TV. It prompted him to "Press Start" and when he did, we immediately fell into the game. In hindsight, the story is definitely dumb. But as young pre-teens we ate it all up. My brother probably felt like the main character, Solid Snake, while I -- watching on -- felt like I had a private screening of one of the most exciting spy movies ever made.
We spent almost every night like this. Every morning when we'd walk to the bus stop for school, recapping the past night's events as if it was a TV show we'd gotten obsessed with. I remember feeling like the hours would pass like days when I'd sit in the classroom. All I wanted was to sit next to my brother and watch him play the game.
When he finally beat it, I got to play it -- which was a good experience even though it was different -- and I couldn't help but think of how my brother had gotten through the game. And wishing he was sitting next to me watching me play it.
I'd gotten used to that feeling, the feeling of missing my brother and I playing games together, when Metal Gear Solid 4 came out. There's a particular sequence that made it all come rushing back and it's when Old Snake traverses through Shadow Moses one more time after the events of the first game.
I, strangely, felt the same. Except I wasn't seeing these intense battles or fights in my memories. I was seeing my brother and the way he looked back then; with a bowl haircut and giant glasses. I might, and I say might because I can't really remember, have shed a couple tears while I was playing.
It was hard for me to revisit an old environment that I had first explored with someone so close to me and at the time he was still stationed somewhere out there. It was a sobering and somber experience for me.
That being said, I love the Metal Gear Solid series simply because it brought me and my brother together. It was a shared first experience. These days, now that we're a lot closer than we used to be, we tend to talk all about the series of games and how we wished we played more of them so we could understand what's going on (even though that is probably impossible).
Without Metal Gear Solid, I don't think I'd cherish and love gaming as much as I do today. And I don't think I would love sitting next to my brother -- bag of chips in hand -- and watching him play video games, watch movies, or anything. I wouldn't be as open to sharing experiences with him the way I am now.