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Metal Gear Solid: Learning Lessons Of War From Video Games

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“Each nation’s arrogance breeds only anarchy.” – Revolver Ocelot

The Metal Gear Solid franchise is the brainchild of the video game auteur Hideo Kojima and legendary art designer Yoji Shinkawa. Making its debut in 1987, the game franchise not only became the greatest stealth action video games of all time but also it has some of the greatest stories of its time. The story revolves around Big Boss and his son Solid Snake as they fight various wars from different eras of the 20th and 21st century. The game deals with the stealth, espionage, fan service, cardboard boxes and the brutal realities of war and how the rich and powerful profited from it.

My first Metal Gear game or should I say, my first Hideo Kojima game ever was Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (The other Kojima Game was Death Stranding) and believe me, the game was great in its own right. Kojima san’s games have inspired me to actually draw some of my favourite characters like Solid Snake and Sam Porter Bridges.

Anyway, this article is not about how I love the franchise. This article is about how they portrayed the brutal realities of the world especially in the 20th and 21st century.

If we look at the world of Metal Gear and our world, it is not so distant. In this current day and age, fake news, misinformation, issues regarding privacy (looking at you, Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal), AI, and digital manipulation and political correctness was becoming a norm. Trivial information is given information is given more importance and actual facts are cast aside. This was way before the rise of Social Media and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty predicted all of that. A game that came out in 2001 predicted the dangers of the said problems in the current decade.

The themes of patriotism has been described in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater that took place during 1960s at the height of the Cold War (Although Kojima is a fan of movies, his franchise has deconstructed the tropes that were shown in Hollywood). Naked Snake aka Big Boss who was working for the CIA was forced to killed his mentor and mother figure The Boss, all in the name of American patriotism, when she allegedly defected to the Soviet Union.

When Big Boss found out that The Boss has actually not defected and was instead treated like a cannon fodder by the US government, his perception towards patriotism changed (Actually his patriotism died with him). The game serves as an homage and deconstruction to the James Bond flicks because the theme of Snake Eater is based on James Bond songs.

The change of perception towards patriotism is also shown by Kazurhira Miller, Big Boss’s partner in the 1970s. His mother lost her house and her family during the waning stages of World War II, however she survived the US bombing raids in Japan. After the war, when the US occupied the country, his mother had a relationship with a US Colonel who returned to the States later, never hearing from her again.

Kaz was born during that time and had to endured poverty, bullying and helplessness. Eventually, he reunited with his father (he also wanted to achieve his American Dream), but when he met him, he saw his father was a shell of his former self because of his divorce and the death of his son in Vietnam. Although he became an American citizen, he used his father’s money to learn English and go to college. He returned to Japan to aid his ailing mother and even served the JSDF to pay his mother’s medical bills. She eventually passed away and his father died by suicide. When he realised that the meaning of his name Kazurhira is peace, his patriotism towards both countries died with him.

The game criticises the notion of patriotism and how in the name of patriotism, people often make dumbest of decisions or moves. Just like in the current day and age in India, where e-pseudo patriots are attacking people who go against the status quo all in the name of patriotism. (T-Series vs Pewdiepie or the rise of Hindustani Bhau). Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker deals with lots of issues such as:

1. The US-Soviet Proxy Wars in Central and South America

Peace Walker, alongside Snake Eater, Ground Zeroes, The Phantom Pain and Portable Ops, does not show the Hollywood version of the Cold War, but it shows it ugly it really was. The conflicts between the superpowers and their imperialist interests have not only destroyed countries, people, ethnicity, nationality, but above all, loyalty.

2. Big Boss and Kazuhira Miller

The two made a private military forces known as Militaires Sans Frontières or MSF in short which states.

Naked Snake, a.k.a. Big Boss, formed the Militaires Sans Frontières to provide military force to anyone who needed it, regardless of nation or ideology. As such, the MSF specialised in providing a full range of military services, including combat, logistics, training, weapons, outfitting, and R&D. In addition, the MSF was designed to merge the small footprint and exceptional performance of special forces groups with the full military might of a full regular army as a means to fully break free of nation-states. To avoid enemy intelligence services like the CIA, MSF did not initially establish a permanent base, often choosing to relocate their forces as required.

The MSF staff actually revered because Che Guevara became a renowned revolutionary in Latin America, playing a pivotal role in the guerrilla campaign that overthrew the Batista regime in Cuba, 1959. Additionally, he was a prolific writer and diarist, having composed a seminal manual on guerrilla warfare. I actually copied the letter he wrote to Fidel Castro.

3. People who preaches for peace, don’t really support the idea

Paz Ortega Andrade is supposedly a high school student yearning for peace, but is actually a spy who works under a illuminati type organisation that controls information and the world known as Cipher/Patriots (more on that later). The UN is a perfect example of this. Made after the embers of World War-2, the UN is supposed to stop another world war from happening and prevent war through diplomatic discussion. But so far, they’ve failed in Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia and so on and is controlled by the world powers.

Let’s give the Indian context of people yearning for peace, and yet, they don’t follow it themselves. One of the most controversial events of 2016 was the Gurmehar Kaur controversy. In 2016, Kaur made a controversial video that preached peace between India and Pakistan. She criticised the two governments for going to war that leads to the loss of countless lives. Some supported it, others criticised it, and the rest were disgusting enough to send rape and death threats to her.

Regardless, this transform her from a DU student to the most polarised figures of 2016. If we critique the video, then we can see that the video was flawed on so many levels. The video lacks basic research, had irrational arguments, is tone-deaf and out of touch. Kaur says that the governments of both countries should make peace, despite the fact that out of all the four wars, Pakistan was the one who had been the aggressor and the Indian government had to defend itself against any aggression.

A simple Wikipedia Search is enough to point out the fallacy in the logic of her video. Another argument she made — Pakistan didn’t killed my dad, war did — is probably the most illogical argument because it’s like the equivalent of saying that the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese Army during World War 2 weren’t really committed by them but the war itself. She then brought up examples of US-Japan and France-Germany, and how they can be allies. She ignored the Israel-Arab wars, the Korean wars, Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, Japan and Korea/China, Iran-Saudi Arabia and so on.

Lastly, she mentioned Third World governments, which implies that the government is poor. This is unfortunate, given the fact that the Third World has lost its meaning. The word, which means non alignment with the US or Soviet Union, has been replaced with economic backwardness. Personally, I believe she might have had good intentions, but it is possible that she used her father’s death to gain clout. Because recently, that’s what’s happening with many, including Jaystation and Steve Huff .

The reason I brought up Gurmehar’s case is that a few months after she posted the video, she came under fire when she allegedly threatened two memers over a bunch of memes. Some praised the step, others (myself included) found it ironical and hypocritical that the woman who was supposed to be the champion of free speech actually didn’t have a thick skin herself. To think that she would respond to a bunch of memes (it could be in bad taste as they were forced to delete after Kaur “warned” them of the consequences) does not really look good on her.

Gurmehar is not the catalyst, she’s merely a part of a mentality that responds to memes or jokes in the most outrageous, ridiculous, annoying and, often times, aggressive situation. This mentality has degraded so much that we’re now seeing the likes of Hindustani Bhau and Shubham Mishra, who even send rape threats because they get offended over a joke (I’m not comparing Kaur with them, but Kaur should’ve reacted in a better way. Hindustani Bhau and Subham Mishra deserved to be cancelled for what they did).

Enough talk about that.

Ground Zeroes brings to us the scene of Camp Omega in Cuba, which is parallel to the controversial the US Facility known as Guantanamo Bay. The base was criticised for its human rights issues, especially regarding the treatment of prisoners in the post 9/11 world. This also includes sexual violence, suicide and torture. Although talks of closing down gained popularity during the Obama administration, the camp hasn’t closed as of yet. And now that the Biden administration is talking about closing it down, it seems highly unlikely, given the fact that Biden’s recent air strike in Syria can act as proof that the war in the Middle East will continue as it did under Bush, Obama and Trump.

The Phantom Pain is basically Peace Walker but in the 1980s. This focuses on the Soviet-Afghan War (Soviet Union’s Vietnam) and war-torn countries of Angola and Zaire (Congo). As the Cold War was reaching its final stages, the American empire was expanding with its Hamburgers and English language, which is now the lingua franca of the world.

Just like Central and South America, Africa was also a good place for the exploitation by superpowers and other developed nations. The other themes are of revenge, race and pain. If you’ve watched Haider, it shows how revenge can only beget revenge and how the cycle of vengeance affected both the army and the Kashmiri people, bringing a lot of pain to them (Kashmir is a controversial issue on many grounds, so I’m not bringing anything up because of its past and I don’t know it well).

Just like Haider, the Phantom Pain saw Kaz and Snakes’ revenge against Skull Face, who has his own revenge against the West and primarily Zero (founder of the patriots) as his language, ethnicity, nationality and even identity were taken by years of wars and occupation of foreign soldiers. His angst against the English language might be right, because let’s face it, English has literally become a status symbol where people in our country look at it on their own because of the language barrier.

English is the only subject we have to learn for ourselves outside of school and colleges because both of them were busy making robots. However, his executions are gravely wrong because he was using nukes and viruses to wipe out the English language . This eventually led to his downfall and death in 1984. The picture below is him.

“It is no nation we inhabit, but a language. Make no mistake; our native tongue is our true fatherland.”

Metal Gear Solid 1 focuses on the themes of genes and fate, where Solid Snake meets his brother Liquid. Metal Gear Solid 4 is about sense, which is a rare commodity in the world raged by wars, with rich countries and companies making money off of it. It also shows Big Boss’ and Zero’s misguided interpretation of the Boss, whom they hold most dear. The theme of making the world whole has been destroyed by years of enmity, mistrust and eventually war. In the end, Big Boss finally understood the will of his mentor: “Boss… you were right. It’s not about changing the world. It’s about doing our best to leave the world… the way it is. It’s about respecting the will of others, and believing in your own.”

Another character, Hal Emmerich, doesn’t lose his mother, but loses his step-sister and two love interests. And despite his loss, he adopted the daughter of a fallen enemy Sunny and treated her as his own.

Metal Gear Solid V also has the imagery of the novel Moby Dick, which tells a story about Captain Ahab, a vengeful captain who wants to take revenge against a whale named Moby Dick after he lost his leg against the whale. However, his lust for revenge not only led to the destruction of his ship, but also the death of his crew and in the end, his own demise. This story mixes well with the game as Venom Snake’s name is Ahab and his ally’s name is Ishmael. The name of his Helicopter is Pequod, which was the name of the ship in the book. This explains Kaz, Venom Snake and the Mother Base’s revenge against an enemy who hasn’t existed for a long period and is actually catching the shadows of it. The game not only tells a story of a legendary killer but also the deconstruction of that said legend.

Another analysis states that the game is about Japan. Following World War 2, Japan was remade under the US’s eyes and under Article 9, they renounced Japan’s right to wage war. However, with Cold War going on and China and North Korea becoming communist countries, Japan was allowed to have a self-defense force by the Americans.

During the 2010s, when Japanese PM Shinzo Abe was in power, the Japanese government wanted to “do something” about Article 9, which could make Japan more powerful militarily. However, 69% of the Japanese public was actually against war. According to them, the Article has actually kept Japan out of war for all these years and removing it would endanger the people.

The franchise also shows how rotten the capitalist and communist systems really are. Look no further than the Mulan Controversy. I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that Disney loves Communist gold. America always had a strong stance against communism and China is the only communist power in the world. However, because it has a huge market and can make profit off og Disney, Apple, Blizzard and other companies, it chooses to ignore this animosity and works with the country anyway.

I talked about the Hong Kong protests at various times when I brought up the Blitzchung controversy. So, China has a huge human rights problem. And you know, the actress who portrayed Mulan actually was in support of the Hong Kong police. This shows Disney’s hypocrisy. They’ll fire James Gunn, The Guardians of the Galaxy director over edgy jokes made 10 years ago and fire Mandalorian star Gina Carano because of her offensive tweets in the aftermath of the Capitol Riots, but when their own star speaks in favour of State-sponsored brutality, they turn a blind eye on it.

To add insult to injury, Mulan was also shot in Xinjiang region  which was also the region the Uighur Muslims were kept in concentration camps. This is something Pakistan will never point out every time they lecture India about Kashmir (Kashmir has its own issues, too, with the army and insurgents committing atrocities against each other). This shows that for all its talk about being woke, corporations will throw these ideas in favour of profit, something that they have been doing for a long time.

This isn’t to say that capitalism has affected the world for the wrong reasons. Kojima San’s own battle against Konami was brutal and he was fired by the company because of their dispute. Here are the excerpts from the articles I’ve written on video games:

“Konami also came under fire when they fired Hideo Kojima who was the creator of the Metal Gear Franchise and also cancelling the next Silent Hill game. Konami was also been called out for its unethical treatment of their employees. The top brass of Konami even demoted an employee just because she was pregnant. Other accusations have been blacklisting employees, copying songs and disrespecting their own IPs via making them gambling machines.”

These video game corporations have not only ruined their own reputation, but have also destroyed the legacy of their games. For example, Konami’s lack of respect of their own video games like Metal Gear, Silent Hill or Castlemania and turning them into Panchiko gambling machines shows a complete disregard for their own intellectual properties. This move is also hurting Konami’s reputation as a company.

Konami eventually made Metal Gear Survive, a Zombie Survival game that was hated by the fans and critics alike. YouTuber VideoGameDunkey even said: “This Kojimaless era of Metal Gear is over before it even began.” This game is not only a slap to the wrist to Kojima but a failure in its own terms. This game is now on par with equally terrible Mass Effect Andromeda. Metal Gear Survive had the audacity to ask players to pay $10 for A SAVE SLOT.

Kojima went on to make Death Stranding, an original IP that had initially received polarised reviews for its story and gameplay. However, over time, people (myself included) started appreciating the game, especially when Covid-19 became a reality — people were socially distant and staying in their homes and Death Stranding actually shows that resemblance because its character Sam Porter Bridges was making deliveries to various people who were shut out from society for a long time. The game is about connecting, fixing a broken America that was destroyed by a cataclysmic event known as Death Stranding, just like Covid-19 ruined the whole world with unfortunate deaths and destruction.

Hell, even my YKA profile picture is an in-game screenshot from the game. Not to mention my first ever PlayStation Platinum Trophy after spending about 160 hours on it (I have no life).

Unfortunately, it and Animal Crossing: New Horizons didn’t receive the awards it deserved because games awards are like Bollywood Awards.

The Last of Us Part 2 won numerous of awards despite being a narrative mess and Naughty Dog allegedly treating its employees horribly. Michael Saba actually explained this well. The game is basically the Gully Boy of video games because of its numerous wins at award shows. Anyway, I forgot to mention that Cyprus Dispute is still going on and Turkey hasn’t left yet. The Greek and Turk Cypriots used to live together and are fighting against each other because of outside forces like Greece, Turkey, Britain and America. S0, when Turkey was lecturing India about Kashmir, they should’ve seen their own hands as well.

The biggest lesson that Metal Gear Solid has given us is that we can still learn from history. Once the last embers of fruitless wars and never-ending follies die out, a new world will be born and in order for the next generation to live in peace, something must be found so that old mistakes are not repeated and it does not destroy the world as we know it.

The biggest problem that characters don’t really understand is how their will can decay over time. And once they decay, their meanings also change. Revolver Ocelot said: “When the body dies, the will dies with it, and that’s what’s happened.” Their colossal errors have led their world into the brink of ruin. That’s why Solid Snake and his allies, despite their heavy losses, have overcome their hurdles and become more understandable.

Maybe in the real world as well, we’ll learn from history. I would like to end this article with YouTuber Potential History who says: “Talking to the ones who’ve of fought in the wars and understanding the actual cost of wars and how these stories can be preserved will keep us from having more wars. We can pass on to the next generation so that they can appreciate peace and let that peace exist as much as possible as they become the next leaders in the world.

All images have been provided by the author.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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