Warning: This post is filled with tremendous spoilers regarding the end of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. If you have yet to play the game, stop reading at this point. You have been fairly warned.
I wanted to share some quick thoughts for the Metal Gear community regarding the plot of MGSV:PP. Although the game has its share of flaws, it still contains Hideo Kojima’s masterful storytelling. As a storyteller, Kojima has been known for his incredible misdirection skills that keep people interested in his tales.
The Phantom Pain is, as far as we know, to be the final bridge that hooks together the entirety of the Metal Gear saga. The story however, concludes in a way that few would suspect.
For the second time in Metal Gear’s history that I can recall, the main player is not one of the Snake clones or Big Boss. In this final tale, Kojima spends his time telling the story… of you.
Those whom played through Ground Zeroes remember that it ended on a very down note, with Paz being killed by one of the two bombs implanted in her. Unfortunately, this explosion critically injuries everyone on-board the helicopter that they were on. Big Boss would be severely injured and left in a coma, along with the medic who bore the brunt of the blast.
The Phantom Pain leads off with us playing whom we presume to be Big Boss awakened from his coma, now going by the moniker of Venom Snake or “Ahab”, a reference to Moby Dick. At the beginning of The Phantom Pain, we are asked to create an avatar, and assign a birthdate as well as name for Venom Snake’s new ‘identity’ in order to hide him from those trying to kill him.
Long story short, the ending of The Phantom Pain reveals to us that you are not Big Boss at all; you are actually the medic that was aboard the chopper with Big Boss. Big Boss was in a coma as stated… and he was the one who helped you escape the hospital, now known as the infamous Ishmael.
The avatar that you are create is that medic. In essence, your imagination is the final key to Hideo Kojima’s story. To finish his story, Kojima left it in our hands to determine who that man is.In a final monologue delivered to us by way of cassette tape, Big Boss has final thoughts for his new doppelganger. Considering that we are given the final key to the story of Metal Gear, one can argue that those words were not for this unknown character… but to us, the audience.
“Now do you remember? Who you are? What you were meant to do?
I’ve cheated death, thanks to you. And thanks to you, I’ve left my mark. You have, too- you’ve written your own history. You’re your own man. I’m Big Boss, and you are too.
No… He’s the two of us, together. Where are we, today? We built it. This story -this ‘legend’ – it’s ours. We can change the world, and with it, the future. I am you, and you are me. Carry that with you, wherever you go.
Thank you… my friend.
From here on out, you’re Big Boss.”
Again, merely from a certain point of view, it is easy to interpret this as a message intended for us, the player. The message was delivered to a character designed by us. From the wikipedia article on Hideo Kojima:
“Kojima tried joining the game business but was unable to do so at first. His game design ideas were rejected but he never gave up and eventually he was accepted. He joined video game publisher Konami’s MSX home computer division in 1986 as a designer and ‘planner’. Initially, he was disappointed with his assignment, and desired to work on Nintendo Entertainment System and arcade games instead—Kojima felt the color palette of the system was too restrictive. Kojima’s gameplay ideas were often overlooked initially, and due to his lack of familiarity with programming was repeatedly snubbed for his failures in his initial years at Konami. At one point Kojima considered leaving the company, but he hung on.”
In this, one could infer that he was referring to his struggles to be a game designer, and that Metal Gear saved his career from death. Without us, the fanbase, there would be no Metal Gear. ‘I’ve left my mark’ could be inferred to mean his legacy of the Metal Gear series itself, having an almost 30 year history. Naturally, Kojima-san is the Big Boss of Metal Gear, and yet… We were there every step of the way with him. We were the ones belovedly attached to that mythos, and supporting his dream of a story. In this, the legend is ours too.
He leaves us with a reminder that a single person can, in fact, change the world. The future is not set in stone, if you have the courage to try.
So… thank you, Kojima-san. What a beautiful way to leave the story… by allowing us to write the final part of it.