Spoilers for MGSV: Ground Zeroes and Trigger Warning for Rape, PTSD, and similar issues
I used to love Metal Gear. It was quirky, bizarre, and it’s story was nigh incomprehensible. I loved it for how stupid it was, and how smart the gameplay could be. Fat Man will always be one of my favorite characters and I will always remember the first time I had to fight Sniper Wolf.
I guess that’s why I have such an issue with the most recent entry, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.
Hideo Kojima, in an attempt to be more mature, crossed a line into something that many consider to be misogynistic, myself included.
He put a bomb into a woman’s vagina.
Let that sink in.
Now for some context; in Ground Zeroes, Snake/Big Boss is tasked with breaking into a compound to rescue some former contacts of his: a boy named Chico and a young woman named Paz. In the course of the game you find out that the villain, aptly named Skull Face, not only tortured both, but had Paz raped by his men, had Chico rape her, and implanted a bomb in her chest as well as her vagina.
Now ask me why all that happened…
…because Skull Face needed to be seen as a “bad guy.”
All of those terrible atrocities are seen in cutscenes or played out in audio logs that go on far too long and too much detail; and none of it is dealt with by the end of the experience. You don’t see how the characters respond, deal with, or cope with the situations at hand; they are just there to illicit a hard gut reaction towards the game’s new villain.
It’s there purely for shock value.
Paz got “fridged” for the sake of Big Boss’ story and solely existed in this game for those terrible things to be exacted upon her. It devalues women, by showing them only to be used as plot devices for the main character, and shows a significant lack of skill in Kojima’s narrative ability.
For clarification’s sake, I am not saying that rape and torture should not be in video games. In fact, I think gaming as a medium has every right and should tackle such hard topics. The issue with Ground Zeroes lies in how it was handled and the reasoning behind it.
Lucy O’ Brien of IGN phrased it this way,
“What’s the point of this character’s suffering? Kojima has spoken of “maturing” the medium towards that ever elusive acceptance as ‘art’ by tackling taboo themes, but what he is essentially doing here is utilising an age-old narrative trick to give his male protagonist a purpose. There is no interest in the broader complexities of Paz herself; she is nothing but a catalyst for the hero’s quest in Ground Zeroes’ successor, The Phantom Pain. Why? Because rape as a plot device is quick and easy as hell to implement and further, it lends a sense of gravitas to a story; a sense that the writer has crossed some dangerous line and we ought to congratulate him or her for that.”
For as much as Kojima says he wants to help mature the medium, it is instances like this that are a detriment to that growth. I have always believed that video games are an art form and that some art shows the ugly, disgusting truth about ourselves; but this is not that. This is needless violence toward a woman and child, whose only purpose is to spur on the male lead. Whether you want to call it misogyny, sexism, chauvinism, or a myriad of other things; the truth is it’s wrong.
For every misfire like this one; there is a silver lining. Games like Papa y Yo and Gone Home tackle more mature themes and handle them with such a deft touch that it gives hope that gaming can tell more adult stories. Unfortunately, Metal Gear is not one of those; and I don’t think I’ll be playing one again.
Feel free to talkback in the comments and share your thoughts as well.