By Josh "Dr.Rouge" Vasquez
Metal Gear Solid and the demon of hype.
s it is with all the multifoliate blossoms of the entertainment industry, hype can be both a blessing and a curse in the videogame arena. It can hit like a tidal wave, paving the way to success in a continuous ticker tape parade of gaudy color. People begin talking, reporting back from the frontier of the latest clandestine info sessions. Something seems to be taking shape on the outskirts, very present in the loop but lacking that final definition. The experience of the hype machine begins as something almost like the recollections of ghostly encounters, a thing given life through word of mouth and fleeting glimpses.
The danger is that hype can transform that joyous parade into a death march across the muddy flats of obscurity. How many times has someone said that they were disappointed by a film or a book because it couldn't live up to the hype? Perhaps they refused to even wander into the cinema or flip through the pages because the hype had thrown up a jading barrier. It's regrettable if only because some works may suffer unjust punishment and condemnation.
Hype is a creature which, while often nurtured by the industries of propaganda and advertising which surround any given entertainment product, ultimately crawls out of a strangely vague womb. It takes on a life of its own, feeding off of casual conversation and rumor, often stretching far beyond the control of any one force. Its birth wail might be heard in the silence of the collective holding of an anxious entertainment obsessed culture's breath.
After viewing Metal Gear Solid in preparation for writing this week's piece, I found myself strangely unaffected by something that I had heard from many people was a shining example of how to pull off a successful cinematic/videogame marriage. It wasn't so much that the game's cinematics were poor, as that it didn't live up to the hype-gremlin which had snuck in and preset my expectations. The truth is that this is far from the game's fault. The main problem with hype is that it creates unrealistic expectations and damagingly unfair (in a critical sense) preconceived notions. A few months ago everyone was buzzing about Metal Gear Solid. I once mentioned it t my local Blockbuster store and some guy literally came running out from the back to shake my hand and tell me how cool the game was, as if I had developed it myself. People seemed obsessed with it, heralding the new arrival with a glory reserved for certain Mexican deities.
Metal Gear Solidís cinematics are successful on their own terms. The creators are determined to shape a cinematic experience. The story begins deep under the sea as a submarine moves through the dark water. The narrative flashes back and forth in time as we learn why events have unfolded the way they have. Solid Snake, the erstwhile hero of our tale, is forced to undertake a suicide mission against a band of terrorists. The most interesting aspect Metal Gear Solidís cinematics are the way in which they fades into the actual gameplay. The creators strive for a realist feel. Once the game has "started" credits still appear on the screen. The "camera" following the character around the darkened complex takes dramatic angles and positions even while the player is controlling Snake's movements. There is a very nice continuity between game and narrative moments. The game slides so smoothly between the two states that it becomes difficult at times to tell exactly where the transition occurs.
This is certainly a challenging thing to pull off in a videogame, and the gang on Metal Gear Solid manage it with flying colors. Yet it took me time to come to this position. My initial reaction was to reject everything simply because I was so put off by the discrepancy between what I had conditioned myself to expect and what actually appeared before me. Hype proved quite the devilish little demon, toying with reception like a dog chewing on a TV antenna. I was certainly in the minority when it came to being negatively effected by hype Metal Gear Solid. It appeared to ride the hype wave rather well. The threat exists, however, for the games, books and films which are crushed by the wave, completely sold out by hype and written off the rolls because of some artificial designation of worth. Far too often hype creates unrealistic expectations that rewire the viewer's impressions, making it difficult for them to open up to a piece and appreciate it on its own ground.
- Josh "Dr.Rouge" Vasquez is a regular contributor to loonygames.
Credits: Pixel Obscura logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Pixel Obscura is © 1999 Josh Vasquez. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited...we know where you live.