The video game series “Metal Gear” released its first installment, titled simply “Metal Gear,” in 1987, while its most recent, the “Metal Gear Solid Master Collection,” came out in 2023. The series follows the journey of multiple men with the codename Snake and their journey to combat, control and caution the world against the usage of the eponymous Metal Gears, bipedal walking tanks capable of launching Nuclear Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs). “Metal Gear” has criticized how deeply the military-industrial complex is entrenched within the most critical parts of the government and demonstrated how the existence of world-devastating weapons can, and inevitably will, be utilized by madmen to further their own goals at the expense of ordinary individuals’ wellbeings.
“Metal Gear Solid” was first released in 1998 for the Playstation and is the third installment in the series (though it is the eighth main series game chronologically). It follows the journey of Solid Snake, a covert operative enlisted by the U.S. military to infiltrate Shadow Moses Island and take down the terrorist group FOX that has taken over the secret U.S. military base. As Snake sneaks through the Alaskan wilderness and underground base, he encounters each of FOX’s operatives and takes them down one by one. The game culminates in a showdown between man and machine, Solid Snake versus Metal Gear Rex, and he takes down the 42-foot-tall hulking behemoth to save the world.
However, the game’s most prescient point lies not in its spectacle of technological advancement (though I am waiting for real-life Gundam) but in its treatment of shadowy government organizations and the machinations of the military-industrial complex that attempts to profit off of war. FOX would not be able to pose a threat if the U.S. army was not incredibly insistent on building Metal Gears, despite knowing the potential devastation such a weapon could cause in the wrong hands. At this point, Snake has fought and taken down three Metal Gears at the behest of the U.S. government, only to find out that they now desired that same military capability.
“The events of “Metal Gear” are only possible because governments have so little oversight and allow private military groups to operate as a ‘necessary evil.’ It ultimately leads to the whole world being embroiled in conflict. While “Metal Gear” is a fantasy, its worries are authentic and we should all be vested in preventing such a world from coming to pass.”
Be it far from me to criticize letting the genie out of the bottle, but “Metal Gear” criticizes our modern society not so much for tickling the dragon’s tail as yanking it. The rampant militarization of foreign relations and the focus on developing the newest, the best and the most of any particular weapon will ultimately spell the doom of the world as a whole. We can view metal gears (the fictional technology) analogously to almost any remarkable innovation in arms technology but most evidently the focus on developing nuclear weapons. The fear of mutually assured destruction and attempting to circumvent the existence of nuclear deterrence through decisive first-strike capability has plagued the minds of our brightest military planners since the death throes of the Cold War; yet we’ve seen nothing but adverse outcomes from such thinking.
In “Metal Gear,” the individuals who ultimately benefit from the existence of the metal gears and militarization of the world are lone gunmen (such as Big Boss and Liquid Snake), arms manufacturers (such as ArmsTech and Kenneth Baker) and shadowy interest groups with their hooks in the government (such as the Philosophers, then Cipher and Zero). The common person suffers from the constant threat of being destroyed by technology beyond their imagination. At the same time, this roster of lunatics vie for global governance and control of the world economy.
While there is no Solid Snake in our reality, no charming and suave hero who is always in the right place at the right time to tip the scales towards the ordinary person, “Metal Gear” demonstrates how important it is for everyone to be invested in the operations of their government, especially their military. The events of “Metal Gear” are only possible because governments have so little oversight and allow private military groups to operate as a ‘necessary evil.’ It ultimately leads to the whole world being embroiled in conflict. While “Metal Gear” is a fantasy, its worries are authentic and we should all be vested in preventing such a world from coming to pass.
Now, more than ever, we must be invested in what governments say they do in our names and for our good. Be involved now; take action now.
Don’t submit to The Man That Sold The World. Rise and seek vengeance.
Kit Kumar CM ‘26 hopes that their parents acknowledge that playing all those video games was actually a worthwhile use of their time.