With the recent release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, some old memories regarding one of my favorite game series’ of all time began surfacing. The first Metal Gear Solid title was a first for me in many ways: an introduction to how intricate a game soundtrack can be, an introduction to a lengthy game (it was two discs long!), and my first mature-rated game. In fact, one of my most cherished memories – with the game simply acting as a catalyst for a great life lesson learned – revolved around scandal I created with Metal Gear Solid. Sounds lame, right? Still, I learned a lot about myself, as well as my father.
Up until Metal Gear Solid, I hadn’t played any “M” rated titles. Honestly, the only other game I can recall being rated similarly was Resident Evil, and my father had already caught on to that game. “People eating people? And you play a game about that? Hell no, that’s not going to happen. Michael, you don’t have that game, do you?!” I nervously shook my head, trying to convey that I had no interest in the game anyway. The truth is… well, I really did want to see what all the fuss was about.
As time went on, I gave up the idea of ever playing Resident Evil, let alone a mature game. I mean, when the cover shows a gnarled face with blood and open skin staring into your soul (like, say, Resident Evil 2), how could I slip it past my dad? Most mature rated games at the time made sure to show off how “mature” they were. That is, until a white cover with red lettering made an appearance on store shelves.
When I first eyed Metal Gear Solid on the shelf at my local game shop, the only thing that gave away its adult-y goodness was the somewhat subtle “M” logo in the bottom corner of the cover. For those unfamiliar with video games, the rating system was probably something easy to overlook; my dad was the perfect example, as he bought the game for me while the clerk kept silent regarding what was happening. I took a gamble that the cashier wouldn’t say anything about the game, and kept rather quiet throughout the whole process. As we left the mall and began our trek home, I truly felt accomplished. By evening, I would be playing my very first mature game.
Upon arriving at home, there was still plenty of daylight outside, so as to not aggravate my father or bring any unwanted attention to the game, I decided to go outside and play until after dinner. It was an agonizing few hours, where normally it was always a great adventure going out into the woods on the property. The game was in my possession, yet I couldn’t do anything about it. So, I desperately attempted to keep my mind busy, passing the time until the controller was in my hand and I was sneaking around a secret military base like a master.
Finally, dinner came and went, and I quickly (but calmly) made my way to my bedroom. I booted up the game and was greeted with a black and green menu, asking if I wanted to start a new game. I played Metal Gear Solid for hours; going well into the night and eventually having to force myself to go to sleep. In that time, I witnessed some fine language that I wasn’t accustomed to (ok, it wasn’t that bad, but for a young kid who had been somewhat sheltered it wasn’t common tongue), violence the likes of a hand chopped off by a cyborg ninja, and some mild sexual situations (Snake really had a thing for Meryl, didn’t he?). It was all I could’ve asked for. On top of everything, it turned out the game itself was outstanding in many ways; amazing music, unique gameplay, and a story that was bombastic and engrossing.
This type of content was crazy to me at the time. I mean, Ocelot lost his hand!
A few more days went by, and I continued repeating the process; passing the time until I could play my next round of Metal Gear, soaking in all its gaming goodness. Watching countless enemies spill their blood (whether by my hand or due to FoxDie), watching Otacon’s reaction upon seeing his love bleeding out by my gun, witnessing the “hallway of slaughter” created by the Cyborg Ninja, or the messed up things Pyscho Mantis had to endure (and his grotesque appearance); I have many memories of mature content with Metal Gear Solid. Well, mature for its time, at least.
Upon finishing the game, I was amazed for about… oh, I’d say ten minutes or so. Then, something arose that, at the moment, felt incredibly out of place and random: guilt set in. After finishing the game and getting it “out of my system,” I began to really think about what I had done over the past week. I manipulated a store clerk, deceived and passively lied to my dad, continued to put on a show to cover up the mature game I had my father purchase for me… I had treated my father with disrespect, and he didn’t even know it. Remorse can be quite the killer, and it began eating away at me. “How could I do that? Dad trusts me and I’ve completely thrown that out the window. Why would I do that? All for a game?” I felt terrible, and it opened my eyes to a part of my character I hadn’t known was there at all: selfishness and deceit.
One morning, I woke up and was instantly greeted with guilt; it wasn’t a passing thought or musing anymore. I couldn’t take it; I promptly found my dad and asked if I could talk with him. After about five minutes of explaining what I had done, and what game I was playing, he stared at me. It wasn’t an angry stare, though, but more thoughtful. After a brief moment of silence, he said, “Let’s go play it really quickly.”
I walked the walk of shame, feeling my freedom slowly start to fade as I reaped what I had sown the past week. The deceit, shadiness, and general manipulation were waved right in front of my face; yet, I felt so much more relieved. Sure, I would get punished, most likely lose my gaming system, and would deal with my dad’s disappointment, but I had gotten rid of what was eating me from the inside out. We sat down on my bed, I booted up the game, and started playing. My father sat there, arms crossed upon his chest, with a blank stare that was hard to read. I kept checking him out from the corner of my eye, but couldn’t figure out what might be going through his mind. After some time, he quietly said, “Alright, you can turn it off.” I awaited my punishment.
“Look, do I like that you’re playing a mature-rated game? No. No, I don’t. But, what you did just now; that you chose to act upon your convictions and stand up, even though I can clearly tell you’re worried… that shows some type of maturity. I don’t want you playing games like that cannibal one; eating people and stuff. But, I also know I can’t, and shouldn’t, be monitoring your every move. You’re growing up, and you will be doing things with – or more likely, without – my permission or knowledge. So, just ask me first next time. I might say no, but at least we will have trust.”
I’m almost positive my mouth was agape by the end of his answer. I honestly cannot recall, since all I could think of was, “That was his judgment?” I was taken completely by surprise. My father was a very strict man; not mean or unjustified in many of his judgment calls, but he made it very clear that I played by his rules. This answer – this revelation – was something I had never expected; a compromise. In addition to making a compromise with me and focusing on keeping trust for one another, he let me off the hook. I didn’t get any type of punishment. I got to keep my Playstation, I got to keep my game, and I wasn’t grounded for any amount of time. I learned a lot about my dad that day. Not only did he surprise me with his actions, he also made me feel better about myself – my self-esteem and self worth had been quickly reestablished after my undesirable discovery regarding my character. Ultimately, he treated me like a young man, not a little kid, since I did the correct thing in speaking up and acted more like a young man.
The power of trust and working through an issue, rather than instant judgment or avoiding it completely, is quite amazing. I learned a valuable lesson that day: trust is important. Whether with friends, family, or that special someone, trust is needed. And I learned this all with the help of Solid Snake and his mature adventure. Who said Snake was only useful on a battlefield?