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Profile Image for Peter Derk.
Author 25 books353 followers
September 3, 2015
Soooo many complicated emotions about this book. Or thoughts, perhaps.

For starters, this is not the BFB title to read if you're not at least fairly familiar with Metal Gear Solid. Of all the books, this one probably spends the least time laying out the plot and gameplay in a linear way. Which is fitting considering that the game is goddamn bonkers, but I still think this would be somewhat of a difficule read if you hadn't played the game.

Oh, and DO NOT read the pdf version. The footnotes all get moved to the end of the chapters, but the footnotes are used in back and forth, location-dependent fun, which doesn't work in that format.

If you've never played the game, reading this book would definitely make you certain that it was sexist garbage with a few neat quirks that happened almost by accident.

Which is why I'm really torn on this book.

On the one hand, I think the book is well-written. No complaints there. And I also don't want to be confusing about one particular issue. Yes, I think Metal Gear Solid is sexist. No argument. We'll talk about this more, but I absolutely think the game is sexist.

This book is more thesis than it is experiential, which is a departure from other books in the series. And the conundrum I'm left with here, does a book that's well-written and make true points about a thesis warrant a higher or lower score based on my agreement/disagreement with said thesis when I get to the end of the book? In other words, does how I feel about the book's success in making its argument have more or less to do with whether I'd recommend it? And if a book is about making a point, is my enjoyment of that book based more on the prose or the solidity of the point?

Let's back up a bit.

The thesis of this book, I'd say it like this: Metal Gear Solid is a very flawed game. The authors' experience with it was more about the way in which they enjoyed it together than the game itself. That togetherness experience is good and lasting. The game is not.

The authors take pains to create an introduction that explains they do, in fact, like the game. And the end chapter begins like this:

"So Anthony and I shit on Metal Gear Solid for about half this book."

I'd put it more at 3/4, reading honestly.

The book said very little about positives. They felt the game environment was genuinely scary, there was one boss fight that was interesting, one side character has an interesting arc, the voice acting was a plus...and that's about it.

Metal Gear Solid is not a short game. The cutscenes alone are over 3 hours, and a playthrough takes quite a bit longer on top of that. To have those basic positives, I think we're missing something here.

At this point, I'm going to finish reviewing the book, then move on to talking about the game. I'll warn you when the game talk starts in case you want to tune out.

Here's the problem I had with the book. It talked quite a bit about the sexism and poor representations of both women and men in the game. And I'll reiterate, on board with that 100%.

What I'm not on board with is the level at which it was discussed, more emphasis on convincing me the game was, in fact, sexist. Rather than proving that a sexist thing is sexist, I would have really liked to hear more about the deeper meaning of that sexism.

Roxane Gay's book left me feeling much the same way. The essay about the racism of The Help was totally accurate, but I guess I'm not so much interested in whether or not The Help is racist. I'm interested in why something racist is so successful. I'm interested in why that was so well-received. I'm reading Roxane Gay's book. You don't have to take me all that far for me to buy into the premise that The Help is racist. Your book is in my hands. I'm with you there. I'm willing to make the short leap to "The Help is racist." Now tell me something more.

MGS is sexist. I think that case is easily made.

Here's what I'm interested in.

Does that mean it's bad? Do we prove something is sexist and then it's just, simply, bad?

I'm genuinely interested in this question, and I wish that the book had taken it further. I wish the book, instead of answering the question of whether or not something is sexist, had made the assumption that the reader was on board and gone further.

Let me talk about this another way.

Touch of Evil is kind of an amazing movie. It was released in 1958, and Charlton Heston plays a Mexican man. He's in, what we'll unkindly call, brownface.

That said, the opening shot is one, long, continuous shot that is absolutely incredible.

And so, the brownface is not cool today. Not okay. But. Is it therefore wrong to enjoy Touch of Evil? Do we excuse this because of the time period? How do we acknowledge the greatness of a technical achievement that has an embedded, racist, shitty thing?

These are the kinds of questions I wanted to discuss about MGS.

In Metal Gear Solid (the book), one of the authors trashes the game for its sexism. And then, in the next chapter about the voice acting, we have this:

"In fact, the acting in MGS1 serves as something of a gaming time capsule. In much the same way that performances in films of the 40's have a distinct, Humphrey Bogart-esque cadence to them -going UP on WORDS so folks know you're SERIOUS- the performances in MGS1 harken back to a time when games weren't so focused on realism. Spending hours laboring over details on a tank's hatch for a Call of Duty game didn't make sense for games in the 90s because there's only so much you can do with polygons. Everything was unreal, which often made it feel heightened and magical."

In the excerpt above, I BUY the fact that the acting is over-the-top. What I'm interested in, what made me enjoy that section, is that the author is grappling with and explaining the enjoyment of something that she shouldn't enjoy. THAT'S an interesting premise to me.

Here's why I bring it up. And I feel like I have to keep saying it, MGS is sexist. Video games have lots of sexist shit in them.

I don't really care to read a book that proves to me that video games are sexist because I totally buy that premise already.

Disliking something sexist or stupid makes all the sense in the world. It just doesn't make for the most interesting thesis. This is sexist, and sexism is bad. This game mechanic is dumb, and it would be better if it weren't so dumb.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm interested in what the sexism and stupidity of a game like MGS really mean.

What does it mean that I enjoyed a game that is so thoroughly sexist? Is it impossible to play games from 1998 with 2015 eyes? In our current world where everything is accessible, are there experiences, such as MGS, that are better left in the past, better as the broad stroke memories formed as a 15 year-old? What's the value/danger in re-treading old experiences?

These are not questions for which I'm writing answers. These are the kinds of questions I wish had been more fully explored in the book.

I want to put this in a coherent way here.

Today I read a comic strip someone posted online that pointed out the silliness and lack of utility in female superhero costumes. A point that was made by showing male superheroes in equivalent costumes.

I get it. I agree. I don't really need Power Girl to have a boob window. I don't know who it's for or why it's still a thing.

All of that said, that exact point has been made in that exact way many, many times. Google it. It's all there. Punisher with a skull Speedo is probably my fave.

And as these continue to come out, I think the truth of the message is making up for the unoriginal laying out of the ideas. More to the point, I wouldn't read a book about female superhero costumes being sexist. I would read a book about the origins of those costumes and why they continue and what it means about us as a society and why we didn't seem to give a shit about that in 1985 and now we do. That's interesting to me. But a book that sought out to demonstrate that something clearly sexist is sexist and pretty much leave it there...I guess I just don't feel like I need to read a book convincing me of something I already believe is true. Maybe this is why so many people don't actually seem to finish the Bible?

I wanted more from this book. Or maybe I wanted something that it was never meant to be.

Okay. Now it's time to talk about the game itself. Book nerds, adios.

Let's talk about some of the negatives pointed out by the authors and why I don't agree. These are all opinion, and really more game-based than anything else, so I suspect this has more to do with what a given person is looking for in a game.

+Gameplay mechanics are picked up and abandoned rather than being deeply explored+
This is totally true, and for me, it's a plus. The authors point out one particular mechanic, which is at the beginning of the game. As the character Solid Snake, you're trying to infiltrate a large base. It's snowing. And as you walk, you leave footprints in the snow. If guards see these footprints, they will follow them, they will find you, and at this early stage of the game, you have no hope for survival. However, this really only comes in to play during a single, early sequence of the game.

One of the authors does point out, correctly, that a great game can come from exploring a single mechanic very deeply, Portal being the cited example. I agree with that 100%. And I also feel that a game like MGS, with its constant abandoning of one old mechanic for a new one, makes for an interesting, different experience.

Let me put it like this. Daniel Johnston's song "Some Things Last A Long Time" is very simple, a few chords on a piano repeated, and just a few lines, really. It's a great song, and its simplicity and re-use of a few things make it great. Dragonforce's "Through the Fire and the Flames" is also great, and it's an insane, 8-minute song mostly designed to prop up an epic guitar solo. Its variety and pace, and its willingness to abandon simple melodies and rhythm make it a new experience every few seconds.

These songs are both great for different reasons, and I want both kinds of songs to be around.

I love Portal, and I love Metal Gear Solid.

+The lack of choice in the game narrowed the narrative and tossed out interesting possibilities+
Can I tell you something? I don't like BioWare games. And it's not BioWare's fault, but the makers of Mass Effect have created something that's nearly impossible for me to enjoy.

Here's why.

When I play a game, I always get the feeling that making a choice other than the one I would make in real life leads to a more interesting outcome. When I have a dialogue choice between being a nice guy or a real dickbag, I kind of feel like the dickbag choice is more interesting, precisely because it's not the choice I would make in real life. And I want to play a game where I tell a planet in distress to go fuck themselves, or where I sacrifice someone I really like in order to save the life of someone who is a tactical asset.

And I can't do it. I'm completely incapable of playing these games through a series of choices that make me more interested in what's next. Instead, I always pick what I would pick in real life.

I'm a 31 year-old librarian typing a response to this book at 1:13 AM. I make the choices in a weird space world that a 31 year-old librarian who types book reviews would make. This is not a terrible life, but it would make a terrible video game.

The lack of choice in Metal Gear Solid makes the game a lot more interesting to me. As a careful person who has trouble casting off that sense of safety in real life, a carefulness that translates to video games, I appreciate the game that has a linearity.

I'd like to also talk about a few things that I think Metal Gear Solid did really well that weren't explored very much in the book.

+This was more movie than it was game+
I'd be hard-pressed to speak of a game that felt more like a movie than this one. There were side effects, such as long cutscenes and a FUCKTON of text. But as far as playing through what felt like a movie, this was it for me. Because not only was it like a movie in general and in its nuances, but it was like a specific kind of movie, the 90's action blockbuster, of which I'm a huge fan and miss dearly.

+Psycho Mantis+
This is a mind-reading boss, and a lot is made of the gimmicky battle, before which Psycho Mantis can read your Playstation memory card and also analyzes the way you've been playing the game (whether you're cautious of traps, save often, etc.), and which ends by the player removing the controller from the first-person slot and plugging it into the second-person slot.

What people don't spend a lot of time on is discussing this character and what he says on his deathbed sequence.

After each boss fight, Snake ends up having a chat with the fallen enemy while they bleed out. These moments, though cheesy in a lot of ways, offer a level of sophistication that you did not see in games at this time. As a young guy (15 when this came out), it was odd to battle a boss and then feel kind of guilty for killing him.

Mantis, for example, reveals that his ability to read minds is difficult to limit. He first discovered his powers when he saw into the mind of his own father. He was so sickened and frightened of what he saw that he burned down his whole village and left.

Subsequently, he wore a gas mask because it tended to dampen the things he saw from other peoples' minds, a necessary step as he saw the same thing over and over: the empty desire to procreate.

And before he dies, Mantis reads Snake's mind. He tells Snake, the main character who you play as, that he's truly evil. While Mantis is a bad guy, he's not so bad when compared to Snake.

Let's do a quick recap. This is a video game from 1998 addressing the idea of human procreation as being empty and a product of being enslaved by our biology, and also pointing out that the protagonist is not a good dude on any level. And this question does not end here. After another boss fight near the end, the defeated foe tells Snake "The path you walk on has no end. Each step you take is paved with the corpses of your enemies... Their souls will haunt you forever... you shall have no peace..."

And it's totally true.

This idea, that you're watching a character who is empty simply act out his emptiness, is far more fascinating than most video game narratives of the time. Hell, this is the kind of thing that James Bond got to FINALLY in the last few years, the idea of what it takes to be a person who kills other people for a living.

This is a very early experience for me that made me question something. Sure, Snake is stopping a nuclear attack. But he's not a man anymore. He's a tool. A weapon. And although the ends are good for humanity overall, the means come at the personal cost of his being a person on any level.

This is a tough pill to swallow in a lot of ways. And had it not been in a nice package, I don't know that I would have gone down that road.

+Rewarding the player for making the "wrong" decision+

Okay, quick explanation.

In MGS there's a torture sequence. You mash a button as fast as you can to save yourself. If you fail in this task, Meryl, the love interest(?) in the game dies. If you succeed, you ride away into the sunset together at the end of the game.

When you finish MGS you get an item that you can use on subsequent playthroughs. If you save Meryl, you get a bandanna, which gives you infinite ammo for all weapons on your next playthrough. However, if you fail to save Meryl, you get a stealth suit, which renders you invisible.

The stealth suit is, by far, the better item. It makes the game a total breeze, and with a couple exceptions, it makes another playthrough not only easier to complete, but easier to screw around in. The stealth suit changes the whole game, the bandanna does not.

And yet, the stealth suit is the item you're given if you fail to save Meryl, and fail to go down the "correct" path (proven by the narrative of subsequent games, saving Meryl is canon).

This is, to me, a really strange and interesting choice, and one that games of today still struggle with.

I'll make it quick. Bioshock forces you to choose whether you want to harvest/kill these spooky little girls, or save them and turn them back into regular girls. In theory, you will go through the game with more powers if you harvest the girls and make the bad choice. So there's an inventive, a better gameplay possibility that can be achieved by making the "wrong" choice.

However, Bioshock falls short of this promise, because by the end of the game, the player who saves the girls will actually be MORE powerful than the player who doesn't. The right moral choice and the right gameplay choice are the same, so players who chose to harvest the girls really have to just want to for the hell of it.

MGS gives you a choice. Save someone and complete the narrative properly. Or don't, your love interest dies, and you get a much cooler, more fun gameplay experience as a result.

I should probably tell my MGS story. I'll make it quick.

I played a ton of games as a kid. Then very few from ages 14 to 24. But Metal Gear Solid was one of the few games I got behind in a big way. My brother bought a Playstation, and I didn't finish Final Fantasy, Resident Evil was too confusing and too much finding this key to open that door, and most of the games from that time just didn't appeal to me.

But Metal Gear Solid, that one I played through at least 4 times. I watched all the cutscenes every time. The story is certainly clunky in a lot of ways. And I hate that I feel obligated to say that. I hate that I feel like I have to say, "I'm smart enough to recognize the weaknesses in the prose and storytelling."

This game had a complex story. Both in its plot twists and in its characters. This was the first time I would be furious at how frustrating a boss was, and feel pumped when I won a battle, and then immediately have that feeling taken away when the game forces you to confront that the person you killed is real, and is in most cases, more like your protagonist than the people you're supposed to be saving.

To me, one character, Grey Fox, embodies what the game is like, and what it's all about.

He's a terrifying cyborg ninja who turns invisible. And his backstory is heartbreaking, and the real sadness comes when he makes an attempt at redemption. Because you know that, for him, there's just no way to reach it.

That character is a total mix of being completely fucking bananas, totally working within the world of Metal Gear Solid, and making the player feel something.

That's the crux of it. It was the first game that made me feel something more than frustration or like I'd achieved something. It made me feel sad. It was the first game where winning felt like defeat.
Profile Image for Eduardo Cruz.
68 reviews7 followers
April 21, 2019
Ash: MGS1 is great¹, but Snake is a misogynistic fuck².
1. Anthony: Kojima!
2. Anthony: Come at me bro!
Like, what the hell.
I hope that we, as a society, become more inclusive and fair so that we can leave that I-am-an-activist-for-saying-this-is-sexist banner behind us and really focus on the topic at hand; which, in this case, is games.
Yeah, games. Not the stories in those games, not the characters in those stories, not the relevance of such characters.
Like, we get it. Kojima won't probably win an Oscar or a Nobel prize for his portrayal of women in videogames. He himself has said his female characters aren't but fanservice produce. So what? His games remain fun and funny.
You can, of course, spend a chapter or two saying MGS1's story and characters are sexist and flawed, but when you spend more than half of your book doing so (and occasionally veering off to expose your own interests, work, and past) you might as well change the title of your book to something more relevant. E.g. "sexism in videogames before the internet boom". Or should we expect this all over again when you review another -specially from the nineties- creative work?
I know the story means a great deal in the MGS series, but the two main themes "war is bad" and "genes aren't fate" are conveyed satisfactorily. Let's not dwell on the weaker parts of the story as if MGS was to blame for our unjust society.
I mean, the authors aren't wrong, and they make a valid point, but I doubt this was the place to explore such themes. Why didn't we explore what MGS1's inspirations were? Whom MGS1 was an inspiration for? How were things before and after MGS1? Instead of an in-depth investigation of how MGS's mechanics and quirks came to be and in turn change things in the industry, we got a rather informal opinion from two siblings who love to argue via footnotes (which were fun but didn't quite bring anything meaningful to the table)³.
3. Anthony: Handsome Jack!
Profile Image for Travis Riddle.
Author 11 books331 followers
May 18, 2019
A pretty interesting look at the game's mechanics and narrative design, and a (quite) critical view of how its writing--and the writing of any game, movie, book, etc.--can shape the consumer's understanding of themselves and their worldview in a positive or, in this case, negative way. It raises some good points about a lot of the sexist tropes present in the game, offering personal experiences on how exactly those tropes shaped the authors' lives, and some questions on what responsibility media might have in representation.

The book was also a breezy read, only taking me a day to get through it; a nice, conversational tone going back and forth between the two authors. Some of the humor didn't land for me and I got tired of clicking on footnotes, but overall it was quite an enjoyable and interesting read.
9 reviews1 follower
August 6, 2018
I wanted to like this book, since it discusses one of my favorite games of all times, alas, the book is filled with SJW views. You're constantly bombarded with 'oh that's racist and sexist'. It doesn't see Metal Gear Solid is it really is, a pastiche of 80s action movies with a gruff and cynical/stoical protagonist (I mean, the main character is literally based off of Snake Plissken).

If we follow the author's reasoning, each and every video game hero needs to be some kind of virtuous soldier who espouses the leftist virtues of social justice. There can also be no stereotyping based off of sex/culture whatsoever in any video game of other cultural medium. 'What, Mei Ling has a Chinese accent, and uses Chinese proverbs all the time? That's super racist!'.

Guess what, we like MGS because Snake is the way he is.

Now, it shows that Hideo Kojima likes boobs, butts and women. (the book references the part where you have to look for Meryl's wiggling butt amongst the other Genome Soldiers). He's a bit childish about it, but that makes MGS stand out from all the serious stuff out there. There are no long winded monologues about social justice gender theories. It's just childish jokes about boobs and butts. It's not meant to be serious, and I doubt that anyone bases their behaviour or attitudes towards girls on how Solid Snake acts towards them.

They then go off saying MGS isn't very good and is a flawed game. Sure, looking back, and comparing it when current day video games, its mechanics are somewhat dated. However, that doesn't change the fact that the game has aged remarkably well. I could pop in the disc today and have lots of fun replaying the story (part of this is is because a playthrough can be done in a relatively short period of time, and the game is a lot less hard as its sequels either). The same doesn't really go for other stealth games like Splinter Cell or Thief, which are games that you play through once and then you're finished.

Their criticism that the boss fights are boring and uninteresting is just lame. Each and every one of those had a fresh mechanic and allowed you to screw around a bit. Tell me what other game allows you to use remote controlled missiles in a sniper duel? Or get yelled at when you shoot at the guy you're trying to save, by the guy who's holding him hostage ('YOU MANIAC!')?

I found most of their criticism unfounded, and it bothered me that they tried to push their political views all the time. Making one remark is one thing, doing it all over the book is just plain annoying.
Profile Image for Alex Camilleri.
19 reviews8 followers
November 21, 2016
As a big fan of Kojima's work, I very much enjoyed reading this book. I really appreciated the pace and how personal the writing felt. The critique is absolutely fair and relevant.
Profile Image for Jonny Ward.
26 reviews2 followers
February 27, 2019
Hated the petulant tone. Hated the bullish lack of context in which the game were designed, developed and released. Hated the consistently unfunny and too-frequent footnotes.
Profile Image for Jamie Perez.
162 reviews19 followers
August 28, 2015
I think this was my fave Boss Fight book yet -- and that's saying a lot. It was a rip-roaring survey of a lot of the things we wrestle with when we talk seriously about games these days as culture and art and just plain fun. Breeze through the self-congratulatory moments -- we're all human. I certainly look forward to diving in on their web series after reading this. I'll be passing my copy along to friends.
Profile Image for Bryan House.
546 reviews8 followers
June 14, 2022
I'm almost done with my Boss Fight Books (I bought so many at once, would have maybe NOT if I knew the levels of quality levels)

I think this one is pretty decent!! (But a few caveats)

1) I've never played Metal Gear

2)They REALLY deconstruct this game. To a beating a dead horse level, which is not necessarily bad! But they take their time to REALLY deep dive into some things - not all do I think is necessary, but I do appreciate that this is the Burch family interpretation of the game. Sometimes it caught an eye roll from me, sometimes you don't need to deep dive and analyze every single word of a game. I liked some of it, not all of it.

3) they don't really go into the positives of this game - lots of negatives to the point where it conveys the message that this game is just NOT FUN and SUCKS. So many people love this game? It is just because it's cooky? I feel like I need to do my own research now... which defeats the purpose of me reading this book. I wanted to read this book for more overall information of Metal Gear.

4) there is a weird sense of humor in this book - sometimes it worked for me, other times it didn't.

Overall enjoyable, wish I had played Metal gear so I would have a deeper level of understanding
Profile Image for Agustín Fest.
Author 39 books67 followers
February 19, 2020
Una desconstrucción woke y demasiado gringa escrita a dos voces sobre un videojuego que nunca he jugado. No me dieron suficiente información para interesarme por el juego o la saga, pero me dieron puntos convencionales para criticarlo por lo que es: un trenecito de clichés demasiado fácil de criticar y desconstruir. Algunas de las anécdotas personales de los hermanos son interesantes, pero otras versan demasiado en lo personal o en pararse el cuello, que uno, como lector, puede hacer el esfuerzo de ser gentil y no saltárselas para ver si llegan a algún lugar. Si llegan o no, es una apuesta, supongo, igual que uno compra loot boxes o tira los dados. No es mi preferido de la serie, pero es un libraco original en su modo de tratar el tema y eso es de apreciarse. Otros lo disfrutarán mucho más que yo.

Nota: quizás sea mejor buscar alguna versión impresa de este libro, ya que contiene numerosas notas al pie que son humorísticas, conversacionales y probablemente agregan alguna dimensión al estilo del libro. En Kindle, dichas notas son más bien enfadosas.
Profile Image for Caleb Ross.
Author 38 books188 followers
March 9, 2018
Earthbound book review
Click the image above to watch the video review.

I like books. I like video games. I like mashing them together like potatoes....potatoes against the bottom of a bowl. You can’t just mash two potatoes together to get mashed potatoes. That’s cumbersome, messy, and questionably effective. The bowl is necessary. Otherwise, you’re probably just puppeteering a violent potato orgy.

The latest potato-on-bowl experience I've had is this, Metal Gear Solid from Boss Fight Books, written by Ashly Burch and Anthony Burch.

It's funny. It's insightful. It's just what you would expect from a book by these two personalities. I stress “you” because surely you are familiar with these two people, but somehow I was not familiar with Burch and Burch despite them having a very popular YouTube series Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’?, and having other impressive writing credits to their names, including Borderlands 2 and an Emmy award winning episode of Adventure Time. Ashly Burch is also the voice of Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn. They are the perfect pair to write a book like this, a book that takes a game they loved as children, that they say contributed substantially to the people they are today, and tear it apart. What I learned reading this book is that Metal Gear Solid doesn’t really hold up as a game experience.

The authors use their own personal histories and current career roles in video games to add to the larger conversation of Metal Gear Solid, and to the even larger conversation of representation in video games and to the even more larger conversation of just how weird is Hideo Kojima, really? All signs point to very. A running joke in the book is pointing out ways Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima is crazy and seemingly has no filter when it comes to what he wants his game to do. For example, the authors explore the game mechanic that lets enemy soldiers track protagonist Solid Snake in the snow, a mechanic that seems innocuous until you realize that it’s only used once and at the very beginning of the game before the player really even understands how to play the game. That’s hours and hours of development time to for a single use, albeit cool, feature. Not weird enough for you? Kojima also includes assworship as a gameplay mechanic. See also hiding in boxes.

For those with a nostalgic connection to the game, the book forces a hard-look retrospection. What you may remember as a brilliantly sophisticated game that invented the stealth mechanics we know and sometimes love today, may still be that, but decimated are the adjective tagalongs implied by such a description. Perfect game? No. Serious game? Not really. Beautiful game? Perhaps in the way we all thought polygons were beautiful before we had full CG capabilities. Important game? Yes, still very much so.

What makes this book really work--if I didn’t say it enough already--are the personalities of the authors. Siblings Ashly Burch and Anthony Burch take the straight-man and banana man format they’ve developed over the years in their Hey, Ash Whatcha Playin’? YouTube series and convert that quite well to the long-form paper medium. And they understand the demands of the book format, and realize that simply carrying on the Double Act comic format of their video series would get quite boring for 200 pages. So, they wisely show off their critical thinking skills while reserving most of the funny stuff asides for the footnotes. And if you like footnote humor, I highly recommend Robert Hamburger’s Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book.

Though Burch and Burch pull no punches when criticising Metal Gear Solid, they truly love the game and credit it for parts of their professional success. It’s good to know that it’s okay to recognize when what you love might be flawed and that even if what you love is a sexist, racist, and overall absurd video game, it doesn’t mean you are sexist, racist, absurd, or a video game. And as long as we gamers can keep that in mind when challenging a person’s affinity for a video game that we may not like, we’ll all be better people. Basically, don’t be a jerk to fellow gamers, okay. Because the games you love are probably garbage, too.
Profile Image for Daniel Moquin.
119 reviews4 followers
January 21, 2020
J'aime beaucoup la collection Gaming Legends! Les auteurs y présentent un jeu vidéo qui a joué un rôle dans leur vie.

Ashly et Anthony Burke analysent et décortiquent le jeu Metal Gear Solid en y mentionnant les thèmes abordés et l'influence qu'ils ont eu sur leur vision de la vie. Une critique constructive de l'image de l'homme et de la femme dans les jeux vidéos. Intéressant si on connait déjà le jeu.

Gros bémol, le livre est rempli de fautes et les renvois dans le texte sont mal numérotés (Numérotation double?!?!).
62 reviews2 followers
February 18, 2016
So like most of the books in this series, I've never played Metal Gear Solid. Oh, I saw some of it at friend's houses, and I've been exposed to it via cultural osmosis, but I've never played it.

And I don't think the book suffered for it. I think this is the best written of the BFB I've read. That may be a little unfair to the other authors because this is just the funniest book in the series, the Burches are funny and the book has them trading off writing sections and footnotes which works well.

The footnotes in the PDF/digital version are unfortunately end notes which makes them much harder to follow. These are not detailed footnotes on history and citations but running gags and jokes that rely on timing.

Anyway, the book. I liked it! Going in I knew Metal Gear Solid was a weird game but I think they did a very good job of illustrating the game's contradictions and shortcomings, more than just say "how weird!" And the game is full of contradictions and shortcomings.

What makes this book flow is the two points of view, not those of the two authors, but those of time. The child-Burches played MGS and loved it. It was a revelatory experience full of exciting cut scenes, dramatic dialog, and stoic masculinity. The adult-Burches view the game very differently. The mechanics have a lot of flaws. The cut scenes are over-long. The stoic masculinity is not as cool as it seemed at 12.

Some reviews here have I think focused unfairly on this book being about MGS being sexist. I don't think that does the discussion justice. Yes, female characters in MGS are kind of shit and the narrative treats them that way. But I think the book, and I have to assume the game, focuses much more on what MGS thinks about masculinity. And that is a weird ball of stoic silence and melodramatic dialog. The book calls out an (in)famous line, "do you believe that love can bloom, even on a battlefield?"

And I feel like that sums up the game and the book pretty well.
14 reviews
August 20, 2015
I'll let the following passage speak for itself.

[...]This scene is objectifying. It's sexist. It undermines the game's attempts to characterize Meryl as a smart, tough, self-possessed woman. It's also, infuriatingly, one of the only interesting gameplay twists in the series. Where many of the game's one-off challenges ask the player to disregard all of the stealth mechanics upon which the game is based, the Butt Mission encourages the player to gain a deeper understanding of enemy patrols, vision cones, and proximity.
The 'correct' way to solve Butt Mission requires the player to get close to an enemy while they're moving (so the player can look at Dat butt), understand when the enemy will turn around (so the player knows when Snake might be spotted staring at Dat Butt), and use the otherwise-useless first-person view mode to more closely inspect their target('s butt). You've by now become used to treating all enemies like identical cannon fodder, but Butt Mission asks you to slow down, examine each soldier carefully, and fine the one with a 'slightly' more bootylicious walk than the others, and make sure not to kill her.
Here, for once, is a problem that can't be solved by simply shooting the enemy from a distance with a silenced pistol, or grabbing them by the neck and killing them in two seconds. The Butt Mission is more suspenseful and nuanced than the more bombastic, less sexist moments that surround it. There is no single moment in all of Metal Gear Solid that so perfectly encapsulates the game's highs and lows with such clarity. It is so sexist and embarrassing that it is nearly hilarious.... but it is also one of the game's best-designed moments. it is the most mature, least mature scene in the game. Metal Gear Solid IS the Butt Mission."""
Profile Image for Stuart Hodge.
245 reviews10 followers
August 12, 2015
A good and entertaining analysis of one of my favourite games. The Burches played Metal Gear Solid at a similar age to me and my brother, and the way they spoke about the game and the joy of discovering a video game that was more than facile in its narrative ambition rings very true to me. I would have liked a bit more context, placing MGS more firmly in its time, and some more elucidation of some of the arguments would have been good- some are skipped over too quickly- but all in all a good piece of criticism. I recommend it to anyone who likes Metal Gear Solid.

Full Disclosure: I was a kickstarter backer for this project
Profile Image for Katie.
534 reviews11 followers
July 10, 2016
I have never been interested in Metal Gear. To be honest, I am still not. My husband is, however, a fan. And I think he was a bit tired of my snarking cutscenes, etc from the games, if he happened to play one while I was home. So he suggested I read this.

I love when fans of a creative work of any kind can appreciate the work for what it is and the impact it has...and still rip it to shreds. The authors definitely love Metal Gear, and it shows, but it isn't on a pedestal. And that made their commentary all the more accessible, in my eyes.
Profile Image for José Joel.
4 reviews
March 14, 2017
Rather that a deep look into the game like the excellent Spelunky book of this series, this book frequently interrupts a fun conversation about the game series to derail into personal anecdotes of the writer, feeling like half a memoir of the author and half metal gear. At times clever and deep, but at another times making confusing observations that hardly have anything to do with the game series.

Still, fun if bought for a cheap price, but fans of the series wont learn much new reading this.
Profile Image for Margaret Sankey.
Author 9 books208 followers
April 15, 2018
Another in a great series, this is a brother and sister duo who grew up playing the game, then went into the industry as writers, game developers and voice actors--the deliberate mix of perspective, especially comparing their 10 year old selves to now, is a fascinating window into how the mentality of one person, like the game's developer Kojima, can produce something that has both long disquisitions on nuclear deterrence as well as a game mechanic to jiggle a character's boobs.
Profile Image for Eric.
655 reviews7 followers
May 26, 2019
This exploration is not nearly as good as some of the others I've read so far. Anthony jams in the fact that he was a writer for Borderlands 2 multiple times. The analysis of the game centers mostly on the dialogue while largely missing other important pieces that contributed to it being an influence on future games.
Profile Image for Phil.
28 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2016
An interesting look at Metal Gear Solid and its various issues. However, loses a star due to the ridiculous overuse of footnotes. Seriously, they're constantly throwing them in and it soon gets tiresome and really impacts the flow of the writing.
Profile Image for Avedon Arcadio.
198 reviews2 followers
March 22, 2020
While a good and obvious dissection of the game they style of writing is annoying having two writers work on this as well as the countless ridiculous footnotes. I guess somehow people thought they were funny?
14 reviews4 followers
August 11, 2016
Está interesante como desmenuza todos los protagonistas del juego y todos los problemas, pero no añade más. Una lectura que parece más un artículo de un blog que un libro.
Profile Image for Jack Wolfe.
446 reviews28 followers
July 24, 2020
The Burch siblings begin their journey with "Metal Gear" (and the opening chapter of their book on the game) the same way I did: by replaying that awesome demo (you could find it on that great disc that came with your Playstation, alongside "Crash Bandicoot: Warped" and "Wild 9" and "Cool Boarders" and a bunch of other classics) countless times, typically alongside a sibling (in my case, two or three), attempting every permutation of the Heliport sequence, finally finding the SOCOM after like ten tries, and memorizing every anguished grunt in the DARPA chief's* final monologue. This was the WAY to get into "Metal Gear Solid," people, and if you missed the boat... Well, there's always Call of Duty, I guess...

Anyway, this book is about the emotional distance between when you first experience something wonderful as a kid and then return to it years later... to find it's a lot dumber and more frustrating than you remember. The Burches write about "Metal Gear" both ardent fans and exacting critics-- they can't completely disregard their childhood feelings about the game, but they can't pretend like Hideo Kojima's insane and idiosyncratic experiment in gamer powerlessness has aged perfectly, either. Though they spend some time on the gameplay mechanics (noting, I think most devastatingly, how the demo creates an expectation of player freedom that is never realized by this mostly on-the-rails game), their critique is mostly organized around social issues, specifically questions of gender and sexuality. "Metal Gear Solid," they conclude, was a game designed by an action-movie-obsessed weirdo to make pre-teen boys (read: not modern, enlightened adults) vibrate with excitement. If it's strangely in-depth and even nuanced about questions of war and power and nuclear proliferation, it's terribly regressive when it comes to basic ideas about character and personality.

There are jokes and side-quests along the way, in this book... But yeah, if what you want is a chapter-long exploration of the La-Le-Lu-Le-Lo... Uh. Sorry! This book is gonna disappoint you! (Which might be appropriate, given that "Metal Gear Solid" is finally a series all about disappointment, failure, etc.)

I wish it were longer and deeper, actually! At risk of sounding like a real "Social Justice Warrior" (lord knows I wouldn't wanna be confused with someone interested in questions of social justice!), I think their discussion of gender already feels, itself, a little dated... Maybe a touch too heteronormative? I sort of wish they incorporated more sources, more perspectives, etc. It doesn't help that the Burches feel the need to apologize for their criticisms every chapter or so. (I guess they understand their audience? Not sure if there's a subculture as humorless and allergic to even good-natured critique as the gamer crowd (even "Metal Gear" fans aren't immune, apparently!).) Nevertheless, I like the personal aspect of the book, and the tone of the authors (respectful but bemused), and the pointedly "un-official" nature of their criticisms (Hideo Kojima was not asked for his input... GOOD!), and the... AHHHHHHHHH







(dies of Foxdie)

Folks looking for a deep-dive into MGS2 might wanna check this one out:
Profile Image for Kelly (BookWtch).
53 reviews4 followers
March 5, 2019
Metal Gear Solid released September 3rd, 1998. I was 9 years old. I remember my dad coming home that afternoon with it in tow, and after that, some of my fondest childhood memories ensued. Struggling to figure out Meyrl's codec frequency, surviving Ocelot's torture sequence, Psycho Mantis reading my memory card and making my controller shake. But my fondest memory of all, experiencing all of this with my dad, who was a big a nerd as I was about it all.

MGS also flipped the switch to an element of video games I had not realized before, that video games could be used as a platform for storytelling. Even though I had been playing video games well before Metal Gear Solid, none of them impacted me so profoundly. Afterwards I started looking at video games in an entirely different perspective.

What's interesting about this book is that the focus is mostly on the game's flaws, which they clearly warn you of in the introductory chapter.

It was actually very enlightening!

Playing Metal Gear for the first time, and only being nine years old, I didn't catch on to a lot of the issues that were addressed. How it's incredulously sexist, racist, and at times quite underdeveloped.

But all of these issues are discussed with love in their hearts towards the game, and despite its flaws, is a still a game that impacted their lives; much like it did mine.

Profile Image for Tyler.
306 reviews5 followers
November 23, 2019
I genuinely love talking and thinking about games, and it really makes me happy when people discuss games using not only objective standards of quality but also acknowledging their subjective experiences as well. Ashly and Anthony Burch are really good at doing this, mostly because of their significant careers in gaming writing and reviewing. A great read about a weird, flawed, masterpiece.

4/5 stars.

***quick edit after reading some of the reviews, about the authors shoving their "sjw politics" into the book 🙄 I just want to paste in a little excerpt from the last chapter in response.

"We need to feel comfortable saying: I love this game, but it’s sexist. I love this game, but it’s racist. I love this game, but the story is atrocious. I love this game, but I don’t see myself represented in it. And when we hear a complaint like that about a game we love, we have to stop that little seed of defensiveness from spilling over into anger. We have to recognize that a critic’s concern doesn’t say anything about us, and it doesn’t make us wrong for liking that game. We’re all on the same team, and we’re all just trying to make this medium the best it can be. For everyone."

Peace and love ✌🏾
Profile Image for Erin.
14 reviews7 followers
July 17, 2017
I really enjoyed this addition to BFB, but I'm going to admit I'm biased: I love Ashly and Anthony, and all their antics. I've never seen footnotes used so creatively, every single one was playful or revealing and an absolute delight (more of this in creative non-fiction, please). The main reason for my love of this book is the reiteration of the fact that you can love something and still analyse it, that it can be both brilliant and flawed, even when viewed through a nostalgic lens.

This sentiment from the epilogue equivalent summarises it best:

"But we both believe that we have a responsibility to deconstruct the things we love, to try and point out how they could be more inclusive, more conscious, and just better. [...]
But the only way we can do that is by pointing at something that isn't working, and naming it. We need to feel comfortable saying: I love this game, but it's sexist. I love this game, but it's racist. I love this game, but the story is atrocious. [...]
We're all on the same team, and we're all just trying to make this medium the best it can be. For everyone."
Profile Image for Jean Snow.
69 reviews8 followers
February 20, 2023
If I'm rating this book at two stars it's more about my expectations for this, and how what I ended up reading wasn't really want I wanted out of this -- or was expecting as something coming out of this series. Although the authors mention a few times their love for the game (and end the book trying to bring back that idea), pretty much the entirety of it is a long critique of everything the game got wrong. I don't have a problem with game critique, but this series is supposed to be a celebration of these games, and so I'm interested in learning more about the context of the game (i.e. how it was made) and not just a point by point critique of everything bad about the game. I do get that they are bringing their personal experiences into this, but it didn't really make for pleasant reading.
Profile Image for Cian Rice.
20 reviews
February 17, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Speaking more to how the MGS influenced them, the Burch siblings each hit upon points I found incredibly relatable. At one point Ashley recalls how something clicked for her - acting, and specifically in regard MGS, voice acting. Anthony talks about how how Kojima has a sense of sincerity and how as an adult Anthony differs from the youth who loved that storytelling (relating to how the team at Gearbox handled moments in Borderlines 2) but as an adult he likely would never be able to let himself tell a story like Kojima does. These hit hard, and the footnotes... DAMN ARE THE FOOTNOTES GREAT.
Profile Image for Joseph.
67 reviews
December 20, 2022
If you're very precious about Metal Gear Solid this will not be the book for you, because Ashly and Anthony Burch lovingly roast Metal Gear Solid throughout this book. They intelligently and comedically dissect MGS's biggest characters, plot points, and narrative devices. One of my favorite parts of this book was the excellent use footnotes. Usually a footnote provides extra context for what is being discussed, but in this book Ashly and Anthony use it for clapbacks against MGS and each other. It's extremely charming, and made me smile and chuckle a few times. If you love MGS but aren't precious, or have fond memories of bonding with a sibling over a video game, you'll enjoy this book.
175 reviews
May 17, 2019
Short but sweet. It was mostly a critique of the game than anything, and to be honest I'm delighted to have read that. There were many flaws in the game that I didn't want to acknowledge. I'm slowly learning it's okay to like a flawed game. Thanks!

Also, it made me laugh lots of times.
Didn't even know it was written by the Burch siblings*, which was a nice surprise.

*bought the book in a Humble Bundle, didn't even look at the authors' names
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