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416 - Metal Gear Solid V

Best Games - Metal Gear Solid V

Imagine you are in a forest. It’s a pleasant day. You hear birds chirping in the treetops above you. Enough shade to be cool, enough sunlight to be warm. There is a shallow creek in your path that you would like to cross. What do you do?
You could simply walk through the water counting on the heat of the day to dry out your shoes and socks. You could toss enough fist sized stones into the water to create a makeshift bridge. You could fell a nearby tree to span the creek. You could scrounge through the forest for enough deadfall to create a pathway over the water. You could walk until you found a path around the water, assuming it pooled at some point. You could leave and come back tomorrow with a truck or a bulldozer and bend the earth to your wants. 
Any of these are possible because this is a real world situation that involves real world interactions. In the real world there are more options than there are constraints. Sometimes there are so many options that it seems like none of them are viable. Unlimited interactions, unlimited choice, unlimited solutions to unlimited problems.
Videogames are not like the real world. Videogames are extremely limited sets of systems that play off of one another. Pac-Man eats dots, ghosts eat Pac-Man, Pac-Man eats big dot, Pac-Man eats ghosts. Repeat. This limited interaction space is one of the things that makes videogames fun. When a player can explore the boundaries of the play experience quickly they can also attempt to optimize for better solutions quickly. Optimizing for better solutions to seemingly random problems is something that humans find fun, so getting there quickly is often a good thing.
What if, instead of creating a small interaction space to get to ‘fun’ quickly, you went huge. Like ridiculously huge. What if you layered systems on top of systems on top of systems and created so many potential solutions that it would be difficult to untangle them all or to determine which ones are viable. While you would never be able to create so many possible interactions that it rivaled the real world, what if you made a videogame that gave you a taste of that real world interaction space. Just enough to trick your brain into thinking that anything you attempt might be possible. What if enough of those attempts actually did turn out to be possible, not because they were specifically designed to be possible, but because there was no restriction against whatever weird garbage you tried. Now you have a different sort of fun. The type where you aren’t compelled to optimize, but to experiment. To improvise. To see how far you can push the simulation before you break it. To push the simulation with the intention of breaking it.
Pac-Man is a fun game. It’s fun for about 15 to 20 minutes. That’s enough time for a couple games usually. Maybe you play really well and you manage to extend one game for that entire 20 minutes. You leave the game satisfied and you can probably go back and play again in a day or two for another 20 minutes. That’s great. It’s a great way to design a game.
Metal Gear Solid V is the other type of game. It’s a game that you explore and experiment with. It’s a collection of systems so deep that you can run the same mission countless times (and you will) without ever exhausting the potential solution space. You can improvise or plan, use the systems or rail against them. You can play it whatever way you want for 100 hours and still never see every possible interaction. 
Is Metal Gear Solid V the best game in the Metal Gear series? Yes. And No. I suppose it depends who you ask and when. 
Is Metal Gear Solid V one of the best games? Absolutely. 

This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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