Loving Your Enemies in Metal Gear Solid V

Metal Gear Solid V affords players the rare opportunity to bleed for their enemies.

Written by M. Joshua Cauller / Published on September 16, 2015

I wonder why Snake is covered in blood. I get confirmation at the end of the mission that none of my enemies were killed. So who’s blood is it? Every enemy who got near me got a tranquilizer to the face or passed out when I put them in a sleeper hold. But then I remember that there was the one time the alarm went off and they started shooting at me. I refused to use lethal force and took a few bullets while I tranquilizing and restraining my enemies. Snake might look like hell, but it’s because he was preserving the lives of his enemies and refused to take life in a violent situation.  

"It’s ridiculous and short-handed, but it plays into something I long for. I’ve always wanted to play a game that let me love my enemies as Jesus might."
I didn’t expect to voluntarily bleed so much for my enemies in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Nor did I expect the game to encourage a self-sacrificial approach when so much of the promotional trailers talked about Snake’s descent into villainy. But instead of playing to that villainy, the game let me turn Snake into a symbol of self-sacrifice for the benefit of my foes.

After marking my enemy and crawling several dozen meters on my belly, I sneak up and grab my enemy by the neck. I put him in a sleeper hold until he passes out, strap a Fulton Extraction balloon to his waist, and send him flying away to be recovered by my cargo airplane. A few minutes later, I get confirmation: he’s one of us now. Suddenly we’re forever friends.

It’s ridiculous and short-handed, but it plays into something I long for. I’ve always wanted to play a game that let me love my enemies as Jesus might. MGSV becomes this enemy-converting power fantasy where I get to preserve the lives of my enemies, offer them a job, and promise to fight for them when they come under attack. We become allies. I know in the real world no abducted enemy would ever be so quick to turn sides and join his opponent’s forces so easily. But I can’t help but feel like Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain allows me to love my enemies as I believe Jesus might. I mean the way Jesus told us to love our enemies in the Gospel accounts isn’t something that comes up terribly often in games. So even when it’s simplified in The Phantom Pain it feels like a win.

This isn't what it looks like. M. Joshua is about to shoot this guy with a tickle gun, then fulton-ballon him so they can have a beer later tonight at the base.

I know what this looks like, but M. Joshua is about to shoot this guy with a tickle gun, then fulton-balloon him so they can have a beer later tonight at Mother Base.

One of the central goals in The Phantom Pain is to build your private military with convinced enemy soldiers. Each time you knock out a guard with a tranquilizer, a sleeper hold or just a swift hit to the noggin, they’re primed for Fulton (balloon) extraction. The game rewards the extraction of living enemies. I could go guns blazing, but then with each termination all I could think about is how many quality people I’ve kept from bolstering my ranks. I’m not terribly into base-building simulations, but I love the way each aspect of enemy recruitment and base-building rewards the other. The more enemies I recruit, the more we can build new and more useful tools, scout enemy camps, and expand development on Mother Base.

Video games have always been about empowering players to live out fantasies they can’t have on their own. It’s about time that we got a game that empowers something that feels like enemy-love. I just didn’t expect it to come from such a popular and controversial developer like Hideo Kojima. To be fair, this enemy-rescue-by-balloon approach came first through Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker five years ago on PSP. But The Phantom Pain’s realizes that enemy-recruiting dream in perfect clarity. The open world integrates every action with the rest of the world. The game’s ultra-realistic graphics make every engagement look believable. Critics talk about how Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is one of the biggest games ever created. But I’m still not over the ways it encourages me to value my enemies. While the game lets you shower-off all of the blood and dirt from missions, I showered less because the blood turned into a badge of honor. When I play, Snake wears his own blood since he bleeds instead of firing back with lethal force. He preserves the lives of those who try to kill him.

About the Author:

M. Joshua Cauller makes unique player-centered indie game trailers when he's not exploring games' redemptive qualities. He can sometimes be found away from his computer (if you're patient). You can follow him on Twitter @mjoshua or check out his trailer production work at http://mjoshua.com

  • http://ericdye.it/ Eric Dye

    Cool perspective. 🙂

  • Blake Turner

    I am in no way Christian, but I love this article. Excellent work, and an excellent perspective. Although I feel like we now need to hide all tranquiliser guns from you, just to be safe.

  • http://lovesubverts.com M. Joshua Cauller

    Thanks so much, Blake! Yeah, the real threat is pepper spray. Tranq guns are too much to conceal. 🙂

  • http://lovesubverts.com M. Joshua Cauller

    Thanks, Eric!

  • Doe_Clapton

    As a Christian I very much share this sentiment to the extreme. Actually, this began way before Phantom Pain with Ground Zeroes which totally had me smiling from every second thinking: “I’m not just doing the very things I would have been doing if I was the Big Boss who just accepted Christ as his savior, the game even rewards me for doing it with a shiny S!”

  • Doe_Clapton

    Also for speedrunners this is very much the correct method. Could Kojima trying to say something with this? Hmm…

  • http://www.gamingandgod.com/ Michael Morejon

    Awesome article. Truly never thought of it like that, the whole thing about Snake wearing the blood to show it as a badge of honor. Loving our enemies is a dirty job, often times with no reward from man (but much from God). We love others because God loved us first, so I pray that my love for my enemies would always come from the fountain of love that my Heavenly Father gives to me, which I don’t deserve.

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