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Editorial: The Happy Enigma Of Kojima's Phantom Pain

I don’t exactly know what Kojima’s The Phantom Pain is, but I love it because it’s pure Kojima.

When The Phantom Pain was announced at the VGAs recently, it didn’t take long for people to theorize that Kojima’s latest game was actually a Metal Gear game (either Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes or Metal Gear Solid V). I believe this speculation, but who knows if The Phantom Pain is actually a new Metal Gear game, some sort of game-within-a-game like the jail nightmare sequence in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, or simply an elaborate marketing campaign.

While some see The Phantom Pain head-fake as a frustrating ego exercise by Kojima, I enjoy it because although it’s indulgent, it’s also an expression of the kind of artistic vision that the developer has consistently exhibited with the Metal Gear series.

In the Metal Gear franchise and in Konami’s marketing of those games, Kojima has consistently reveled in exhibiting his sense of humor, playing on fans’ expectations, breaking down the fourth wall, and in general creating a byzantine story web for the series. The Phantom Pain is clearly in this vein. The fact that it’s loaded with Metal Gear clues proves once again that Kojima lacks subtlety, but it’s all part of the fun.

Apart from being a Metal Gear fan who enjoys simply hearing and thinking more about the franchise – as well as the fact that in this case it’s different than the normal ‘Here’s a new trailer and batch of screenshots’ PR routine – I also think that The Phantom Pain is another exercise of Kojima’s art. 

I personally don’t think video games are art because many of them don’t exhibit the artist’s point of view due to games’ interactive nature. But throughout his games Kojima has consistently enforced his point of view on players – for good or bad – and in turn helped create the oeuvre that is Metal Gear. These days games are so tightly controlled from top to bottom, so it’s nice to see a creator’s vision come through. Just like a regular Metal Gear game, I want to see what twists and turns The Phantom Pain saga has in store and experience what Kojima has in mind.

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