Developer Salute – Kojima Productions
I've always been a fan of entertainment that has you questioning what's real and what's an act. From watching Andy Kaufman's antics and elaborate pranks to figuring out what's a "work" and what's a "shoot" in pro wrestling, I've always appreciated pop culture that messed with its audience. It's one of the reasons that I consider Metal Gear Solid to be one of my favorite franchises in gaming. Hideo Kojima and his talented team at Kojima Productions have consistently kept Snake's fans guessing as to what's coming next, and they're fantastic at hitting you with jokes or twists that come completely out of left field.
Like many gamers, I fell in love with the series with the original Metal Gear Solid. I never played the original MSX games, but I was immediately drawn into the first gaming experience that genuinely felt like a movie to me. Sneaking around and snapping necks was a blast, but the moments that really stick with me are the ones in which Kojima Productions breaks the fourth wall.
Switching controller ports to beat Psycho Mantis blew my mind. The "fission mailed" false ending in Sons of Liberty confused me, and I loved the AI Colonel's insane ramblings and demands that I "turn off the game console." Little touches were all over Snake Eater, with my favorites being the alternate ways to kill The End (sniping him when he's in a wheelchair or advancing the internal clock so he dies of old age). When Metal Gear Solid 4's return to Shadow Moses opened up with a throwback to the original game's graphics, I couldn't keep the smile off my face.
Part of what I love about Kojima Productions is that they are more than willing to get goofy as hell. Metal Gear Solid's storyline is complex and can take itself very seriously at times, but something absurd is often right around the corner. Monologues about love and war are juxtaposed with monkey-hunting minigames and guards with irritable bowel syndrome.
A recent example that stands out to me is the insane Joakim Mogren stunt that led to the reveal of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The latest chapter in the MGS saga was revealed through a tangled web of fake trailers, a nonexistent development studio, and a Swedish man with a bandaged face. It was confusing and weird, but it was also an awesome and unique way to bring attention to the next Metal Gear game.
As games, the Metal Gear Solid series has continually impressed me. They frequently set new graphical bars for the consoles they appear on, and the voice acting and production values are always Hollywood caliber. When that's mixed with the fun, winking manner in which Kojima Productions keeps its fans guessing, it's a great combination.