The Dog Economy
by Jackson Tyler

Solid Snake is a man—real name David—who lives alone in Alaska with his fifty huskies. He is also a clone of the world’s most legendary super soldier, and is constantly at war with the other clones (there’s more than one clone) over the secret illuminati-like AIs that run the world economy. This is already getting tough to follow. Don’t worry about that—what matters here is the fifty huskies.

These fifty huskies are defined by what we don’t know about them. We know that Snake has them. We know that he cares for them deeply, that he races them, that when kidnapped by the US Army and forced to participate in a suicide mission against his will his first question is not, “What the fuck?!” but “What the fuck is gonna happen to my dogs?!”

We don’t know their names. We never see them. We don’t know if Snake keeps them in a shelter or if they crowd him at night and sleep alongside him. Do they then all run away at once when he wakes up, grumpy about all the fur on his sheets? We don’t know if Snake has a favourite.

And this is Metal Gear, a series which has never met an extraneous detail it can't spin into a thirty-minute cutscene. Here are some of the things that the games do find the time for:

  • Literally every detail of Hal “Otacon” Emmerich’s disastrous love life

  • An entire wikipedia article of completely false information about genetics that Hideo Kojima just made up

  • Whether ‘Vamp’ is a vampire, or whether he’s just bisexual

  • The best way to reliably cook sunny side up eggs

They never mention the dogs again. But, I will.

Somewhere beneath all of Metal Gear’s hypermasculine posturing lies a beating heart of earnestness that it doesn’t even know it has. Seventeen years after Snake’s dogs, the series is shoving bombs in the vaginas of women named Peace, and now starring everyone’s favourite unrepentant fascist from 24. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain even gives you a dog of your own (a wolf, actually), who runs around the battlefield tagging enemies for you. He’s very useful. Nothing but useful. Metal Gear takes its own symbol of a peaceful life and repurposes it to give you a boost to your murder skills.

Try though it might, Metal Gear can never completely escape into the world of serious, cool action movies it so desperately wants to belong to. Snake fires off quips like he’s reading from a book, he flirts with women like he’s strapped to a bomb. He’s an awkward, traumatised dork acting out his action star role as rote performance.

He just wants his dogs to be okay.

Throwaway that they are, the dogs are the Rosetta Stone of this whole fucking disaster. Because what is Metal Gear? Is it a series of games about hiding from dudes and shooting them in the head? Is it a thirty-year epic about the grand tragedy of human conflict? A postmodern art piece from gaming’s true auteur? A character who wants to turn the Cold War—hot? Literally named Hot Coldman?

No.

If that were all, it would be just another in a long line of forgotten military video games. But Metal Gear has a soul—it has a man who loves his dogs.  ◒

 

Jackson Tyler is stuck in a field somewhere in England recording too many podcasts. Among other things, they co-host a monthly game club and read Star Trek books on their small, queer podcast network Abnormal Mapping. When they're not podcasting or writing the occasional article, they're shitposting on twitter at @headfallsoff.