3 out of 5
This was a very easy, enjoyable read. It comes to us from Ashly & Anthony Burch, who became known from their web series “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?,” which perhaps lends itself to the casual tone and self-aware humor that Boss Fight Books have often employed, informed further by A & A’s continued work in the video game sphere, giving them a unique point of view: able to readily compare what games look like now to then, the 1998 of Metal Gear Solid’s debut.
And they stay on topic – a mighty accomplishment for this series – sectioning their book up into chapters that amusingly all have question marks after them (e.g. “Theme?”), underscoring the way they call into question Hideo Kojima’s effectiveness in how he’s crafted his game, and its legacy, in general. However, with writing / presentation styles borne of a modern-gamer, internet-savvy approach, this “easy, enjoyable read” is such almost to the point of not feeling like it says all that much.
There’s a strong concept at work, of wanting to celebrate a game they both cherish while now realizing its sexism, and childishness, and odd (to the point of being broken or pointless) mechanics, but there’s no real pretense of this being a book this time, so much as a series of essays or articles one might write for a popular gaming site. Which isn’t to say they’re not, y’know, fun, and without merit, just that they’re very, very digestible, and not really pushing too hard on any especially difficult point of view.
The conversational tone (which includes little footnote interruptions from each co-author when the other is writing) also brings to the fore an ongoing problem with the Boss Fight Books: writers uncertainty with whether or not you’ve played the game, making the Burches split the difference between explaining plot points in detail and then swishing over it like you know what they’re talking about, also roping in details from other MGS sequels in a similar fashion. It makes for a weird, half-in, half-out vibe, which is also partially responsible for watering down what is otherwise an intriguing approach: taking a game to task from a modern, more culturally-aware perspective.
As with a lot of BFB’s focuses, I have no attachment to MGS. And maybe I’d be more inclined to jump in on this conversation with gusto if I did. Without it, I’m definitely content to “listen” the the Burches’ banter on the game, though it hasn’t resulted in any, eh, game-changing lines of thought.