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Hi, this is Two Minute Game Crit and I’m Stephen Beirne.
There are many ways to create a relationship between the player and their character, but if you’re a Metal Gear Solid game, it all boils down to just one: crouch and zoom.
It’s the first thing you learn in the first Metal Gear Solid, and it’s taken nearly twenty years to perfect. So why has crouching and zooming remained so effective through all this time?
Firstly, because it conveys to Snake a sense of body.
This is vital for any stealth game. It’s the player’s role to guide Snake through each level while hidden from enemy view, and that means getting intimate with the contours of his body. You need to know precisely when he’s out of cover, how far he can reach, and how fast he can move.
Since any slip up can end in disaster, you have to be mindful of his body and its place in the world at all times.
Bodies in MGS are fragile, they break and they age and lose bits of themselves. But they’re also conduits to a character’s spiritual uplifting. So when bodies communicate with one another it’s an intimate affair.
For the player, keeping a low profile is simply how we survive. In every crouch we express care and attention towards Snake and his well-being.
Which leads us to the zoom.
A camera in a game is never just a camera. It’s also an extension of the character’s mind. They can use it to see around corners, and pick up on the slightest of details, like this exchanged glance.
More than anything, the camera defines power, by what’s inside the frame, and vulnerability, by the bodily cost of framing it. There’s always a tension in seeing what you need to see while keeping Snake safe, and this tension creates drama, which in turn creates a relationship.
You can always tell how Snake is feeling by the way the camera works with his body. Whether he’s exposed, energetic, cagey, or grandiose.
Because it always contrasts with our natural position: crouched and zoomed.
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