Going through the Alternative Missions in the course of my pursuit for the Metal Gear Solid 2 platinum trophy, I was surprised at how weird they feel. This is partially because MGS2 is a weird a game as they come, so why should the idea of Raiden doing strange stuff like photo shooting be strange to me? This rather old essay of the original Sons of Liberty by Tim Rogers sheds some insight:
“Playing Metal Gear Solid 2, to me, mirrors sleeping — dreaming — in an empty room…
Dreams have terrorists. Dreams have presidents, hostage situations…
Dreams, sometimes, even have terrorist/hostage situations involving vampires.
Dreams mix the real, and the unreal. Dreams mix whatever is in our minds.”
Ignore the empty room analogy along with most the rest of his piece if you choose to read it: Mr. Rogers has a truly dizzying intellect as he darts from idea to idea like a small rodent in search of food or escape. But in the process he did manage to uncover a kernel that gives us a deeper insight into the game. The idea that MGS2 is like a dream – a bad one at that – is intriguing because of how well it manages to replicate that dream-like quality of a jumbled reality, in this case, the reality of the events of the first game. There’s more on that in James Howell’s formal analysis of Metal Gear Solid 2, which is rather long but I do recommend you read if you’re curious about the meaning of the game’s narrative.
In much the way that (according to Howell) Metal Gear Solid 2 jumbled bits of the Metal Gear Solid to create a familiar yet bizarre experience, the MGS2 Alternative Missions jumble those conventions in the same way but within the MGS2 context. They’re whimsical, ethereal, and have nothing to do with the main game, but they’re strangely refreshing in the way dreams can be. This led me to look for other games where this might be true, and as it luck would have it there’s another old favorite that got the dream treatment in a more literal sense. Doomdream by Ian MacLarty is an interesting case. There’s nothing to do but run around a doom level done up in a washed out palette, inspired by the dreams the developer had after playing Doom all day. Give it a download and try it out (and remember to tip the dev…)