War for Profit in MGS4

Plenty of high praise has flowed to Metal Gear Solid 4, but N'Gai Croal offers a different take in his latest posting over on Level Up. The game, like others, makes timely use of Private Military Corporations (read: mercenaries) to create an environment players want to explore and a story they want to advance. But MGS4's true point lies in its "war economy," which governs or responds to the choices made by players.

Any game must "radically simplify complex systems," and MGS4's gun-launderer character, and fluctuating price of unlockable weapons and equipment does just that as a representation of a mercenary economy. And that, N'Gai reasons, makes a statement about the inherent amorality of war fought for profit just as much as cutscene dialogue, no matter how well written, where gamers are most conditioned to look for what was on the game creator's mind.

That's not to say MGS4 now goes into a pantheon of great allegorical commentaries on war and greed. It's a video game, so whatever message comes out is necessarily refracted through your experience of playing it. And it is a hell of a lot of fun. But N'Gai's point is that the "war economy" with which you, as Snake, must do business make it thought provoking, in addition to being an entertaining game at the top of its genre.



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