I’ve written previously about how it’s the best action movie I’ve ever played.
Metal Gear Solid stands amongst early nineties classics like Under Siege or Fortress and I still own the game on PlayStation Vita although now I can finish it in a little under 4 hours, if I skip the cutscenes. My least favourite part is still the backtracking to get the PSG1 to fight Sniper Wolf and I always resist the torture because the cold you catch when you submit makes me feel like a failure.
We’ve all got stories of "this" game. The game that taught us the value of the games we play: I spent 8 months playing the game daily: I’d get up early before school to play, and plough through homework in double-quick time to fit more time in. I’d finish the game once during the week and with a bit of luck once during the weekend too. No game had gripped me like this before, although many did after.
My Christmas 1999 game was SWAT 3 for the PC, and after 8 months playing Metal Gear Solid continually I devoured everything this had to offer, too. I started to learn the penetration values of every weapon, writing it down on paper. I spent hours working out the optimal angle of approach, mapping out each of the pseudo-random locations on graph paper.
This continued until I got my first job at 17. I made a lot of great purchases: 2001’s Halo, 2003’s Splinter Cell. I had a few bad choices too, childlike mind taken in by marketing campaigns leading me to ask for shockers like 2002’s Legends of Wrestling II. Despite some atrocious “birthday games” I loved every game equally. I didn’t have a choice.
It’s inconceivable now that I could devote that much time to a game: even as a full-time games journalist I’d struggle to find the time to give 4 hours a week, every week. Since university I’ve tried to buy games on a simple metric: for every £1 I spend on a game I want to get an hour of enjoyment back. There are certain outliers - Alien Isolation scared me so much in 10 hours I decided against going back to it. But what a 10 hours it was - I tend to get my money's worth, although with endless digital sales and the proliferation of bundles it’s never been easier to get games for cheap.
I’ve got upwards of 600 games on my Steam account right now, and around a hundred on my other various consoles and digital distribution services. SteamDB tells me
that I’ve paid an average of £9.04 per game and have an average playtime of 10.6h per game but the scariest stat is that of my 604 games, there are 196 I’ve never even played. Based on my Steam library I never play a third of the games I buy.
When I look back at Metal Gear Solid and the games of my youth, I remember a time when every game mattered, a time when I’d savour every part of a game, reading manuals cover to cover and learning every trick I could.
There was - sadly - no real internet, so the tips and tricks now prevalent for every new game had to be learnt from the playground: kids would sidle up to me in the lunch queue and ask me how to lock Lara’s Butler in the fridge or what Meryl’s codec frequency was.
With Metal Gear Solid 5’s release just around the corner and some of us playing it already I think it might be time I tried to truly appreciate games again rather than just ploughing through them to get to the next. I'm not sure how long this will last with the mass of games passing through each month but I'm going to give it a go.
Maybe you would like to join me?