Micro-architecture and Macro-landscapes:
Space and Authorship in Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid Franchise (1998–2015)
Tuesday the 22nd March
PLEASE NOTE NEW TIME : 7pm – 8pm followed by drinks and conversation
This paper will analyse the means through which architecture and landscape acts as agent of authorial agency in Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid franchise. In particular, this paper will look at Kojima’s three-dimensional work from his first polygonal entry, 1998’s Metal Gear Solid to 2015’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which marked the culmination of Kojima’s series but changed the series to an open-world format. Each of Kojima’s MGS games is thematically rich, narratively complicated and generically unstable. Overtly framed as stealth action games, each is also a reconstruction of video gaming’s potential as playful intermedia, addressing its physical and conceptual limitations and possibilities. This paper will examine how Kojima and his designers used architecture and landscape to mediate thematic issues and define and expand player potentialities. The art historical term ‘microarchitecture’ refers most broadly to miniaturised architectural representations, and has been used in architectural literature to refer to sophisticated expressions of the ‘really small’, but in programming is a term for the way in which instruction pathways are structured within a processor. Whereas earlier games in the series included defined spaces of tightly bound architecture leading to often extensive narrative cut scenes, their microarchitecture, in contrast the massive open worlds of Phantom Pain suggest the potential to make unique narrative moments in the savannah of Zaire and desert hills of Afghanistan. This paper will problematise these assumptions, looking at conditionality and design as fundamental parts of their landscape. In doing so, it will analyse and refer to the way space and architecture are used more widely in computer gaming.
Alexander Collins is a doctoral student in the History of Art at the University of Edinburgh. His thesis analyses the role scale played in late medieval ritual culture, in particular large-format liturgical books and their integration into performative, rhetorical and memorial spaces. He is Associate Editor of the Journal of the Northern Renaissance, and tutors and occasionally lectures in History of Art, the University of Edinburgh.