Arab Representation in Metal Gear Solid V

In Vit Sisler’s “Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games,” he introduces what representations of Arabs exist in media and how video games can further the current narrative or change it in a fundamental manner. Sisler quotes Gonzalo Frasca, who writes, “Unlike narrative, simulations are a kaleidoscopic form of representation that can provide us with multiple … Continue reading “Arab Representation in Metal Gear Solid V”

In Vit Sisler’s “Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games,” he introduces what representations of Arabs exist in media and how video games can further the current narrative or change it in a fundamental manner. Sisler quotes Gonzalo Frasca, who writes, “Unlike narrative, simulations are a kaleidoscopic form of representation that can provide us with multiple and alternative points of view. By accepting this paradigm, players can realize that there are many possible ways to deal with their personal and social reality. Hopefully, this might lead to the development of a tolerant attitude that accepts multiplicity as the rule and not the exception.” Here, Frasca shows what video games, or simulations, can do differently than narrative. While playing Metal Gear Solid V, I wanted to see if these “multiple and alternative points of view” existed within the game.

I was playing a mission that took place in Kabul, Afghanistan, a prime location for stereotypical Arab representation. As your player moves into the base, the Arab soldiers you fight are faceless, shooting characters. The voice that speaks to you tells you that this is an insurgent base that needs to be taken. It is all incredibly stereotypical. Furthermore, you are fighting alone against possibly 40 or 50 enemies. This 1 on 40 mission is incredibly unrealistic. No actual army mission would take place under these circumstances. By making it so uneven, it empowers your player as invincible. If you do die, you come back as in most war video games and try again. But the fact that you can and are supposed to beat the mission without any aid delegitimizes the Arab soldiers.

As mentioned in the previous post, I wanted to see if Metal Gear Solid V presented political issues in a thoughtful way at any point in the game. This mission, which is what I spent most of my second time playing the game doing, did not do that in any way. In fact, it represented a political issue, the rise of terrorism from Middle Eastern countries, in an incredibly unthoughtful manner, furthering the common narratives around terrorism.