If you ask somebody to name a game developer, one of the first names out of their mouths will be Hideo Kojima. The man has been synonymous with the craft for decades, known for his eccentric stylings and for constantly trying to push the medium forward with new ideas. When Black Mirror had an episode on game design, the dev in question was a clear Kojima stand-in. I don't like that we reduce whole games down to the creation of a single auteur, even less when we extrapolate out from that and have Kojima be a representative for gaming as a whole, but it's fair to say the man is a rather important figure in our industry. Metal Gear Solid is his magnum opus. Yet soon, the first four Metal Gear Solid games will be out of reach on console, and that should be a huge embarrassment for our industry.
No other artistic medium is as keen to forget the past as games are. Music has moved through vinyl, to tape, to CD, to an unfortunate dalliance with MiniDisc, to MP3, to streaming – but pretty much any album committed to vinyl or beyond in the past 80 years will be available on streaming – assuming the artists haven't pulled them in protest of angry bald men on podcasts. Film is a little trickier, since so many streaming services deal in exclusive rights, but between all of them, especially if you include cinephile focused services like Mubi and The Criterion Collection, you'll be able to find most great movies from the past 100 years. Even if they're not, Amazon Prime will often let you download the movie digitally at a cost even if the Prime Video library doesn’t include them.
Perhaps it's because gaming is so married to technology that we feel humiliated by what we once called masterpieces. Music from the '70s sounds as good as ever. Movies from the '80s aren't high-def but they hold up perfectly. Games from the '90s are an embarrassment. Blurry faces with three grey lines on them, triangles for hands, flat characterisation and objectified women – these are our all-timers? We remake our greats so often, partially because it's easy money, but also because we are far more obsessed with being up to the minute. We need the best tech all of the time otherwise we aren't worth bothering with. Games know, deep down in the pit of their pixels, that their stories are rarely well told enough to go toe to toe with movies, and without the cutting edge technology, games fear they are doomed to be forgotten. This, it seems, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Xbox Game Pass dips into Xbox's old back catalogue, but it's a fairly shallow dive. Nintendo also looks back through its old consoles, but it's weirdly selective and leaves out many of its most popular titles and most legendary consoles. The current back catalogue of Nintendo greats includes zero Pokemon games – a serious oversight. PlayStation's own service, which poses as Game Pass but is closer to Nintendo's, is yet to launch, and might restore some balance to things, but current form suggests that's unlikely.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is currently a PS Now title, but is due to leave at the end of the month. Once that happens, none of the first four Metal Gear Solids will be available on modern consoles. These are legendary games, some of the most formative titles of the ‘90s, made by the most iconic figure our artform has ever known, and they are being abandoned. It has been suggested that Persona 5 dropped off the PS Plus Collection on PS5 because it will be a leading light of the new PS Plus Premium package, and hopefully the Metal Gear Solids will make an appearance there too, but it's bigger than just those four games. They're just the latest example of gaming's big problem with our own history.
PC is still fighting the good fight, either by digital download or by (often illegal) emulation, but when so many of these games became iconic because of consoles (PlayStation especially), it's strange that they're being forgotten. The vast majority of casual players use consoles, and that means PC is not a fix. It's like if The Godfather was only available to stream on your phone, if The Beatles could only be played via a shower radio. It's accessible, but not in the way it should be.
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