Ingrained Japanese culture and handling of Chinese Ethnicity within the Metal Gear Universe

March 25th, 2009

Lots of Metal Gear Solid spoilers, and a pretty deep look into the lore, so you’ve been warned!


This post was originally going to be about how Solid Snake is a terrible representation of an American born Chinese, but on going over my fact checking I realized that he is actually Japanese/American, surrogated through a Chinese mother (EVA).

I was a little dumbfounded at this revelation when watching the video that re-affirmed this for me (1:50). Mentioning of the Japanese egg donor (IVF process) seemed a little suspect, as it just appear hammed in there. I mean, it appears as though the developers simply wanted to clarify and cement the fact that Snake is actually Japanese, and not of Chinese ethnicity, the latter which would be an easy assumption given the events of MGS3, EVA’s titular title of Big Mama and how she openly states that she is Snake’s mother.

I can see how this was perhaps needed to justify the lines of Vulcan Raven in MGS1, but it does feel very self conscious of itself, that Snake is not Chinese. It really wouldn’t matter either way but consider these two previously glossed over points:

Mei Ling’s odd representation in the later half of MGS4. As I’ve mentioned before, strange, nonsensical, award sexual innuendo that makes her appear unexpectedly ditsy, particular in contrast to her more respected role in Metal Gear Solid. I just find that these two identities don’t match at all.

As I also lightly discussed earlier on this blog, EVA has no hints of being Chinese. No accent, blonde hair and unmistakably western appearance. In one of the games she justifies this (I honestly can’t recall, nor find it) but the justification that an archetypal, western Bond Girl is actually of Chinese ethnicity is a terribly hard sell.

These three ultra subtle clues, suggest some minute, no doubt culturally ingrained influences that have naturally flowed into the development process of this game. I don’t raise these points to be in any way contentious, rather, they make an interesting example of the way in which culture naturally affects video game development, as it would anything else. That we should be conscious of these hints, because, while seemingly insignificant, they are very important in the grander message.

  • Pingback: Game Retail Store » Column: ‘Lingua Franca’ – The Place Of Games In Culture()

  • Will Oliver

    One correction: EVA is not of Chinese ethnicity.

    “I was raised in a joint US-Soviet-Chinese facility to become a sleeper agent. This was before the war. Back then, they were collecting children from all over the world. As a result, I’m indistinguishable from a native-born American.”

    This seems to give the impression that she was a Caucasian who was raised in a joint Philosophers’ facility and later ended up in the service of China when the three powers split up.