Microcosms is an essay series that deals with games and art in both the direct and the abstract in 500 words or less.

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I think it is very important to have a relationship with nature. Specifically, I believe that having a mutually beneficial relationship with nature is necessary for the human condition—planting and watering a garden can become overwhelming in its power to the self. Speaking personally as someone who deals with, uh, suicidal thoughts now and in the past, having a garden often acts as another small reason to live. If I am gone, who will tend to my plants? Will they wither and die? I cannot let that happen.

Videogames often fail in this understanding of nature; even farming sims and Animal Crossing only understand interacting with nature as an entirely transactional experience. Nature is often just a playground, a means of gathering things to level up or craft better tools, but nature is an autonomous being. We can inhabit and interact with it, but nature is alive before and after we are no longer enveloped within it. Even the videogame I am about to discuss, Metal Gear Solid 3, doesn’t handle the varying shades of how we interact with nature perfectly. But it is the closest I’ve felt to being close to and having an analogous relationship with nature in videogames. This is almost entirely accomplished through the game’s camouflage system.

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The forests and mountains and bogs that Naked Snake sneaks his way through are made up of various shades of flora and fauna. While this essay is not concerned with the fauna, the flora of Metal Gear Solid 3 is intimately concerned with the wellbeing and survival of Naked Snake. Snake must change his camouflage to match the forest around him at any given moment, if he does not do so, then he risks being spotted by the enemy. Yet, changing camo never disrupts nature. Snake isn’t tearing flowers out of the ground to ground up and craft into new camo, he just finds new camo fatigues strewn about the game-world. The forest and the flowers and the grass that sprouts from the forest floor only ever help Snake. It never asks anything of him and he never requires anything from it beyond just laying and sneaking about amidst the tall grass. There is no take and there isn’t really any tangible give. The forest just is and Naked Snake understands that and he must figure out how to best exist in a biome that he has no real control over—we are brought into the vast endlessness of nature, it exists before us and will continue to be long after we are gone. To think that we can control it is to truly and selfishly play God. The nature that we do control only ever ends in ruin—whether that be overfarming or flattening for new apartment complexes. Nature must exist around us—free to sprout and grow as need be—and we within it. Naked Snake sees flowers and trees as protection and as necessary living things that exist rather than barriers or hindrances, and so should we.

Words on games, death and stuff like that.

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