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Language Danger: Metal Gear Solid V and the Weaponization of English

Chris Hall


In the final installment of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid series, 2015’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, language takes on a function entirely outside of its longstanding role in constructing artistic worlds. Even as it is used to build the world around protagonist Punished “Venom” Snake, spoken language becomes a weapon in the hands of nemesis Skull Face, who deploys a species of deadly parasite that attacks its host’s vocal cords, with the eventual aim of destroying the English language and all who speak it. This paper explores both how language is used to construct, in Marie-Laure Ryan’s terms, the “storyworld” of MGSV, and how the spoken word comes, through Skull Face, to threaten that world (2014). By applying the rhetorical approach to videogame analysis of Ian Bogost, this project investigates the interpretive potentialities for spoken English as a lingua franca (ELF) made possible by MGSV’s “procedural representation” of language, especially regarding English as a weaponizable force ([2007] 2010). In extending Skull Face’s implications of English as a destructive power into real-world situations of language-based oppression, the paper shows how MGSV creates opportunities for interrogating the role of the English language in constructing reallife colonial worlds. To contextualize these concerns, the project incorporates other “worlds” that share MGSV’s language-based concerns, particularly that of George Orwell’s 1984. ELF scholarship, as well as the anti-colonialist work of Paulo Freire and Edward Said, are applied in an exploration of language as a tool for both totalitarianism and revolution, and the article concludes by gesturing toward means of ideological and linguistic decolonization. Through this approach to MGSV, the project conveys the real-world dangers of English as a lingua franca, and theorizes how we might move from media theory to real-world action.

“Words can kill”
-Skull Face


transmedia; videogames; "Metal Gear"; George Orwell; decolonization; storyworld; imperialism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ijtl-2018-003-hall

International Journal of Transmedia Literacy (IJTL)
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (22/10/2014 n. 328)
Online ISSN 2465-2261 - Print ISSN 2465-227X

Editor in Chief: Matteo Ciastellardi
Managing Editor: Giovanna Di Rosario
Managing Committee: Matteo Andreozzi, Stefano Calzati, Ugo Eccli, Cristina Miranda de Almeida.

Board Committee: Alan Albarran (University of North Texas, United States), Rogério Barbosa Da Silva (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil), Giovanni Baule (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Laura Borràs Castanyer (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain), Derrick de Kerckhove (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Henry Jenkins (University of Southern California, United States), Marsha Kinder (University of Southern California, United States), Raine Koskimaa (University of Jyväskylä, Finland), George Landow (Brown University, United States), Paul Levinson (Fordham University, United States), Asún López-Varela (Universidad Complutense, Spain), Lev Manovich (City University of New York, United States), Nick Montfort (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States), Marcos Novak (UCLA - University of California, Los Angeles, United States), Massimo Parodi (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy), Bruce W. Powe (York University, Canada), Kate Pullinger (Bath Spa University, United Kingdom), Marie-Laure Ryan (Indipendent Scholar), Alexandra Saemmer (Université Paris 8, France), Carlos Scolari (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain), Susana Tosca (IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark), Alessandro Zinna (Université Toulouse II, France)

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