The "VR Theory" suggests that the events of Metal Gear Solid 2 were—at least in part—happening inside a computer simulated virtual reality, and not the same "reality" that its predecessors did. Obviously with the release of Metal Gear Solid 4 we see a complete contradiction of this theory, but this does not mean the game was originally intended to be seen this way. It also doesn't mean that the new "official story" is actually preferable to the VR Theory.
Before looking at the actual evidence to support the theory (the next section) however, it will be helpful to look at why Hideo Kojima would want to make the events VR. What would cause him to do it? Why would it be "worth it"?
We're supposed to keep this in mind, evidently.
Kojima is a huge techno-geek. He loves shiny new gadgets, cutting edge hardware, and all that technology has to offer. But he also realizes that any form of empowerment brings with it the potential for abuse and manipulation.
The opening of the Plant Chapter tries to get us to think about this nice and early by drawing a parallel between nuclear weapons (the series' traditional threat) and computers tehcnology. He's letting us know that the game is shifting from analog to digital, so-to-speak. The question is how Kojima was planning to illustrate this concern, using MGS2 as its medium?
A good storyteller knows the a difference between talking about a theme and illustrating it through the narrative itself. Because while a thoughtful conversation about betrayal can be interesting, for example, or seeing a pattern of betrayal in the lives of the characters, the audience won't fully appreciate it until they themselves have felt betrayed by the author. At the moment when this happens, it goes from being a "story" to being an "experience". Whether this is postmodern or not, I don't know. But it seems obvious that Sons of Liberty was designed to have such a "meta-narrative", and Kojima would be the one to pull it off.
In order to illustrate the dangers of the digital era, Kojima would need to do more than simply discuss the threat of censoring the Internet; more than talk about the delusions that can result from misinformation. He'd need to involve the player.
Remember the years leading up to MGS2's release? We were only shown trailers for the Tanker Chapter, with Solid Snake as the main character. We were even shown fake footage from such locations as the Verazzano Bridge and the encounter with the Cyborg Ninja! Nobody was expecting the twist of Raiden and the Plant Chapter. We were deceived from the beginning, and it stung like a bitch.
What kind of insane person would do that to his eager fans, with all the world watching?
In the Summer of 2001 I worked a full-time job as a grunt labourer on a grain silo construction site, making more money than I had ever previously dreamed of having. I had to give a bunch of that money home, but I spent all of the remaining amount on a PlayStation 2, just so that I could play MGS2 the day it came out.
Later, for my 14th birthday, I was given a special sum of money for showing that I was a responsible young man, working hard and now heading into High School. When my parents asked me what I was planning to spend it on, I told them it was just enough to buy a game called "Metal Gear Solid 2". This did not impress them. The game came out 3 days later in North America.
Like so many people, I was obsessed with the first Metal Gear Solid, and was desperate to see what the sequel would be about. I watched all the trailers, read all the interviews, and talked about it endlessly. At the time, I remember reading somewhere that the game was "the most anticipated media event in modern history"; amazingly, it almost seemed believable.
This was the perfect opportunity, and we know that Kojima had both the motive and the means to pull off such a massive hoax. But would misleading the public with such a major twist be enough to illustrate the point? Would it be enough to include such themes in the game? Why not go all the way in, and make the whole game a lie? Why not make the whole thing a computer simulation experiement, with the player as the subject? Why not add the final layer to the meta-narrative?
In the next part, we look at all of the evidence supporting the theory that the game is not only an "orchestrated simulation" in the sense of being planned, but a false reality altogether.
PART TWO: The Pitch