Ask Snake to get you tartan paint, rubber nails or a Diet Guinness and see how he does

Metal Gear (1987) (NES)

I’ll tell you what’s an underrated feeling, and that’s the feeling of being comfortable and settled in your job. I’m going to impart some employment wisdom to you here, although you probably ought to keep in mind that I was once the most unemployable man in Ireland, and anytime I touch a computer I seem to trash it somehow.

Firstly, it seems to be a pretty established fact now that if you want to maximise your career earnings, you need to leave your job every 1.5 or 2 years – the increases you’ll get as starting wages elsewhere will far outstrip whatever raises your current employers will give you.

Of course, that’s if you even get any additional remuneration, as you must keep in mind that we’re in an ever more advanced, ever more depressing state of capitalism. I think we’re all starting to realise that all this wealth probably isn’t set to trickle down any time soon.

That’s why I have to laugh when the great unwashed start lambasting footballers for not demonstrating loyalty to a club that plays a thousand miles away from where they were born, and bemoan the fact that “their” player is moving to a rival for much bigger money, after only two years with their initial conglomerate. Anyone with half a brain would do the same thing for themselves.

Conversely, and I’m certainly no employment lawyer, in fact I’m quite the opposite of a lawyer, you’ll get a lot more employment rights after two years in the same place. Chief among them is the legal fact that they won’t be able to just throw you out the door without so much as a goodbye and good luck.

But you mustn’t be fooled into thinking that this is what’s covered by your probation period, and that passing your probation will keep your bum safely in the seat – all that means is that they’ll need to give you a fortnight’s notice before turfing you out, rather than making you disappear as a same-day affair.

So how do you arm yourself with all the info you need, and give yourself the best chance at making sure your next employer aren’t an awful shower of people who’d make neo-Nazis look warm and homely? Well, there is an excellent site called Glassdoor, where people leave behind reviews of their time with the company. Still, that won’t help much if it’s an enormous multi-national you’re joining – they’ll bring a whole new meaning to the word ‘disposable’.

I suppose a good rule of thumb is to avoid anywhere that mentions you joining them as part of their “family”. You should cower in fear if they say they “work hard and play hard” and simply flee the country entirely if they’ve got a foosball table, ping pong table or beanbags anywhere in the vicinity. That stuff isn’t there for your entertainment, you know.

All you can really do is try to gauge the place from your interview, or several interviews if they make you go through that ridiculous charade. For my current job, I actually wasn’t going to show up to the second interview, as I don’t do two auditions. But in the end, I relented. Lucky for them, eh?

I tend to take a leaf from Daniel Craig’s book: when the producers tried to give him an audition for Bond that lasted a full day, he got fed up with it around noon and just went home. He got the job anyway of course, and nailed the role. See what I mean? There’s an example for you to follow.

The first day is always an awkward affair. You’re probably having to be set up on all kinds of systems, and there’s no way it all got done swimmingly behind the scenes. This means you’ll have to bother more than one person in the office to give you the access you need, making them hate you immediately.

Even before that though, you’ll have been shown all around the office and given an awkward introduction with every single colleague of yours. And, naturally, you won’t have remembered a single one of their names.

When you finally do sit down and get started, you know it’s all eyes on you, so much so that you feel too self-conscious to even go to the bathroom too many times. You might have to eat lunch by yourself. And anyone you talk to, you won’t know if they’re part of the C-Suite or a complete undesirable – you eventually hope to sit somewhere in between.

Even a grizzled veteran like Solid Snake had to have an awkward first day in his soldiering career – though with a name like that, you’d be forgiven for thinking that his career was in something altogether more sordid, though no less athletic.

If you asked most people what was Snake’s first game, they’d probably mention Metal Gear Solid for the PS1, and to be honest you couldn’t blame them. Before that, though, there were two Metal Gear games on the MSX2, a Japanese home computer.

In 1980s Ireland we didn’t have food let alone Japanese computers, so I never played either of them. Not to worry though, because there was a NES imagining of the game, although this one is a bit pared down and not exactly well translated.

In fact, Metal Gear for NES is very much like your first day in a faceless corporation – awkward, clumsy, not at all fun and you will always get the inputs, menus, interactions and general tête-à-têtes wrong. The whole point of Metal Gear is to avoid combat, if you can, and instead sneak around enemy soldiers and dogs.

But when, on the second screen of the entire game, the first soldier you see screams “I’M GETTING SLEEPY!”, followed quickly by “I FEEL ASLEEP!”, you’ll feel that dread set in. Your worst fears are confirmed – as the sad old spinster who’s been there for 40 years said to you as you first walked in, welcome to the madhouse. You left a great job in Contra or Super C to embark on a stint with Metal Gear.

Metal Gear simply doesn’t work unless it’s a properly cinematic experience. I suppose the exception is Metal Gear Solid V, which brought in Kiefer Sutherland as Snake and then, for a laugh, decided not to use him at all – but the gameplay in The Phantom Pain is so incredible that it gets away with it. Here, if you want to be an armyman on your NES, then why wouldn’t you pick Contra? Hell, why wouldn’t you pick Ikari Warriors?

So you’re aware, and this might not be in your training manual – Metal Gear is a nuclear-equipped walking deathmobile. Well, that’s how it’s described in Metal Gear Solid, and who am I to argue against official documentation?

So, Snake’s objective is to infiltrate an enemy base, try not to get his ass blown away, rescue a few hostages while he’s at it, and above all else he must try not to fall victim to the many traps in the base. But God, you might as well send Mystic Meg because there’s no way you’d ever find out about things like the floors opening up beneath you and plunging you into a bottomless pit.

That’ll be an instant death for you, and when that happens, you get ejected out of the base and sent back to the very beginning of the game. I suppose it’s not permadeath, and you’ll still have your items, but that’s pretty depressing.

It’s a lot like when you inevitably make some calamitous mistake in your new job, and all the goodwill and kudos you’ve built up disappears in one fell swoop. Well, hopefully your mistake will be relatively minor, and you’ll follow Gus Fring’s advice and never make that same mistake twice.

Who you don’t want to be, and I swear to you that this is no urban legend, is that guy in Intel’s Ireland office, where they make computer processors. He pressed the wrong button one day, which contaminated and completely ruined an enormous batch of processors, at the cost of possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars.

OK, that’s the hell of a mistake, but he’d be entitled to point out that there should have been better safeguards in place. But, when the bigwigs came over to the plant personally and asked this guy what exactly happened, how he ruined that batch of processors, he proceeded to walk over to that same button and…

Yes, he pressed it again, and that was another massive batch of processors blown to bits. And I can admit it, that poor man’s mistakes were just a bit more serious than the mistakes and missteps the developers of Metal Gear NES made, with its confusing menus, respawning enemies and cheap deaths.

I don’t know if that guy had to go and get another job after that – if it was me, I think I’d have to go and get another whole new identity – but if I were you, I’d get out of the Metal Gear hellhole for the good of your sanity, and spend your days on a different, far less stressful game.

9 April 2021

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