Homer Simpson is not a poet, but when someone mentions an epic poem by the great poet, Homer, to a passerby, said passerby usually shoots an awkward glance to the speaker as they picture the Duff-drinking Homer Simpson spouting rambling verse over accompanying bongo-induced syncopations.
Homer was a greek poet who wrote the seminal classics The Iliad and The Odyssey. His works (a play by play of torrential warfare and a travel adventure steeped in fantastical events and beings, respectively) were archived a good 300 years before what we know as classical Greece started, of which the above poems became their religious doctrine (how cool would that be to have the Odyssey be the basis of your religious faith?).
When Rome took over the world, and Greece with it, their very adaptive culture embraced Homer's writings. Eventually the first Emperor, Augustus, wanted an epic poem that would explain the history of Rome and how it was directly involved with the Trojan War (the subject that The Iliad deals with). For this task, he patronized the already popular poet Virgil to draft this daunting task. He did and thus gave the world the obviously derivative Aeneid.
Like any modern author, Virgil ran with a group of other writers. One of the fellow aficionados was a dude named Horace, the Mark Twain of his day. Horace, like Twain, seems to be known for coming up with memorable quips that people like to memorize and repeat. Maybe you've heard of some? Carpe Diem, Aurea Mediocritas, among others. But the phrase I'm paying particular attention to is one called dulce et utile, that is, 'sweet and useful'.
This is a literary concept created by the dead poet that decrees what he feels all good literature (in his case, poetry) should do. It should teach a lesson, say something useful, within its text that will cause the reader to learn or question a particular aspect of his or her life, but do it in a way that isn't overtly preachy or didactic.
Over the years, and with the advancing benefits of technology, this concept has spread beyond literature and has proven true for comics, movies, and, now, video games. The latter is most evident within Hideo Kojima's canon, the Metal Gear Solid series.
Though it wasn't very apparent in the original Metal Gear series (or at least the first one released for the NES), when I finished Metal Gear Solid I declared, in probably one of my nerdiest moments, "I've just finished the best game ever made." Later, realizing how pre-teen that sounded, I wondered why I even said it. It wasn't only until recently, when I discovered my new favorite latin term, did I understand my fascination, and consequential devotion, to Mr. Kojima's bizarre bastard children (but not all of them).
Despite the incredible convolutions, the storylines are quite engaging and usually focus around particular themes, one usually emotional, the other more political. In Metal Gear Solid, the emotional center was about what defines life, how a person decides their own fate (in that case, though this is for a different discussion, destiny) no matter how much science says otherwise. The political leaning is toward nuclear armaments and their continuing impending danger.
The second MGS (as it's known by hardcore fans and lazy internet junkies) was, by far, the most surreal and fantastic of the three, focuses on the validity of reality and the state of politics in America (or maybe just Capitalist-driven governments and how they are as susceptible to corruption as Communism is to despotism). It also examines how much your past affects your mind more than your future, and it's the decisions you make, using the information from your past, that press you through present. If you are "driven by what made you what you are," you're actually just admitting that you're not able to overcome the psychological damage events of the past have done to you (which ties in nicely to the political statement the game makes).
Lastly, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the ultimate game of the series. Not only does the story make sense, but it ends up being the most poignant of the bunch. It asks the main character a very simple question that echoes the main theme of all literature, most notably with novels, "Who are you?" And Kojima answers it rather nicely. It also questions the modern soldier's sense of duty and how loyal a soldier ought to be. A fantastic game. Buy it, rent it, I don't care, just play it, beat it and learn.
The Metal Gear series looks to be going in new directions now that the next generation consoles are beginning to percolate into the scene. And Kojima himself has said that he will hand off the mythology to the young upstarts so that he can focus on other things. Though that may stop me from playing future MGS games, it won't stop me from gushing over his previous endeavors.
I've never experienced a gaming experience since MGS where I feel I actually gained something because I played the game. But it's probably easy to see how the dulce et utile receives a perfect example through these games: they probe important themes, ideas, and questions without beating you over the head with a wooden club of ideology yet are unabashedly fun to play. I have never stopped during play and said, "Jeez, I get it, guys, come on already," instead I only think about what an incredible game I'm immersed in. And in the process, Kojima has created a hero not unlike Achilles or Odysseus, a nearly infallible hero who is confident in his abilities but still has space in his battle-torn brain for the bigger questions. It makes me wonder, if Metal Gear is itself an epic, how will it be viewed by people in the future if everybody praised it with as much enthusaism as I do?
And that's the best game review I can possibly do.