Remember that recent story about the 30-year-old Russian man who volunteered to be the first person to have his head transplanted onto another human body? Well, it might all be one giant hoax.
Kotaku UK published a comprehensive breakdown on this conspiracy theory that suggests Dr. Sergio Canavero, the controversial real-life neurosurgeon from Turin, Italy, who has published more than 100 papers, is actually helping market a new game called “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.”
Here’s the lineup of evidence that suggests this is the case:
- As the Kotaku UK report points out, it all started with a post on the video game forum NeoGAF, which showed off the uncanny similarities between Canavero and a character from the game.
- Valery Spiridonov, the 30-year-old volunteer who is allegedly getting the transplant, is a CG artist and a game development supervisor.
- Dr. Canavero held his TED Talk in Cyprus, where the hospital scene in “Metal Gear Solid 5” allegedly plays out.
- TED Limassol, where Canavero gave his TED Talk, is an anagram for “Solid Metals.”
- The head transplant project is called “HEAVEN,” which is also a reference to the bad guys in the “Metal Gear Solid” series.
- Dr. Canavero has written many articles on the phenomenon called “phantom pain,” which is also the subtitle of the next “Metal Gear Solid” game.
And here’s the kicker:
- Hideo Kojima, who heads up the “Metal Gear Solid” franchise, tweeted about his next project in 2010: “The next project will challenge a certain type of taboo. If I mess up, I’ll probably have to leave the industry. However, I don’t want to pass by avoiding that. I turn 47 this year. It’s been 24 years since I started making games. Today, I got an ally who would happily support me in that risk. Although it’s just one person. For a start, it’s good.”
This makes it sound like Kojima was able to persuade Dr. Canavero to join his venture — to help leverage his authority as a famous doctor and neurosurgeon to promote “Metal Gear Solid 5” with a viral marketing stunt.
Dr. Canavero told Kotaku UK that he’s never heard of Konami or Hideo Kojima “and he doesn’t understand why they used him as a template for that character without asking him permission.” And yet, when asked about his resemblance to the 3D character from the game, Dr. Canavero could only guess:
“One of the sponsors [at TED] was coincidentally a game developer. Maybe some people there… I don’t know… maybe they recorded the thing from certain angles, maybe the cameras were set up in the right spots… I do not know. It’s just a hypothesis, but maybe it’s not too farfetched.”
When Kotaku’s Gabriele Galliani tried to protest, Dr. Canavero interrupted with what could be the giveaway:
“To be completely honest with you: This isn’t such a bad thing. Since my project requires a lot of money, Mr. Kojima will be able to say he had a part in HEAVEN [the name of his head transplant procedure] despite the fact that he probably never intended to.”
In other words, it sounds like Dr. Canavero is in fact a real doctor who happened to strike a cross-promotional deal with Konami and Kojima: He and Spiridonov promote the head transplant surgery, which in turn promotes the game. We still have yet to confirm these findings, but there is a ton of evidence pointing in this direction.
Also worth noting: This hoax sounds like it’s right out of Kojima’s playbook. Hideo Kojima is known for deceiving his audiences before revealing a major game he’s working on. Last year, he didn’t simply unveil the next big “Silent Hill” game: He created a fake game studio and released a completely unrelated game, that, when played to its completion, revealed that it was just a teaser for Kojima’s next project.
Kojima pulled a similar bait-and-switch with the reveal to “Metal Gear Solid 5,” where he created a fake game studio and an unknown developer named “Joakim Mogren.” He later revealed the developer to be “a Swedish guy.”
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