Icons of Gaming: Hideo Kojima

Notable works: Metal Gear series, Snatcher, Policenauts, Death Stranding, Zone of the Enders

Often referred to as a video game auteur, Hideo Kojima is a hands-on creator who regularly adopts a highly centralised role throughout the creation of each of his games. From planning, writing and directing, to even personally editing and selecting the music for his video game trailers, Kojima has consistently utilised a meticulous eye for detail in order to create a string of highly cinematic video game titles.

From a young age, Kojima developed a love of cinema, a passion inherited from his parents, both of which were keen movie enthusiasts. His family would regularly stay up and watch movies late into the night. At ten years old, Kojima was even encouraged by his parents to visit the local cinema alone to watch the latest releases.

Kojima would re-establish Kojima Productions as an independent studio in 2015 following his departure from Konami

Sadly, at the age of thirteen, Kojima’s father passed away, resulting in Kojima, reluctantly, putting his ambition of becoming an illustrator or film director on hold and, instead, enrolling with a college to study economics. During this time, Kojima enjoyed writing short stories and playing videogames. Though he enjoyed shooters and text adventures, it would be after playing the 1985 Famicom title, Super Mario Bros., that Kojima realised videogames and movies could utilise a similar creative approach. In his final year of college, he subsequently decided to pursue a career in game design and, at 23 years old, joined Konami’s MSX Home computer department as a designer and planner.

Kojima’s early days with Konami were not overly positive, with the young designer often being snubbed and his ideas overlooked, primarily due to his unfamiliarity with programming. During this time, Kojima even contemplated leaving the company. However, he persevered and, after contributing to two smaller projects, Kojima was asked to take over a project called Metal Gear. Development on the game had stalled and the team were struggling with the game’s combat. Kojima, reportedly inspired by the movie, The Great Escape, recommended the gameplay be altered to focus upon sneaking. Differing from other action games at the time, Kojima suggested the player avoid enemies, instead, remaining in the shadows and navigating stages stealthily. Metal Gear would be released for the MSX2 home computer in 1987 and was a huge success in Japan.

The only official English-language version of Snatcher was released for the Sega Mega-CD in 1994

Kojima’s second title would be Snatcher, a cyberpunk graphic adventure title, first released for the PC-8801 and MSX2 in Japan. As the director, writer and designer for the game, Kojima drew inspiration from Sci-Fi cinema, particularly the movies Blade Runner, Akira and The Terminator, and crafted a futuristic, dystopian thriller involving body-snatching humanoid robots. Although it received many positive reviews, the game did not sell particularly well. It would, however, be later ported to the PC-Engine, Sega Mega-CD and Sega Saturn, gradually developing a strong cult following.

Although Kojima had not originally planned to work on a sequel to Metal Gear, his next title would turn out to be just that. Konami had released a NES version of the first game for Western markets in 1988 and, although this version of the game features numerous changes to the game’s story and gameplay (and is now regarded by many as vastly inferior to original), Konami pushed ahead with a NES follow-up, which would be known as Snake’s Revenge. Kojima was not aware of the plans for this sequel, only learning of the game’s existence following a chance meeting with a member of the development team on the train. After learning that one of his games was receiving a sequel without his input, he promptly approached Konami to request working on his own true sequel, leading to the development of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

After releasing Policenauts, a science-fiction inspired graphic adventure and spiritual successor to Snatcher, in 1994, Kojima would return with Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation in 1998. The title was an enormous critical and commercial success, propelling Kojima into the limelight as a major player in the video game world. The Metal Gear Solid series would become Kojima’s most well-known work, with each new follow-up being hotly anticipated. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty would follow in 2001 for the PlayStation 2. Again, the game was a huge success, praised for its cutting-edge graphics, ground-breaking physics and plot which explored themes of censorship, democracy and reality. During this time, Kojima also produced the anime-inspired Zone of the Enders, also released in 2001. The Metal Gear Solid series would continue with the highly acclaimed Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater in 2004.

Kojima would go on to make a cameo in Metal Gear Solid 5 as an unlockable recruit

Though the franchise would continue, with both sequels and spin-offs, Kojima would publicly share his desire to step away from the Metal Gear Solid series on several occasions. Though he planned to step down during Metal Gear Solid 4, he cautiously rejoined the development team after they began receiving death threats.

Over the next few years, Kojima would regularly voice his desire to work on a new entry in the Silent Hill series. In 2014, a few months after the release of the Metal Gear Solid V prologue title: Ground Zeroes, a demo named P.T. (Playable Teaser) launched on the PlayStation store. This turned out to be a Kojima produced proof-of-concept demo for an upcoming Silent Hill game, called Silent Hills. It was also revealed that Kojima had collaborated with both Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro as well as actor Norman Reedus for the project. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain would follow soon after in 2015.

During this time reports began to emerge that Kojima would be parting ways with Konami. Little information was released regarding why this partnership had dissolved with Konami simply claiming that “Kojima was taking a long time off from work.” Konami would reportedly bar Kojima from attending the 2015 Game Awards ceremony where Metal Gear Solid V had won an award.

Kojima’s most recent work, Death Stranding, starring Norman Reedus, released for the PlayStation 4 in 2019

Undeterred, the videogame designer would go on to partner with Sony Computer Entertainment and establish an independent studio in late-2015 named Kojima Productions. The studio’s first title was Death Stranding, an open-world action title, set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic America, starring several established actors including Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen and Lindsay Wagner.

What next for Kojima? In recent interviews, not only has Kojima has reaffirmed his desire to revisit the horror genre, after experimenting with the format during his work on the Silent Hills P.T. demo, but he has also confirmed his intentions to venture into the world of film, stating in a BBC interview from November 2019, “In the future, Kojima Productions will start making films. If you can do one thing well, then you can do everything well.”

🕹Which Hideo Kojima games have you played? Which has been your favourite? What would you like to see next from Kojima?🕹

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Twitter: @wleigh85

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