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Hideo Kojima As Gaming’s Auteur Deserves To Be Credited As Such

Editorial by Max, Posted on July 6, 2015

As the dust settles, for now, over the uproar caused by Kojima’s confirmed and impending departure from Konami, it’s easy to forget some of the concerns raised during the first week of the news.

The hashtag “movement” (for a lack of a better word) #AHideoKojimaGame caught a lot of attention when the events surrounding Kojima’s departure were first being reported, or rather, whispered over the Internet. Many fans took part in the movement as a big “fuck you” to the corporate heads of Konami, concerned about the changes Konami could make to The Phantom Pain before release and what this means for the future of the Metal Gear franchise.

Kojima posing with small-scale model of an unused Metal Gear prototype from Peace Walker.

However, #AHideoKojimaGame was first and foremost born out of the outrage over the perceived disrespect toward Kojima by Konami for removing the infamous phrase “A Hideo Kojima Game” from promotional material for not only The Phantom Pain but also for the Legacy Collection for the PlayStation 3. The irony of this move was not lost on many fans.

When I say infamous, I do mean it. To the confusion of many passersby and onlookers, it might be a bit odd. “What’s the big deal?” In fact, many would say, “Good. Why should be one dude, with his bat-shit crazy ideas, be credited for the creation of an entire video game?”

Some have even argued that Kojima’s departure is a good thing, and that it would open up the franchise to fresher, new blood. Hell, that might be true in theory, but that should not discredit the fact that yes, one man can be credited for a game, the same way a director can be credited for an entire movie or an architect for an entire building.

KOJIMA’S ASPIRATIONS

Hideo Kojima, whose body is supposedly 70% movies and 30% miscellaneous, grew up watching movies and looking up to filmmakers that he aspired to be like. It’s obvious that sci-fi movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Escape from New York, Mad Max and Blade Runner left a huge impact on Kojima. As of April of 2014, he lists his top two favorite movies as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Taxi Driver. He has also shown a strong liking to Alfred Hitchcock’s body of work.

It has been long rumored that MGS2 was originally supposed to end with a 20-minute long pie-fight scene.

Why is this important? Most, if not all of the movies mentioned above, are known for their directors more than anybody else who worked on them. When Kojima and most movie audiences see 2001: A Space Oddysey or Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, they’re usually thinking more about Kubrick’s amazing eye for visuals, and the strange, eerie quality of the movies associated with Kubrick’s other movies. Kubrick did not physically build the sets, manage the movie’s budget, do the catering, act or compose the music all by himself (though he might have had a hand in the catering, that fat-ass). He was the team leader, directing his team in his vision, taking responsibility for the end product. As such, they are Stanley Kubrick movies. Hell, the movies are based on books yet still heavily associated with Kubrick. I would wager that the majority of the general audience does not even know or care about the books’ existence. I have talked to people who are not even aware of the 2001‘s sequel, 2010… which is probably not a bad thing.

Kojima wants to be the Kubrick of the video game industry. To have his name plastered all over his work and for people to recognize his work. This is important to him, and it should be important to us too.

Metal Gear is his creation; without him, there would be no Metal Gear. Of course, he works with a talented team, or rather people who work beside and/or under him, but it all started with Kojima working by himself on some silly, convoluted action game for the MSX, where you actually actively avoid action. The series reflects his personal creative vision.

THE MEANING OF “A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME”

You might say, “But The Legend of Zelda didn’t say ‘a Shigero Miyamoto game’ on the cover, SimCity never said ‘a Will Wright game’, Dark Souls doesn’t say ‘a Hidetaka Miyazaki game’. Why were these games not advertised to the masses under the name of the creator and/or director?”

There’s a simple answer to that: the video game industry does not usually work like the movie industry. In fact, in many ways it works like the old movie industry, or “old Hollywood,” before it was even an industry. In those days, folks came in to see these weird moving pictures; nothing more, nothing less. Nobody cared about the director as the title of “film director” did not even exist. Filmmakers were simply experimenting with different techniques while trying to entertainment people and themselves on some universal level. Their movies were kind of like toys. It wasn’t until much later that the role of a director was acknowledged and directors started making the movies that they themselves wanted to make.

Before games were considered art or entertainment on the same level as movies, music, paintings etc. they were mostly seen as mass-produced toys not unlike Scrabble, Hungry Hungry Hippos or Connect 4.


Connect 4: Colored Discs of the Patriots

There was not much thought put into these toys beyond 1) this thing should work when you take it out of the box and/or plug it in and 2) how and where the product be sold. The art behind the creation of a game was something only the developers thought about and even most developers did not see themselves as artists or their work as art. They were simply making, or trying to make in most cases, a fun piece of entertainment. For a huge chunk of them it was just a job. Work on some project, meet deadlines, and move on to better jobs.

The video gaming industry, at large, hardly left this phase. It struggled to find the balance between marketing toys and art, and settled on a line between the two. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just how it currently works.

Hideo “awkward arms” Kojima at the BAFTAs.

Would this same environment have fostered the creation of the first Pac-Man, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, Super Mario Bros, Mega Man, and so on? Sure, there are still good games that come out, some years more exceedingly so, but there’s a reason that purely unique or genre defining games are few or far in between and usually come from independent-oriented developers or independently-driven studios within a bigger company.

So, the reason you don’t see singular artists being credited for video games made under major companies because such a concept often does not exist. You own the product, you sell the product. Pandering to the whim of some “artists” makes little sense when you’re trying to blindly push a toy.

“A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME” is an important statement as it bridges the gap between video games and the rest of the respected art world. It recognizes the identity of an individual’s impression on the world, his life and work, what he stands for, likes, and creates and whatnot. Video gaming lacks that for the same reason it lacks respect outside of its own self-imploding culture.

NO PLACE FOR HIDEO, AND NO PLACE FOR YOU


Nothing here.

Video games are not like movies, however. It’s easier to say that Kojima’s work in the industry resembles more like the work of Andy Warhol and his factory or El Anatsui and his warehouse or Frank Lloyd Wright and his buildings. These are important artists with a direction, and whether I like their work or not, does not matter.

There have been games under the “A Hideo Kojima Game” umbrella that I do not care for, but at that moment in his life, Kojima was involved in the making of those games for one reason or another. It is part of his collective work. It does not negate the fact that Metal Gear is a Hideo Kojima game series, of his creation that would not exist if it were not for him meticulously looking over the details.

An artist’s work represents a lot of things about him, and when an artist works with other people, it brings more out of him. You can make the statement that Kojima used other people as tools to bring his world to life, and that’s how we all live our individual lives anyway.

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