Hideo Kojima: The Kikizo Interview 2008
We sit down for a rare discussion with the idolised creator of the Metal Gear Solid series, to reflect on MGS4 and find out what happens next for Kojima Productions.
This interview contains no MGS4 plot spoilers.
My high point of the last week was probably interviewing Hideo Kojima. He's not an easy man to get an audience with these days, and his time is too precious for mere mortals like me to be wasting. So when we finally got confirmation that we would be meeting him for a half hour interview, we started preparing - and when it came down to it, asked only the burning questions we've really wanted answers to for some time.
Kojima-san, who turns 45 today, is arguably the single most talked about man in the games industry in 2008. If we look at the biggest brands in gaming right now, we find that Shigeru Miyamoto's perfect platformer for Wii is last year's news, and that the only other consistent 10-scoring game of 2008 is a title associated strongly with Rockstar North and several talented people, rather than one revered creator.
Despite the incredible commercial success of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, which has sold over four million copies, Kojima still has a vocal minority of detractors. Our aim for the interview was to explore some of the varied views that exist about his creative endeavours and try to get him talking about what happens next in the series.
Once the enjoyable interview was finished, we were very happy with the points we talked through, and contrary to gossip from some quarters, found that Mr Kojima is still every bit as humble and charming as when we last interviewed him way back in 2001. Having brushed shoulders with him at parties since then, only this week did we finally get to do a proper interview thanks to the fine folk at Konami. And here it is.
Kikizo: Mr Kojima, thank you for your time today. I'd like to start by saying, I believe it's your birthday on Sunday, so Happy Birthday for Sunday.
Kojima: [laughs] Thank you!
Kikizo: Obviously, that's not too old. But in Metal Gear Solid 4, we see that Old Snake is now an old man. Do you relate to this older character in any way?
Kojima: Yes. Especially for Metal Gear Solid 4, it was very important. So I deliberately kind of matched myself and Old Snake. This is not just the message to the users, but also a message to the internal development staff as well; we've all been working for quite a long time, and I wanted to show that Hideo Kojima, at 45, still working in the spotlight - I wanted to show that to the staff!
I want users to play and take back some feelings from my games. Snake is, of course, a hero, and it's a very, very rare that a [fictional] hero gets very old or ages - normally in games the hero doesn't age so much. However, I wanted to show that everything in the industry evolves: the games, the platforms, and even the users who used to play my games have all aged, and I wanted to express that in Old Snake. I wanted the users to almost overlap their experience - to say, "I aged, Snake aged" - I wanted to express this feeling in MGS4.
Kikizo: When you first joined Konami in the mid-80s, some of the initial designs you came up with were ignored, which must have been quite difficult. Now, many years later, you are the top designer at Konami. How did you turn things around over this long time?
Kojima: To elaborate a little bit more, I am now in a position within Konami as one of the members of the board, and it's true that I do have a responsibility, and also respect, within the company. However, when I say as a creator, "I want to create this new game", it's still the same as twenty years ago! People still ask, "will that sell, will that be good?" Nobody really understands whether it would be an instant hit or whatever - I'm not just talking about the top executives, but even the development staff! But that is my challenge, actually. That's what's interesting. They do not understand what they cannot see instantly, so they can't say "that's a great idea" straight away. That's my challenge, and my satisfaction when I present to them, saying I want to create this new thing. And if I get more 'boos' about it - if they say, "no - we don't know what you're talking about!" then this is actually the fun part.