08
Feb
08

Hideo Kojima

Hideo Kojima is a Japanese video game designer originally employed at Konami. Formerly the vice president of Konami Computer Entertainment Japan, he is currently the head of Kojima Productions, a new team devoted to creative game development leaving behind all the business and administrative decision making. He is the creator and director of a number of successful games, including the Metal Gear series, Snatcher, and Policenauts. He has also produced both the Zone of the Enders and Boktai series.

Idiosyncrasies of Kojima’s game design include intricate plots that grapple with philosophical and social issues in a dense and verbose fashion, from cloning and meme theory to the state of the military-industrial complex, as well as equally unique and often wacky approaches to game mechanics. In this regard, he has been deemed by some as a maker of so-called postmodern games; the Metal Gear series contains elements of magical realism and often breaks the fourth wall. His love of film is also noticeable in his games, where he pays homage through his stories and characters, sometimes to the point of pastiche, as in Snatcher. He is also well known for a quirky and somewhat irreverent sense of humor, and his frequently disarming and powerful plot twists.

Born in Setagaya, Tokyo in 1963, Kojima moved to western Japan at the age of three. In an interview with the gaming cable channel G4, Kojima explains much of his earlier career and influences for game design. Early in life Kojima grew fond of watching films at the local cinema, an influence that would impact his style of game design later on. While studying economics in college, Kojima found himself playing video games during his free time – namely, games on the Famicom. Kojima cites Shigeru Miyamoto’s Super Mario Bros. as the defining influence. In his fourth year in college, Kojima surprised colleagues by announcing his intentions to join the video game industry, despite initially having ambitions of becoming a film director. He joined video game publisher Konami’s MSX home computer division in 1986 as a designer and ‘planner’. Kojima’s innovative gameplay ideas were often overlooked initially, and due to his lack of familiarity with programming was repeatedly snubbed for his failures in his initial years at Konami. At one point Kojima considered leaving the company, but stuck on.

The first game he worked on was Penguin Adventure, as an assistant director. The first game he actually developed was Lost Warld (sic), a war-themed platform game starring a masked female wrestler, in 1986. However, the game was ultimately rejected by Kojima’s superiors at Konami.

His first released game was Metal Gear. It was released in 1987, to critical success, on the MSX2 home computer. The MSX system was a huge success in Japan, Europe, Brazil and Soviet Union, but due to its obscurity in the USA and some other nations, many people (especially Americans) did not play the game until it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System, and even then the game went through numerous changes during the conversion process with which Kojima was not directly involved. The game featured Solid Snake, a rookie soldier who has been sent to the fortified state of “Outer Heaven” to stop a nuclear equipped walking tank known as “Metal Gear.” The game was unique by being one of the first known stealth game, in which the player is encouraged to avoid visual contact with the enemy as opposed to engaging in direct confrontation. He also released the critically acclaimed Snatcher, a graphic adventure game with a cyberpunk setting and Cold War themes, in 1988.

In 1990, Kojima released Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX only in Japan. The game was critically acclaimed in Japan for its sophisticated gameplay and intricate storyline, as it introduced many significant changes and additions to the Metal Gear series, most of which were later carried over to Metal Gear Solid. Of particular importance was the significantly improved characterization of the game’s cast and the bigger emphasis given to the game’s storyline, which was advanced through the use of cut scenes and covered themes regarding the effects of war. Other changes include significant enhancements to the enemy soldiers’ behavior and AI, the ability to crawl, and the introduction of the radar, among other improvements. Despite the game’s success in Japan, it was never released in the West until its inclusion in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence in 2006.

He remade Snatcher in 1992 for the PC-Engine under title of Snatcher CD-ROMantic (which would then be ported to the Sega CD, the game’s only official English-language version) and designed Policenauts, a film noir/sci-fi-themed adventure game set in a space colony (often regarded as a “spiritual sequel” to Snatcher), in 1994; Snatcher and Policenauts were both huge successes in Japan. Kojima regards Policenauts (according to a translation of the ‘introduction’ portion of the official Policenauts website) as his “most exhaustive piece of work” and often calls Metal Gear a “blockbuster movie series” whilst in relation to Metal Gear, he regards Policenauts as his “independent film”. He also produced a series of adventure games based on the Tokimeki Memorial dating sim series dubbed the Drama Series, which were made on the same game engine used by Policenauts.

With the release of Metal Gear Solid in 1998 for the PlayStation, Kojima became an international celebrity among gamers. Metal Gear Solid was the first in the Metal Gear series to use 3D graphics and voice acting, which gave a more cinematic experience to the game. MGS was highly regarded for its well-designed gameplay and for its characters and storyline, which featured themes of nuclear proliferation and genetic engineering.

In early 2000, Kojima released the first details of the sequel to Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, for the PlayStation 2. The game’s highly detailed graphics, physics, and expanded gameplay quickly made it one of the most anticipated games ever. The game was highly successful and critically acclaimed at release, due to its graphics, gameplay and storyline, which dealt with myriad philosophical themes as specific as memes, censorship, manipulation, patricide, the inherent flaws of democracy and as grandiose as the nature of reality itself. While “MGS2” broke ground with the breadth of its subject matter, the lengthy exposition of these issues, particularly in the bewildering maze of dialogue and plot revelation in the final hours of the game, left a sour taste in the mouths of many gamers, who expected the Hollywood-style resolution of its forerunner. The game also received negative fan reaction due to the unexpected introduction of a new protagonist named Raiden, a rookie soldier, the polar opposite in place of the series’ taciturn main hero, Solid Snake.

Before MGS2‘s release, Kojima produced the game and anime franchise Zone of the Enders in 2001 to moderate success. In 2003, he produced Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand for the Game Boy Advance. In this, players take the role of a young vampire hunter who uses a solar weapon which is charged by a photometric sensor on the game cartridge (forcing them to play in sunlight). Another team inside Konami also began work on Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, a GameCube remake of the first Metal Gear Solid with all the gameplay features of Metal Gear Solid 2 and with cutscenes redirected by action/horror film director Ryuhei Kitamura. It was released in 2004.

Afterwards, Kojima also designed and released Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for the PlayStation 2. Unlike the previous games in the series, which took place in the near future and focused on indoor locations, the game is set in a Russian forest area during the year 1964, and involves wilderness survival and camouflaging. The North American version was released on November 17, 2004, with the Japanese counterpart following on December 16. The European version was released on March 4, 2005. Critical response to the game was highly favorable.

At that time Kojima also worked on Boktai’s sequel, Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django for the Game Boy Advance. Released in summer 2004, it makes more extensive use of the cartridge’s sunlight sensor and allows players to combine various new solar weapons.

Also released was Metal Gear Ac!d for the PlayStation Portable handheld. This turn-based game is less action-oriented than the other Metal Gear games and focuses more on strategy. It was released in Japan on December 16, 2004.

Games Credited

Lunar Knights (2007), Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.
Merry Gear Sol!d: Secret Santa (2006), Insignificant Studios
Ape Escape 3 (2005), SCEI
Mega Man Battle Network 5: Team Protoman (2005), Capcom U.S.A., Inc.
Mega Man Battle Network 6: Cybeast Falzar (2005), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Mega Man Battle Network 6: Cybeast Gregar (2005), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (2005), Konami Corporation
Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django (2004), Konami Corporation
Mega Man Battle Network 4: Blue Moon (2004), Capcom U.S.A., Inc.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004), Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Premium Package) (2004), Konami Corporation
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004), Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.
Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand (2003), Konami Corporation
Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance (2002), Konami of America, Inc.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001), Konami of America, Inc.
Zone of the Enders (2001), Konami Corporation
Metal Gear Solid (2000), Konami of America, Inc.
D-2 (1999), SEGA Corporation
Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions (1999), Konami Corporation
Metal Gear Solid (1998), Konami Co., Ltd.
Policenauts (1996), Konami Co., Ltd.
Snatcher (1994), Konami (America), Inc.
Dead Moon (1991), Natsume, Inc.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990), Konami Industry Co. Ltd.
Metal Gear (1987), Konami Corporation

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