There is no doubt that Hideo Kojima is a very talented game designer. Metal Gear Solid is one of gaming’s most iconic and innovative franchises, kickstarting the stealth game genre and inspiring many creatives across many mediums. But does that justify his games’ iconic moniker, ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’?
The debate surrounding the idea of ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’ – particularly when it comes to how much credit Kojima can really take for the finished product – has been raging for decades now, but recent tweets made by Kojima have brought the conversation back into focus.
Speaking on Twitter, Kojima said:
A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME means the declaration of me doing concept, produce, original story, script, setting, game design, casting, dealing, directing, difficulty adjustments, promoting, visual design, editing, supervising the merch.
I don’t name this for titles that I don’t make original idea, game design or produce.
People were quick to point out how self-centered and egotistical this Tweet comes across, especially when it comes to Kojima’s usage of the word ‘does,’ which dowplays the hard work of the hundreds, if not thousands of Sony and Kojima Productions who are currently hard at work on Death Stranding and instead implies that Kojima does all of this work all by himself.
Seemingly in response to such backlash, Kojima quickly followed up this initial tweet with another string of tweets in which he explicitly thanked the numerous staff and collaborators who have helped him create Death Stranding, as well as thanking their fans for their support.
Perhaps Kojima was made aware or simply realized himself that his English tweet comes off as a little self-centered and sought to correct this – especially as his tweet in Japanese (Kojima has two accounts in both English and Japanese) does read a bit differently.
“A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME”とは、企画、プロデュース、原作、脚本、設定、ゲームデザイン、キャスティング、交渉等の川上から、演出、監督、難易度調整、プロモーション、ビジュアル、PV編集、グッズ監修までの川下までにも関わるという宣言。原案やゲームデザイン、プロデュースまでの作品にはつけない。 pic.twitter.com/0aJKoJSYT8
— 小島秀夫 (@Kojima_Hideo) September 22, 2019
Instead of ‘do (suru),’ Kojima uses the verb ‘kakawaru (involved)’ here instead – implying that the actual definition of ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’ is less that Kojima himself does all of the work, rather that he is perhaps more involved in the process than his peers.
This more muted definition definitely holds up in practice. Far from just being a public face, Kojima does lend a hand in the editing, writing and design processes in a role that closely resembles more ‘auteur’ film directors such as Guillermo del Toro and George Romero, whom Kojima has always admired.
Even so, I can’t help but think that Kojima’s ego, and therefore the definition of ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’ has been inflated by the circumstances surrounding Kojima’s high-profile departure from Konami in 2015.
I still remember the Sony E3 2016 presentation, where Kojima took to the stage and unveiled the initial trailer for Death Stranding. It was like the return of the prodigal son; everyone stood up and greeted him with rapturous applause, all while he descended to the stage on a bridge of white light like some kind of gaming archangel.
Even now, this is the case (just watch the latest Tokyo Game Show presentation). People have always admired Hideo Kojima and his work (myself included), but the deification of Kojima has certainly reached new heights ever since he established his own independent studio.
Hideo Kojima might be a humble, hard-working man, but he is still human. All this rapturous reception, warranted or not, might have gone to his head and lead to an unfortunate lapse in judgment when translating his tweets regarding the concept of ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’ from Japanese to English.
That’s not to say, however, that the debate surrounding the validity of ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’ is anything new. Far from it. People have been debating whether or not any game developed by Kojima should be so closely associated with his name since the very beginning of his career – especially since it so brazenly reflects the idea of ‘auteur,’ which many have pointed out attempts to attribute the success of a necessarily collective work to the individual.
You could argue that the credits exist for this very reason – showing off just how many people worked on the game – but let’s get real. No one watches those.
The worrying connotations of auteur theory might be more readily debated in the world of film, but the idea of ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’ certainly presents the opportunity for this conversation to be had in the gaming world as well. What do you think? Is the idea of ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’ valid? Is Kojima just as much of a genius as everyone seems to think he is? Let us know via social media or our Discord server, linked below.