Hideo Kojima’s Roots as a Storytelling Genius
Born in 1963, Hideo Kojima can without a doubt be considered as one of the best storytellers of the 20th century.
His works have had a massive impact on not only the video game industry, but many peoples’ lives as well. He came from a troubled childhood being bounced from city to city throughout Japan where he came to be familiar with a life of isolation and loneliness. With aspirations to become a filmmaker he often wrote short stories in his downtime with little to no praise often writing short stories which spanned over 300 pages.
In his college career, he took up economics due to the social pressures of holding down a stable, well-paying career over something which allowed him to flex his creative muscles. This, on top of the fact that his uncle was an artist which struggled to make a livable income.
Fast forward an ample amount of time and he finally got his shot at being a creator at Konami, when one of his senior peers requested him to take over the “Metal Gear” project which started to pave his way as one of the greatest storytellers of our time.
Let’s take a look at the history of Hideo Kojima to see just how he became one of the legends of not only the video game industry, but the entertainment industry as a whole.
Hideo Kojima’s Troubled History
Initially, Kojima decided to trade in creativity for a more standard job, taking up economics in college. But aside from writing short stories in his free time, he also became enamored with playing video games. During his senior year of college, he decided that he wanted to forgo economics and try his hand in becoming a part of the video game industry while leaving aside his main aspirations of being a film director.
His friends and peers strongly discouraged him in joining the video game industry as they felt that he would not be able to make a satisfying career out of it because at the time, it was still a fairly new market and jobs were severely unstable.
It was his mother though who stood by his decision and supported him with his choice giving him the drive to go on with what he felt he was put on this world to do stating that he “met many people who felt that the video game industry was something that gave them a second chance”.
After many failed attempts in joining the industry, in 1986, Hideo Kojima started his long-winding road in the video game industry as a designer and planner at Konami Computer Entertainment as part of their MSX home computer division.
Due to his lack of knowledge of the system as a whole and his limitations of programming knowledge, he was often overshadowed by his peers and his ideas were consistently left on the table, going nowhere. After repeated failures and constant backlash from his peers, he considered leaving the company on a number of occasions. It’s a good thing that he didn’t because little did he know that a handful of years later, his tough times would finally pay off.
Kojima initially wanted to work on the Nintendo Entertainment System and the arcade game projects that Konami had in the pipeline because he felt that the MSX platform was too limited at the time, he was however unable to do so, yet.
His first project that he was tasked with was “Penguin Adventure”, a sequel to “Antarctic Adventure” as an assistant director. He added a fair deal to the game such as a wider variety of levels, action game elements, upgrading equipment, and multiple endings. His first title that he developed was titled “Lost World” for MSX, which was ultimately scrapped by Konami, never to see the light of day. It was after this that he got his chance to shine.
The Rise of Hideo Kojima
In the late 80’s Kojima was approached by one of his senior peers with the task of taking on the Metal Gear project for the MSX2 home computer. He used the concept of a prisoner escaping thanks to his inspiration from the book “The Great Escape”. The game told a tale of a spec-ops operative by the name of Solid Snake who is sent to “Outer Heaven” to stop a nuclear weapon equipped walking tank called “Metal Gear”.
A port of this game was eventually released for the Nintendo Entertainment System but its initial release platform was for the MSX2 home computer. Much to Kojima’s dismay, he was not involved in the porting process of the game and has on many times criticized and critiqued the port of the title.
After working on Metal Gear, he got to show his storytelling abilities with the title “Snatcher” for the NEC PC-8801 and the MSX2. At the time of release, the game was highly praised for its embracing story, graphics, soundtrack and voice acting which rivaled many films at the time. It wasn’t until after Snatcher that Kojima started to fall into his place as a creator that we have come to love to this day.
Kojima started work on Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake which was not released in North America and Europe until many, many years later in 2004 as an inclusion with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
In 1994, Kojima started development on a 3D sequel to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the PlayStation which was finally displayed to the public for the first time at the 1996 Tokyo Game Show.
The game finally saw a release in 1998 which cemented the legacy of Hideo Kojima as not only a storyteller, but as an international celebrity within the video game industry. It was praised not only for its graphical fidelity, but its superb storytelling with a foreboding theme of nuclear warfare and human genetic engineering.
Between Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2, Kojima produced a number of games such as Zone of the Enders, Botkai, a title for Game Boy Advance with a revolutionary solar sensor built into the cartridge which affected content within the game, as well as the anime for Zone of the Enders.
In 2004, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was released for PlayStation 2 and was welcomed with critical acclaim. After the success of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Kojima produced Botkai 2 for the Game Boy Advance which makes even more use of the game cartridges built in solar sensor followed up by Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for the PlayStation 2 which takes place in a Soviet jungle in the year 1964 during the Cold War.
Metal Gear Solid 4 was supposed to be the departure of Kojima from the Metal Gear series, however due to numerous death threats, he had no choice but to direct the game. It was after the release of this title that without a doubt, Kojima’s legacy was cemented in history as he was awarded the lifetime achievement award at the MTV Video Game Awards 2008.
Hideo Kojima’s New Path
In 2013, Kojima unveiled Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain to the world at the Game Developers Conference which Kojima was adamant that this was his last Metal Gear game, citing more seriousness than previous instances where he stated that he will be leaving the game behind.
Shortly after this in August of 2014, Konami released “PT”, a playable teaser for a game which was to be called “Silent Hills” based on the Silent Hill series of games, only this time, it was to be directed by Hideo Kojima in conjunction with film director Guillermo del Toro.
The PT title was quickly removed less than a year later in April of 2015 after reports of Kojima planning to leave Konami started to surface. Konami initially denied these claims stating that “Hideo Kojima is taking an extended time off from work”.
To add further fuel to the fire, Metal Gear Solid V won awards for the Best Action Game and Best Score/Soundtrack at The Game Awards 2015, being accepted by Kiefer Sutherland on his behalf due to reports that Konami had banned him from attending the event.
In December of 2015, Kojima announced to the world that he will be packing up Kojima Productions from Konami and will be starting his own independent studio partnered with Sony Computer Entertainment.
Shortly after this at E3 2016 he announced his first title as an independent producer would be exclusive to the PlayStation 4, titled Death Stranding in the form of a trailer featuring Norman Reedus who was also part of the canceled Silent Hills project. Death Stranding released in 2019 to much acclaim.
Needless to say, it not only helped contribute to his net worth financially, but also in his reputation.
The Future of Hideo Kojima – According to his Twitter
Just where Kojima will go from here, only he knows. But it’s sure to be something that involves fantastic storytelling.
Kojima has been vocal in the past on Twitter about wanting to chase one of his other dreams which is film making. Maybe we’ll see a Hollywood blockbuster film coming from Kojima Productions, maybe we won’t. Only time will tell.
Needless to say, it will be something that will astonish the masses thanks to his ability to tell stories in a fashion that only he can do.
I know that I’m not the only one who would welcome this with open arms. He’s also been very vocal about not leaving video games, so there is also the possibility that he will continue on with his mystical storytelling with a medium that allows people to continue to “play” his visions with a new game. As I said, only time will tell.