Hideo Kojima (小島 秀夫 Kojima Hideo, born August 24, 1963) is a Japanese video game designer, writer, director and producer.
Kojima at the 2011 Tokyo Game Show
|Born||August 24, 1963|
Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan
|Occupation||Video game designer, writer, director, producer|
|Metal Gear, Snatcher, Policenauts, Zone of the Enders, Death Stranding|
Regarded as an auteur of video games, he developed a strong passion for action/adventure cinema and literature during his childhood and adolescence. In 1986, he was hired by Konami, for which he designed and wrote Metal Gear (1987) for the MSX2, a game that laid the foundations for stealth games and the Metal Gear series, his best known and most appreciated works. The title that consecrated him as one of the most acclaimed video game designers is Metal Gear Solid (1998) for PlayStation. He is also known for producing the Zone of the Enders series, as well as writing and designing Snatcher (1988) and Policenauts (1994), graphic adventure games regarded for their cinematic presentation.
In 2015, Kojima Productions split from Konami, becoming an independent studio. Their first game was Death Stranding, which released in 2019. Kojima has also contributed to Rolling Stone, writing columns about the similarities and differences between films and video games.
Kojima was born the youngest of three children in Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan. The family moved to Osaka when he was about four years old. The family watched movies every night and he "wasn't allowed to go to bed till the film had finished".
When he was young, the Kojima family moved to a small city called Shirasaki. His family soon moved to Kawanishi, Hyōgo in the Kansai region. He was 13 years old when his father died and Kojima has commented that early on in his life he had to deal with death. Kojima was a latchkey kid, often having to look after himself when he came home from school. Staying at home by himself in isolation still affected him as he stated in a 2004 interview, "[whenever] I travel and stay at a hotel I put the TV on as soon as I enter the room, just to deal with the feeling of loneliness".
He wanted to be an artist, filmmaker, or illustrator, but felt discouraged by the pressure of social norms favoring a stable, salaried job over creative pursuits, and also because his uncle was an artist who struggled to make a living. The death of Kojima's father, which left the entire family poorer, was another reason. As a young adult, he began studying economics while writing short stories in his spare time; he submitted some of these to magazines but was not able to get anything published. He cites that his stories were often 400 pages long while most magazines wanted their short stories to be around 100 pages. Eventually, he shifted his creative focus to making films with a friend who had an 8mm camera.
In an interview on G4's TV series Icons, Kojima revealed that while studying economics in university, he found himself playing video games during his free time, mainly on the Nintendo Famicom. In his fourth year in university, Kojima surprised his peers by announcing his intentions to join the video game industry, despite initially having ambitions of becoming a film director. He felt a career in video games would be more satisfying. The majority of his friends and peers strongly discouraged Kojima from pursuing video games due to it being a new medium that was not as respected or financially secure. His mother, however, remained supportive which gave Kojima the confidence to go ahead with his dream. He would later reflect positively upon his choice, stating, "The industry was full of dropouts, people who felt like games offered them another chance. I met many people in that same situation; we bonded together through that in some sense". Kojima has cited Shigeru Miyamoto's Super Mario Bros. (1985) and Yuji Horii's The Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983) as the games that inspired him to make this decision. He cited Hydlide's open world game design as an influence. His literary influences include Kōbō Abe, Ryu Murakami, Yukio Mishima, Kazuaki Takano, Project Itoh, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Seicho Matsumoto, Richard Levinson, William Link, and Paul Auster.
After initial failed attempts to break into the video game industry, Kojima joined video game publisher Konami's MSX home computer division in 1986 as a designer and planner. Initially, he was disappointed with his assignment, and desired to work on Nintendo Entertainment System and arcade games instead—Kojima felt the color palette of the system was too restrictive. Kojima's 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 he hung on. The first game he worked on was Penguin Adventure, the sequel to Antarctic Adventure, as an assistant director. It significantly expanded upon the gameplay of Antarctic Adventure, adding more action game elements, a greater variety of levels, role-playing elements such as upgrading equipment, and multiple endings. The first game he developed was Lost Warld [sic], an MSX platform game in 1986. However, the game was ultimately rejected by Kojima's superiors at Konami.
Kojima was asked to take over a project, Metal Gear, from a senior associate. Hardware limitations hindered the development of the game's combat. Inspired by The Great Escape, Kojima altered the gameplay to focus on a prisoner escaping. It was released in 1987 for the MSX2 home computer in Japan and parts of Europe. The game revolves around a special forces operative codenamed Solid Snake, who is sent to the fortified state of "Outer Heaven" to stop a nuclear-equipped walking tank known as "Metal Gear". Metal Gear is one of the earliest examples of the stealth action game genre, where avoiding encounters with the enemies is emphasized over direct combat. A port of Metal Gear was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Kojima was not directly involved in the production of this version and he has openly criticized some of the changes made in the porting process, including poor translation and no ending boss fight with the titular weapon.
His next project was the graphic adventure game Snatcher, released for the NEC PC-8801 and MSX2 computer platforms in Japan in 1988. The game, influenced by cyberpunk science fiction works such as Akira, Blade Runner, The Terminator, and Bubblegum Crisis, is set in a post-apocalyptic world and centers around an amnesiac detective who faces a race of cyborgs (the titular Snatchers) that kill their victims, copy their likeness and assume their place in society. While Kojima and his team wrote the entire story of the game, they were forced to leave out the final act of the game due to time constraints. The game was highly regarded at the time for pushing the boundaries of video game storytelling, cinematic cut scenes, and mature content, and was praised for its graphics, soundtrack, high quality writing comparable to a novel, voice acting comparable to a film or radio drama, post-apocalyptic setting, light gun shooter segments, and in-game computer database with optional documents that flesh out the game world. The Sega CD version of Snatcher was for a long time the only major visual novel game to be released in America. However, partly due to a Teen rating limiting its accessibility, it only sold a "couple of thousand units", according to Jeremy Blaustein, a member of Snatcher's localization team.
In 1990, Kojima was involved in the productions of two MSX2 games: a spinoff of Snatcher titled SD Snatcher; and a sequel to Metal Gear titled Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which further evolved the stealth game genre. The player had more abilities, such as crouching, crawling into hiding spots and air ducts, distracting guards by knocking on surfaces, and using a radar to plan ahead. The enemies had improved artificial intelligence (AI), including a 45-degree field of vision, the detection of various different noises, being able to move from screen to screen, and a three-phase security alarm. The game also had improved graphics and a complex storyline dealing with themes such as the nature of warfare and nuclear disarmament.
SD Snatcher is a role-playing video game which adapts the storyline of the original Snatcher while featuring its version of the planned ending. The characters are depicted in a "super deformed" art style, in contrast to the original game's realistic style. Like the original computer versions of Snatcher, it was only released in Japan. It abandoned random encounters and introduced an innovative first-person turn-based battle system where the player can aim at specific parts of the enemy's body using firearms with limited ammo. Such a battle system has rarely been used since, though similar battle systems based on targeting individual body parts can later be found in Square's Vagrant Story (2000), Bethesda Softworks's Fallout 3 (2008), and Nippon Ichi's Last Rebellion (2010).
Due to the success of the original Metal Gear on the NES, Konami decided to create a sequel to the game, Snake's Revenge, without the involvement of Kojima. During a ride home on the train, Kojima met one of the staff members who worked on the game who asked him if he would create a "true" Metal Gear sequel. As a result, Kojima began plans for his own sequel titled: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The game was only released in Japan for the MSX2, as one of the last games Konami produced for the computer system. The game would not be released overseas in North America and Europe until its inclusion in 2006's Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.
All of his subsequent projects after Metal Gear 2 were produced primarily for disc-based media, allowing for the inclusion of voice acting in his games. He remade Snatcher in 1992 for the PC Engine Super CD-ROM2. An English localization of the game was produced for the Sega Mega-CD in North America and Europe in 1994. Kojima was not directly involved in the Sega CD version nor the subsequent PlayStation and Saturn ports released in Japan in 1996.
In 1994, Kojima released Policenauts, a film noir-science fiction-themed adventure game set in a space colony, for the NEC PC-9821. Kojima oversaw the subsequent ports released for the 3DO in 1995; and the PlayStation and Saturn in 1996, which all featured animated cutscenes that were not in the PC-98 release. Despite announcements for an English release in 1996, problems with synching the English dialogue with the cut-scenes stopped its production. An unofficial English translation patch was released on August 24, 2009, to coincide with Kojima's 46th birthday. From 1997 to 1999, he developed the Tokimeki Memorial Drama Series, a trilogy of visual novel adventure games.
Kojima began development on a 3D sequel to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in 1994. A gameplay demo of Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation was first revealed to the public at the 1996 Tokyo Game Show, and was later shown at E3 1997 as a short video. With the release of Metal Gear Solid in 1998, Kojima became an international celebrity among the video game media. 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. Metal Gear Solid 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 2001, 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 at the time. 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 Metal Gear Solid 2 appealed to gamers with the discussion of these, the bewildering maze of dialogue and plot revelation in the final hours of the game was a disappointment for many gamers, who expected the Hollywood-style resolution of its forerunner.
Before the release of Metal Gear Solid 2, 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, which 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, in a collaboration with Silicon Knights, began work on Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, a GameCube enhanced remake of the first Metal Gear Solid with all the gameplay features of Metal Gear Solid 2 and with cutscenes redirected by director Ryuhei Kitamura. It was released in 2004.
Afterwards, Kojima 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 Soviet jungle during the height of the Cold War in 1964, and features wilderness survival, camouflage, and James Bond styled espionage. 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. Kojima has said that his mother played it, "It took her an entire year to complete Metal Gear Solid 3. She would get her friends to help her. When she defeated The End, [a character the player faces off during the game] she called me up and said: 'It is finished'."
At that time, Kojima produced 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 Acid for the PlayStation Portable handheld. A turn-based game, it is less action-oriented than the other Metal Gear games and focuses more on strategy. It was released in Japan on December 16, 2004. Its sequel, Metal Gear Acid 2, was released on March 21, 2006.
Kojima wanted Solid Snake to appear in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Melee, but Nintendo refused, due to development cycle problems. When Super Smash Bros. Brawl was in development, series director Masahiro Sakurai contacted Kojima to work and add Snake and content related to the Metal Gear series, including a stage based on Shadow Moses Island (the main setting of Solid), into the game.
Released in June 2008, Kojima co-directed Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots with Shuyo Murata. Initially, Kojima was not going to direct it, but death threats made the team nervous and he decided to work with them. Kojima received a lifetime achievement award at the MTV Game Awards 2008 in Germany. In his speech, he said in English, "I have to say, even though I received this award, let me state that I will not retire. I will continue to create games as long as I live".
Before E3 2009, Kojima stated interest in working with a Western developer. This later turned out to be a collaboration between him and Spanish developer MercurySteam to work on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
Although he announced that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots would be the last Metal Gear game he would be directly involved in, he announced at E3 2009 that he would return to help on two Metal Gear games: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, as a producer and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker as writer, director, and producer. When interviewed at Gamescom 2009, Kojima stated that he got more involved with Peace Walker because "there was a lot of confusion within the team and it didn't proceed as I wanted it to. Therefore I thought that I needed to jump in and do Peace Walker".
Kojima was at E3 2010 to show off his team's latest project, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. He was also seen in Nintendo's 3DS interview video, where he stated he was interested in making a Metal Gear Solid game for the 3DS and wondered what it would be like in 3D. This game ended up being a remake of Metal Gear Solid 3 titled Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D. In late 2011, Metal Gear Solid: Rising was renamed Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance with PlatinumGames being involved in developing it alongside Kojima Productions. Nevertheless, Kojima is the game's executive producer and showed interest in working in the game's demo. Kojima was satisfied with the final product and expressed the possibility of a sequel if Platinum were to develop it.
On April 1, 2011, Kojima was promoted to Executive Vice President and Corporate Officer in Konami Digital Entertainment. At E3 2011, he revealed his new innovative gaming technology labeled as "transfarring", a portmanteau of the verbs transferring and sharing. The technology enables gamers to transfer their gaming data from the PlayStation 3 to PlayStation Portable in a quick data transferring process and bring it on the go from home into the outside world.
Later that year, he stated he was working on a new intellectual property with Goichi Suda, tentatively titled Project S, and preparing new projects. On July 8, 2011, Kojima announced that Project S was a radio-show sequel to Snatcher, titled Sdatcher as a reference to the show's producer Suda. The show would air on Fridays on Kojima's bi-weekly Internet radio show, starting with episode No. 300 which was broadcast in August 2011. In October, Kojima announced that he would be collaborating with Suda and 5pb. director Chiyomaru Shikura in producing a new adventure game visual novel. It was initially speculated that the game would be the third entry in 5pb.'s Science Adventure series, but it was later confirmed to be a separate title. The game was planned to have an overseas release and an anime adaption. As of 2018, no further news regarding the project has been released.
In mid-2012 and in the following years after Kojima finished work on the Fox Engine, Kojima has been connected to the Silent Hill series. During this time, he indicated that he was interested in making a Silent Hill game and the first instance of this was on August 18, 2012. He described his excitement regarding the potential use of the Fox Engine on the eighth generation platforms via a tweet of an image of the DVD for the Silent Hill film: Later, he added what he had in mind for this game in a series of tweets: "Silent Hill is in closed room setting and doesn’t require full action so that we can focus on the graphic quality. Enemies featured in the game do not have to be consistent or move fast. It only requires scariness by graphics and presentation. As being a creator, making action games in an open world setting, such a type of game is very enviously attractive. If only someone could create this on the Fox Engine." After a while, and as a result of Kojima's interest in making a Silent Hill game, Konami asked him to do so. Kojima explained the story in an interview with Eurogamer:
In the past I've mentioned Silent Hill in interviews, and as a result of that the president of Konami rung me up and said he’d like me to make the next Silent Hill. Honestly, I'm kind of a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror movies, so I'm not confident I can do it. At the same time, there's a certain type of horror that only people who are scared of can create, so maybe it's something I can do. That said, I think Silent Hill has a certain atmosphere. I think it has to continue, and I’d love to help it continue, and if I can help by supervising or lending the technology of the Fox Engine, then I'd love to participate in that respect.
Additionally, in an interview with Geoff Keighley, when a fan asked "which game do you want to direct or reboot?" Kojima stated without hesitation, Silent Hill. Keighley jumped in and asked "What do you want to do with Silent Hill?" Kojima responded: "A guy [like myself] that is such a chicken and is so easily scared – making a scary game – I'm very confident that something horrifying would come out from that. But on the other hand I would have to prepare myself to have nightmares every single day. Hopefully sometime in the future I'm able to work on this, but I would really need to prepare to have daily nightmares". In August 2014, PT was released on the PlayStation Store revealed that a new game in the Silent Hill franchise titled Silent Hills was being directed by Kojima for the PlayStation 4, alongside Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro. In April 2015, the playable teaser was removed and the game was cancelled.
At the 2013 Game Developers Conference, Kojima unveiled Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which was set to be his final Metal Gear work, noting that this time unlike previous announcements that he had stopped working on the series, was very serious about leaving. In March 2015, reports began to surface that Kojima would part ways with longtime publisher Konami after the release of The Phantom Pain. Konami later stated that they were auditioning for new staff for future Metal Gear titles and removed Kojima's name from the series' marketing material. Despite reports that Kojima left the company in October 2015, a spokesman for Konami stated that he was "taking a long time off from work." At The Game Awards 2015, Metal Gear Solid V won the awards for Best Action Game and Best Score/Soundtrack, but Kojima did not attend the event, being reportedly barred from attending by Konami. Instead, it was accepted by Kiefer Sutherland on his behalf.
On December 16, 2015, Kojima announced that Kojima Productions would be re-established as an independent studio, partnered with Sony Computer Entertainment, and that his first game would be console exclusive to the PlayStation 4. At E3 2016 in Los Angeles, Kojima personally announced the game's title as Death Stranding in a trailer. The trailer showed actor and inspiration for the main character Norman Reedus, whom Kojima had previously worked with in the canceled Silent Hills.
In 2016, Kojima launched his own YouTube channel, where he and film critic Kenji Yano discuss their favorite films and matters pertaining to Kojima's studio. Starting in 2017, Kojima became a regular contributor to Rolling Stone, often discussing recent film releases, and occasionally drawing comparisons to his own works.
Influences and mentality
Kojima has cited Yuji Horii's The Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983) and Shigeru Miyamoto's Super Mario Bros. (1985) as the games that inspired him to enter the video game industry. Portopia Serial Murder Case, a murder mystery adventure game, was an important influence because, according to Kojima, it had "mystery, a 3D dungeon, humor, and a proper background and explanation of why the murderer committed the crime. That is why there was drama in this game. My encountering this game expanded the potential of video games in my mind." Portopia had an influence on his early works, including Metal Gear and particularly Snatcher.
Kojima's love of film is noticeable in his games where he pays homage through his stories and characters, sometimes to the point of pastiche, as in Snatcher. He cited a contrast between films and games as while in his games he intends to portray violence like in a movie, in the game it is up to the player to decide. He wants people to understand the effects of violence. As he considers the games too stressful, he also wants comic relief to contrast it.
Snatcher is inspired by many science fiction films, particularly from the 1980s, including Blade Runner, Akira, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Terminator. Examples of influence by films include Solid Snake's codename (named after Snake Plissken from Escape from New York), Snake's alias in MGS2: Pliskin (in reference to the last name of Snake Plissken from the Escape movies), Snake's real name (Dave from 2001: A Space Odyssey), and Snake's trademark bandana (The Deer Hunter).
Film would also have an influence on other aspects of his games. Hal "Otacon" Emmerich (named after HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey and film director Roland Emmerich), Sniper Wolf shooting Meryl in Metal Gear Solid (Full Metal Jacket), Psycho Mantis (inspired from the film The Fury) and the whole Metal Gear stealth concept (The Great Escape and The Guns of Navarone). James Bond also had a large influence on the Metal Gear series, with Metal Gear Solid 3 having a James Bond-like introduction sequence.
In an article he wrote for Official PlayStation 2 Magazine, Kojima described the influence of the film Dawn of the Dead on the Metal Gear series. The zombie classic inspired "the maximum three-dimensional use of a closed area like a shopping mall with elevators, air ducts, and escalators". These aspects are similar enough in his view that "[Metal Gear Solid] is [Dawn of the Dead] if you replace soldiers with zombies."
He also received inspiration from anime. His early works, particularly the cyberpunk adventure game Snatcher (which uses anime-style art), were influenced by cyberpunk anime, most notably Akira (mentioned above). In an interview, he mentioned that his Zone of the Enders series was inspired by mecha/robot anime, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion. Mecha anime was also an inspiration for the Metal Gear series, which features mecha robots, such as Metal Gear REX and Metal Gear RAY; this is referenced in Metal Gear Solid, where Otacon mentions mecha anime as an influence on his Metal Gear REX designs.
In regards to storyline development and interaction with them, he said:
|“||Storytelling is very difficult. But adding the flavor helps to relay the storytelling, meaning in a cut scene, with a set camera and effects, you can make the users feel sorrow, or make them happy or laugh. This is an easy approach, which we have been doing. That is one point, the second point is that if I make multiple storylines and allow the users to select which story, this might really sacrifice the deep emotion the user might feel; when there's a concrete storyline, and you kind of go along that rail, you feel the destiny of the story, which at the end, makes you feel more moved. But when you make it interactive – if you want multiple stories where you go one way or another – will that make the player more moved when he or she finishes the game? These two points are really the key which I am thinking about, and if this works, I think I could probably introduce a more interactive storytelling method.||”|
In terms of reverse influence on film, his work on the storylines of the Metal Gear series was cited as an influence by screenwriter David Hayter, the voice actor for Solid Snake, on his screenwriting for Hollywood films. He stated that "Kojima and I have different styles (...) but I've certainly learned things from him, especially about ambiguity and telling a story without giving all the answers".
Kojima has also influenced a number of actors and auteurs in the film industry. Hollywood actors Mads Mikkelsen and Léa Seydoux have voice roles in Death Stranding, and celebrated director Guillermo del Toro is amongst his biggest fans.
Awards and accolades
In 2009, IGN placed him sixth in their list of top game creators of all time. At the 2008 MTV Game Awards, Kojima was given the award show's first Lifetime Achievement Award for a game designer and was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 Game Developers Conference.
At the 2014 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) awards, Kojima was credited for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes' nomination for the category Game, Franchise Adventure. In December 2015, Kojima was invited to accept an award from The Game Awards 2015 for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but was prevented from attending by Konami.
In February 2016, Kojima received the AIAS Hall of Fame Award at the 19th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards. In December 2016, Kojima was able to attend The Game Awards 2016 and accepted the Industry Icon Award.
On October 12, 2017, Kojima received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Brasil Game Show.
The following are games in which Kojima held a lead creative role. This includes director, writer or game designer roles.
Metal Gear series
|1990||Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake|
|1998||Metal Gear Solid|
|2001||Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty|
|2004||Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes|
|Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater|
|2008||Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots|
|2010||Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker|
|2014||Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes|
|2015||Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain|
|2003||Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand|
|1994||Policenauts||AP officer no.2 (uncredited)|
|1999||Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions||Genola|
|2008||Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots||God (Himself)|
|Metal Gear Online||Soldiers|
|2014||Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes||Himself|
|2015||Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain|
|2019||Control||Dr. Yoshimi Tokui|
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