Hideo Kojima is a name that evokes many emotions among the gaming community — awe, wonder, excitement, respect, and more ‘80s throwbacks than you can shake a DualShock 4 at. He is, quite simply, a living legend; a video game developer whose talent spans producing, directing, developing and writing.
More than three decades on since Kojima joined, and subsequently left, Konami, the auteur has become synonymous with cinematic experiences that are as genre-defining as they are eclectic — here’s looking at you, Metal Gear Solid — and one need only look at the delirium generated by Death Stranding for proof that Kojima-san hasn’t lost his knack for confounding spectacle.
That’s something we’ve already picked apart frame by frame here at PlayStation LifeStyle — and left none the wiser — but today, August 24, marks a special occasion: Hideo Kojima’s birthday. So, what better way to celebrate than have a look back at the developer’s greatest contributions to the industry?
Welcome to This Day in PlayStation History, our new and recurring feature designed to spotlight the birthdays, anniversaries and milestones deemed important to the PlayStation Faithful. After ringing in Devil May Cry‘s 15th year on the market just yesterday, let’s welcome Metal Gear‘s founding father into the spotlight on this, his 53rd birthday.
Influenced by cinema from an early age, Kojima-san initially harbored dreams of one day becoming a film director, and set about immersing himself in the world of celluloid before ultimately plotting course for the video game industry. He never lost an eye for the cinematic, though, even hinting at his eventual transition in an early interview.
“In ‘The Great Escape,’ there’s that scene where [Steve] McQueen is trying to escape from the Nazi camp. I wondered, ‘What if I could simulate this in a game?'”
This was during the ‘80s, at a time when video games were fast becoming a medium on the brink of worldwide acceptance. It seeded a change of heart in Kojima, too, who used such seminal hits as Super Mario Bros. and The Portopia Serial Murder Case as a motivational springboard to propel himself into the gaming industry. But such blue-sky thinking hit a snag pretty early on.
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For all of Hideo Koijma’s feverish ambition, the would-be developer saw most, if not all of his pitches rejected as his struggle to break into the developing scene wore on. Undeterred by early setbacks, Kojima preserved — a resilience that would earn him a spot on Konami’s home computer team as a designer and planner.
But getting his foot in the door proved half the battle. Still Kojima pitched new gameplay ideas and still he found that many of them were overlooked; shunned due to his own lack of programming experience. Indeed it’s said that these trials and tribulations came close to pushing Kojima out of Konami altogether — a fate that wouldn’t form for more than three decades — but he hunkered down and kept pushing.
Still eager to cut his teeth, Kojima was then presented with the chance to take point on Metal Gear, an action game that would go on to release on MSX2 in 1987 and the term Metal Gear would forever be associated with bipedal tanks and nuclear warheads.
Technical limitations be damned, even then, Hideo Kojima injected his own creative tendencies into the humble franchise-starter, citing The Great Escape as a key point of reference as he chronicled Solid Snake’s escape from Outer Haven.
When the 8-bit MG launched, the creator was 24 years young and after spreading his wings through a handful of other projects (Snatcher and the sci-fi noir Policenauts) Kojima was coaxed back to engineer a true sequel in the form of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Although it wasn’t until Metal Gear Solid in ’98 that the humble designer became a household name.
It was here, just before the turn of the millennium, that Kojima-san was perched at the confluence of cinematic storytelling and scripted action sequences in Metal Gear Solid. Without question, MGS set a new benchmark for the medium, tackling button-pressing themes of nuclear proliferation and collusion.
That intoxicating brand of larger-than-life characters, intriguing world-building and lavish, anime-esque cutscenes would go on to become the lifeblood of the Metal Gear series as it slinked into the 3D space. Indeed after lending a helping hand to a series of other games under Konami — Zone of the Enders, Boktai, and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow included — MGS really became the focal point of Kojima’s career, and to date, the genre-defining stealth franchise spans 10 canonical titles across 7 console generations, culminating with the launch of The Phantom Pain late last year.
In what should have been the triumphant swan song for Kojima’s career at Konami, the sequel’s release was clouded by reports of an internal fallout between developer and publisher, eventually leading to Hideo Kojima departing the Japanese giant after more than three decades under suspicious circumstances.
As the publisher’s stealth flagship, Konami has committed to carving out new creative avenues for the Metal Gear series to explore, with Metal Gear Survive being the first entry in the company’s post-Kojima era. It’s a fairly radical departure, too, swapping tactical espionage action for a four-player co-op title set in an alternate timeline.
And that’s just Metal Gear Solid. After capturing the Internet’s attention with P.T., Konami had previously announced a new Silent Hills reboot, one which would have had Kojima collaborate with Norman Reedus and illustrious film director Guillermo del Toro. Sadly, that project was officially canned in April of 2015.
There’s still much we don’t know about that creative turnover, other than the fact that the auteur has since formed his own studio in Kojima Productions. Soon after partnering with Sony, the gaming icon took to the stage during E3 2016 in epic fashion to unveil Death Stranding, a PS4 action game that features a new collaboration with Norman Reedus. It’s bat-shit insane and we aren’t quite sure what it’s about yet — so definitely a Hideo Kojima game.
Looking back on Kojima’s prestigious portfolio, what are your fondest gaming memories? Indeed what are your hopes for the future of Kojima Productions and Death Stranding in particular? Drop your thoughts below below, and don’t forget to wish Kojima-san many happy returns via Twitter!
This Day in PlayStation History is a new and recurring feature here on PlayStation LifeStyle that will be acting as your window into the archives of all things PlayStation — birthdays, anniversaries, milestones and more.