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Gaming Gods: Hideo Kojima

This series is dedicated to the Gods of the Gaming world, men who deserve to be worshipped for the heavenly gift of gaming. Today’s instalment is the one and only Hideo Kojima.

Born in Tokyo Japan on August 24th 1963, Kojima moved to Western Japan at the age of 3.  When he was little, the Kojima family moved to Shirasaki. Just as quickly they moved to Kawanishi. Kojima has noted in past interviews that he grew up as a latchkey kid, often having to watch TV and look after himself when he got home from school. He even said that living in isolation still affects him now.

Initially wanting to be an artist or illustrator, he was discouraged by society norms of Japan which favour finding safe and well-paid jobs. He was also discouraged by the fact that his uncle was an artist and was suffering from financial trouble.

He eventually started writing short stories for magazines, although due to the length of his stories, none of them got published. He eventually settled for making films with a friend who had an 8mm camera.

Whilst studying economics at University, he often played games in his spare time. It was then that he shockingly announced that he going to try and get into the games industry, instead of his original idea of becoming a Film Director. He claims that Super Mario Bros was a key to him making that decision.

Initially, Kojima was unsuccessful in his endeavours. His Game ideas were rejected by numerous companies, but eventually he joined Konami’s MSX home computer division as a designer and Planner. At first Kojima was disappointed with where he was placed. He felt the colour palette of the system was too restrictive. Kojima’s gameplay ideas were often overlooked, and due to his unfamiliarity with programming he was repeatedly snubbed for his failures. He considered leaving the company, but decided against it.

The first game he worked on was ‘Penguin Adventure’, sequel to ‘Antarctic Adventure’, as an assistant director. The first game he actually developed was called ‘Lost Warld’, a platform game featuring a female wrestler, in 1986. However, Kojima’s superiors rejected the game.

Kojima was asked to take over a project, Metal Gear, from an associate. Hardware limitations hindered the development of the game’s combat. Inspired by ‘The Great Escape’, Kojima altered gameplay to centre around a prisoner escaping. The game was released in 1987 for the MSX2 home computer in Japan and parts of Europe. Metal Gear was one of the first examples of the Stealth Action Genre. A port of Metal Gear was also released on the NES from Nintendo through Konami’s ‘Ultra Games’ division. Kojima was not involved in this version, and has open criticized some of the changes made.

His next project was the Graphic Adventure game ‘Snatcher’, released for NEC PC-8801 and MSX2 computer platform in Japan in1988. Influenced by Sci-fis like ‘The Terminetor’ and ‘Blade Runner’, the game is set in a post apocalyptic world and follows a detective fighting a group of cyborgs who kill their victims and then take their place in society. While Kojima and his team wrote the entire story of the game, but were forced to cut out the last act due to time restraints. The game was highly praised for how it pushed the boundaries of video game storytelling, cinematic cutscenes and mature content. It was also praised for its ‘novel like’ story line and its voiceovers comparable to a TV or radio show. However due to a Teen rating, the game only sold ‘a few thousand units’ in America.

In 1990 Kojima was involved in the production of 2 games: SD Snatcher and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. SD Snatcher follows the storyline of the original game, but changes the realistic art style to a more deformed style, and the battles into a turn based system that allowed you to target specific body parts. This has rarely been used since. Metal Gear further evolved the stealth action genre, allowing the player to crouch, crawl, distract guards by knocking and use radar to plan ahead.

The Cast From Metal Gear Solid 4

Konami originally created a sequel to Metal Gear without Kojima’s involvement. Whilst on a train home Kojima met with a colleague who worked on this version, Metal Gear: Snake’s Revenge. The colleague asked him to create a ‘true’ sequel, so Kojima created his version, Solid Snake. This game was only released on MSX2 in Japan, and was one of the last games Konami produced for this system. It was not released in Europe or Japan until it’s inclusion in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence in 2006.

It wasn’t until the release of Metal Gear Solid in 1998 for the Playstation that Kojima became a Celebrity in the games industry. Metal Gear Solid was the first in the Metal Gear series to use 3D graphics and voice acting. MGS was highly regarded for its well-designed gameplay and for its characters and storyline.

Over the next few years he worked on more Sequels to MGS. The Metal Gear series was critically acclaimed for its graphics and storyline throughout the series. Throughout this period he also released ‘Boktai: The Sun is In Your Hands’ and ‘Zone of the Enders’, both to moderate success.

Kojima wanted Snake for MGS to appear in Super Smash bros Melee, but due to development cycle problems Nintendo couldn’t do it. However, Kojima was drafted in to help write Snake into Super Smash Bros Brawl.

In 2008, Kojima received a lifetime achievement award at the MTV Game Awards in Germany. In his speech he said, in English, ‘I have to say, even though I have received this award, I will not retire. I will continue to create Games as long as I live.’

So there you are. Hideo Kojima has been cited by many different companies and magazines as one of the most influential and innovative Video Game Designers of all time. He is truly a legend, and deserves a place on our Gaming God throne.

Happy Gaming

Ryan.P

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