Part III (MGS2: A Complete Breakdown)

PART IPART IIPART III - PART IVPART VPART VI - PART VII

{NOTE: Clips are best watched in Full Screen mode.}

Part three is a careful study of Metal Gear’s creator, Hideo Kojima.  More specifically, it’s a study of his motivations for betraying player expectations with Metal Gear Solid 2.  As confusing as it may seem, there is a logical explanation for it all.  (Here’s Part 1 and Part 2)

Hideo Kojima was born in Tokyo on August 24, 1963.  Over the course of his entire career as a game designer, he’s never experienced a major flop in his life.  He’s a business savvy, practical, and yet extremely philosophical man who’s become one of the most celebrated icons of digital entertainment.  He loves writing, telling stories, and finding ways to surprise his audience.  In other words, he’s an artist, not a money-grabbing entertainer.

The consensus opinion of Kojima isn’t so flattering, however.   The average discussion about Kojima–those which take place away from message boards devoted to his works–will inevitably paint him as a pretentious hack artist.  They’ll say his greatest strength lies in ripping off old Hollywood movies and remixing them, and that all the social commentary and philosophical nonsense is just decoration to make it feel classy.  If you take the games seriously, you’ll probably be mocked soon enough.  It is a cynical view, but it fits the profile of so many successful creators today, so why not?  Kojima admits to borrowing heavily from his favourite movies, and you can certainly see it if you know what to look for.  Sons of Liberty, in their estimation, simply failed to steal the right ideas from the right movies, and strayed too far from the formula for success.

If these people are correct, then there’s no room for a theory like mine; Kojima isn’t a genius who deserves artistic recognition, he’s just a slick salesman with a high school understanding of politics and philosophy.  If you think that’s true, then you’ll probably find the rest of this article increasingly ridiculous.  You’re also very stupid, but I can’t help that.
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Boy without a jacket

You see, there’s another side to Kojima that us Westerners don’t see very much.  Our “gaming journalists” are all egotistical fat nerds and scruffy frat boys who couldn’t care less about asking deep questions about hidden messages.  When they talk to Kojima, they ask about whether there’s going to be multiplayer in the next game so that they can shoot all their friends in the head and be more like Halo because Halo was so cool and Metal Gear is lame for not having multiplayer!  (*Deep breath*)  In other words, they are childlike imbeciles, excited every day just to be able to play videogames and write bullshit for money.  And the more they get paid to do nothing, the more entitled and obnoxious they become; bullying developers and artists around with their biased reviews and knee-jerk blog posts, imagining themselves to be the “true voice” of the world’s most coveted demographic.  An intellectual like Kojima doesn’t have many opportunities to show his true colors here.

But on his own online journal, it’s a different story.  No, I’m not talking about his frequently-upated Twitter account.  I’m talking about the old “HIDEOBLOG” site, where he made dozens of longwinded, fascinating entries about everything that came to mind.

Picking a random example, we see an entry from November 30th, 2005, some four years after the release of MGS2.  He begins the post by talking about a boy student he saw at a train station who wasn’t wearing a jacket.  He then goes into deep observation.  He notices that the boy seems to be hugging his backback for warmth, wonders why the boy would have forgotten his jacket, and begins to speculate.  Did he forget it at school?  Did he fight with his parents?  Did he even have parents?

The over-analysis of this random stranger continues as he admits to being “absorbed” by these thoughts.  He wonders if the child will survive winter, segueways it into the temperature of the Kojima Productions offices, and threads the theme of heat and cold throughout his whole day.  He compares an office meeting with his staff to a gathering of Army officers, while the comments on his blog are compared to the wasabi on his bento, and so on.  Kojima’s writing is packed with imagery, over-thinking, and personal reflection.  There’s no mistaking that Kojima is an extremely sensitive, thoughtful, and conscientious man.

Eventually, while reflecting on his game-development depression, he says the following:

“I missed the days when I simply created games. I asked myself how long this frigid, stiff life would continue.  And suddenly I remembered the morning’s boy.  I hadn’t realized it, but there’s a sense in which I didn’t have a jacket either.  Had he been my doppelganger?  A luminous shadow?  Had I seen a premonitory vision?

“KojiPro sweltered like a greenhouse, but I shivered with toothy chills.  I was too busy to update HIDEOBLOG before the end of the day.  I had written until 2 A.M. last night, but none of it was readable since I had been drinking.  I tried to make corrections to HIDEOBLOG while I ate a sandwich bento in the evening too.

“Everything seems meaningless.”

The post continues from there.  You don’t have to take my word for it: go to the Hideoblog archives and see for yourself.  Almost all of them are as philosophical and deep.  Kojima is a brilliant thinker, a deeply introspective soul, and a hard worker with a passion for finding a deeper meaning.  It’s insulting and just plain incorrect to imagine that he’s a typical shallow designer.  If he manages to turn a random kid at the train station into a metaphor for his own life’s frustrations, what about a project as ambitious and controversial as Metal Gear Solid 2?

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