3. What is Hideo Kojima’s definition of a “spin-off”?
Much like how the discussion of Rising’s faults have plateaued at “general complaints about the over-the-top tone and Raiden being out of character”, discussion against the game’s canon status have largely flatlined at “Kojima refers to Rising as a ‘spin-off’, therefore it’s non-canon.”
The problem with this, is that “spin-off” is a very vague phrase that can apply to both canon and non-canon material. Detractors of the “spin-offs = non-canon” argument will point towards canon spin-offs such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Angel, or Stargate: Atlantis to debunk this idea.
However, when discussing Hideo Kojima’s view of Metal Gear Rising’s place in the canon, we must consider what his definition of what a “spin-off” is, in order to understand what he means when he refers to Metal Gear Rising as a “spin-off.”
When Peace Walker was first announced, Hideo Kojima declared that, even though the game was made for the PSP (and therefore was not officially numbered), the design elements and budget that went into the game would have made it worthy of the “MGS5” title (had the game been released on consoles.)
In the January 2010 issue of Official PlayStation Magazine, Kojima reaffired this position.
“Since it is on PSP, I did not officially number it. But the game design, story, number of staff and budget-you can say that this is a big project. It would’ve been number 5. It’s not a side story or a spin-off. It’s not like Portable Ops or Acid. I am deeply involved and this is the next Metal Gear.”
Notice how Kojima refers to Peace Walker as “not a side-story or a spin-off. It’s not like MPO or AC!D.”
Going by the respective placements of the phrases “side-story” and “MPO”, with “spin-off” and “AC!D”, we can assume that what Kojima means is;
Side-Story = Portable Ops
Spin-Off = AC!D
Kojima described Portable Ops as a “side-story.” At the time, the game was still listed in official timelines, and was considered canon, albeit not a main chapter (according to Sean Eyestone, at least.)
On the other hand, Kojima refers to AC!D as a “spin-off.” It’s a simply a fun game that doesn’t connect to the main Metal Gear timeline in any way, shape, or form.
I recall instances of AC!D being referred to as a “side-story”, however, this was back when MPO was considered part of the “main series.” Kojima’s position of MPO has changed since then, and has redefined the meaning of “side-story” in order to better describe MPO in relation to AC!D. As such, side-stories are canon (at least partially), but not necessarily main chapters. On the other hand, spin-offs (by Kojima’s definition) are simply fun offshoots with no bearing on the main Metal Gear storyline.
Infact, Kojima referred to Metal Gear SOLID: Rising as a “side-story” (02:02), before the project was revamped as a “spin-off.” So, like Portable Ops, MGS:Rising was going to be considered canon, but not a main chapter. It was essentially going to be Expanded Universe fluff (like MPO), but otherwise inoffensive (since its place in the timeline wouldn’t negate any important character arcs.)
On twitter, Kojima once again reiterated that Peace Walker is the real deal.
“PW is going to be released as a portable game, but it is a TRUE MGS game in the saga, not a spin off.”
In other words, Peace Walker is not a spin-off because it’s a TRUE part of the Saga.
In other other words, spin-offs are not a TRUE part of the Saga.
By random luck, I managed to find Kojima’s original Japanese tweet, and his wording was even more explicit; he uses the phrase “???”, which translates into “orthodox.” And a synonym for orthodox is… canonical!
So, Peace Walker isn’t a spin-off because it’s a CANON part of the Saga.
As in, spin-offs are not a CANON part of the Saga.
Now, here’s where things get interesting…
At 8:07 of this video, taken during an interview held at the University of Southern California in late 2011, Kojima explains his struggle with passing the torch to his team.
“[…] So, then, after MGS4, I started to really, seriously, think about this again. ‘Ok, how can I escape?’ So, that’s when I thought ‘Oh wait! If it’s a spin-off, then maybe there will be a little more flexibility and I can leave that to some younger staff.’ So that’s where Rising came into the picture. And I’m really trying to be hands-off with that and leaving that to the new team. But of course, I would also like to take the numbered series, the official CANON Metal Gear, and also hand that off to someone.”
Once again, we see Kojima using the phrase “spin-off” to refer to games that are not a part of “the numbered series, the official CANON Metal Gear.” Better yet, he’s speaking in relation to Rising!
Granted, this interview was conducted before Platinum’s Rising was announced at the VGAs (December 10th, 2011.) However, this interview was conducted only a few months before that announcement (October 5th, 2011), and long after the deal with Platinum was made (in early 2011.)
It doesn’t make any sense for Kojima to be referring to Metal Gear Solid: Rising (since that game has already been canceled at this point), especially since he referred to MGS:Rising as a “side-story.” (02:02) So he must be referring to the revamped, Platinum developed Meta Gear Rising: Revengeance.
The contrast between how Kojima promoted Peace Walker and Metal Gear Rising is very telling. In nearly every interview, Kojima insisted that Peace Walker was not a spin-off, but a true, worthy part of the Saga. On the other hand, Kojima insisted that Metal Gear Rising is a spin-off, and therefore everyone should just chill the fuck out over it.
“Because this is a spin-off, not a numbered game in the series that features Snake as a character, I wanted the team to be able to relax, I didn’t want to become to overbearing. I told Platinum to go ahead and make what you want to make and have fun with it.”
And even three years after the aforementioned USC interview, Kojima continues to lament his lack of sucess with passing the torch, claiming was Rising was sucessful… as a spin-off (not a TRUE part of the Saga/”numbered series, the official canon Metal Gear.”)
“I don’t know if the Metal Gear brand sometimes is a bit heavy to carry. The franchise is difficult to handle. But so far I’ve had no success [passing the torch]. Metal Gear Rising [Revengeance], fortunately that was a spin-off so that went well. Ideally I would like to step out from the Metal Gear franchise as a producer and dedicate myself to other games. So far that has proven to be a bit difficult.”
Metal Gear Rising went well because it was a spin-off (not a TRUE part of the Saga/”numbered series, the official canon Metal Gear.”) But Kojima still has difficulties with “[taking] the numbered series, the official canon Metal Gear, and hand that off to someone.”
For the record, I find the idea of enjoying Rising as a stupid, simple minded zombie killing spin-off, to be a perfectly respectable position. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t find some sadistic glee when I had to record footage for my video. As a mind-numbing action game with a silly story, Metal Gear Rising is awesome.
The problem arises when people try to argue that Rising is worthy of not being divided from the “A Hideo Kojima Games”, and a worthy part of the Metal Gear timeline, which my video addresses.
So yes, the people who argued that “Kojima says Rising is a spin-off, therefore it’s non-canon” were correct all along, since Kojima uses the word “spin-off” as a synonym for “non-canon.” Coupled with Kojima’s statements that Metal Gear Rising is a “parallel story”, the fact that, within Kojima, he divides games that are “A Hideo Kojima Games” from NOT-“A Hideo Kojima Games”, and MGR’s complete absence in the most recent timeline, I think the case against Rising’s place in the Metal Gear canon is pretty much settled.
Seriously, it’s the word of the creator of the series, and an official timeline, versus the word of some guy. Why should I take the word of some guy over the word of the creator of the series?
But what concerns me is whether or not the people who made that argument actually understood that this was Kojima’s personal definition of a spin-off. Did they know about all of the stuff I mentioned when they made their argument, or were they simply projecting their own personal definition of a “spin-off” onto Kojima?
If so, while they were accidentally correct, projecting their personal feelings onto Kojima ultimately makes them little better than the people who argue that “Kojima said Rising is a spin-off, and TV spin-offs are canon, therefore Rising is canon.”
We must be mindful of ourselves, and not project ourselves onto Hideo Kojima. I hate Rising, but I would never say that Kojima hates Rising. I would instead argue that he enjoys the game as a spin-off (not a TRUE part of the Saga/”numbered series, the official canon Metal Gear”), which is true.