The Hideo Kojima interview: Metal Gear, Rising, Project Ogre and “ending it all”

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Yes, Snake – protagonist in Metal Gear Solid, PlayStation’s most acclaimed series – was supposed to die in MGS4. It’s quite the bold statement to make about one of gaming’s most beloved characters. And his creator, Hideo Kojima, follows it up with something even bolder: “Actually, I wanted to end it at every step along the way.” (Find out more about what Kojima thinks of his series starting with his thoughts on MGS1.)

Wow. If we’d made something so revered and successful the world over, we’d ride it into the ground, license a spin-off animated series and go around wearing branded clothing every day. Or at the very least have it as our Facebook profile picture. But not Kojima. The guiding mind behind MGS has wanted to off his leading man for nearly a decade and a half.

We’re in Konami’s HQ in Tokyo Midtown, and have been given unprecedented access to one of the most respected games developers working today. The building itself is strangely modern and ultra-neat in a sort of stereotype-conforming way, but there’s nothing reserved about our time with Kojima: everything past and present – and just a tantalising hint of the future – is up for discussion.

Hideo Kojima interview

First, there’s the whole ‘killing Snake’ thing to clarify. Having been so keen to hide his leading man in a box permanently, what stopped him? “In Guns Of The Patriots he was supposed to die, but everyone on the staff really wanted to keep him alive, so I caved a little,” says Kojima.

It’s not the kind of statement you expect from a man famed for his auteur style of game-making and forthright ideas. But uncovering just a little about the person behind the games reveals someone who’s more keen to please than you’d imagine – sometimes to the detriment of his own creativity. “I did have the feeling that I wanted to end the series, but looking back at it now as a producer, I think as long as people want to keep on playing it, I want to keep on meeting that demand, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing. But as a creator, I would rather pass it off to someone else.”

Solid Snake The creator/producer divide is one that comes up repeatedly during our conversation – there’s a clear compartmentalising of his roles when it comes to games development. On the one hand he’s the brilliant mind that came up with mechanics never before seen in videogames – such as the now legendary controller-swapping battle with Psycho Mantis in the first MGS – and on the other he’s a man who’s something of a slave to his own success. And it’s clear, as our time together goes on, which part he prefers to play: “I have a lot of other things that I want to do.”

But – although you might not know it from the stories he weaves about DNA-splicing and undead soldiers with superpowers – there’s a realism underlying Kojima’s creations. “I’m a creator at heart, but at the same time I also have to manage the business aspect of it, figure out how to sell the game. I’m still trying to find that balance – it’s very delicate. How do you put in enough to make sure it sells, while remaining true to your vision?” There’s a sense of loyalty to his long-term employer – Kojima has worked for or with Konami for his entire career – and also to a seriously dedicated fanbase.

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