A Hideo Kojima Article
Coinciding with the release of Death Stranding, Taylor-William Hill makes a case for the existence of gaming auteurs.
The term ‘auteur’ can often be problematic. There’s no denying the term’s innate drawing power in enticing a recurring fanbase. Still, the work of an auteur can often alienate those unfamiliar with their work from the beginning of their first project. This isn’t always the case, with auteurs in the film industry such as Tarantino and Fincher carrying a lot of pulling power off their names alone, functioning as a driving force when marketing a project. On the other hand, there can be auteurs in the industry whose works can be seen as self-indulgent and not as easily accessible. Using film as an example once again, the names of auteurs such as Lars Von Trier and Michael Haneke alone could dissuade the consumer from experiencing the piece of art that’s taken a lot of time and effort to produce.
This is a massive shame because, despite the art or promotion having the director’s name aggressively plastered everywhere (an absolute staple with Kojima games at this point), it’s still a collaborative project. Whether it be a film, videogame or TV show; the term auteur can often enough disregard all-else attributed to the project in question. Triple-A videogames aren’t made solely by one person; hundreds of coders work in tandem with other crew members working on character designs, music design and various different aspects. At this point, it’s challenging to separate Hideo Kojima’s name when discussing his work.
Still, it [multiplayer] too often takes precedence over a strong narrative, thus alienating audiences that much prefer gaming to be an immersive, individual experience rather than a fast-paced battle royale.
In spite of this, I would argue that the world needs auteurs – particularly gaming auteurs. While the question of how much praise they solely get for a project remains contested, their role in creating something niche and characteristic of their often-overbearing vision is what separates the Assassins Creeds from the Metal Gear Solids. Particularly in a gaming era that’s largely been dominated by open-world games with maps that are unnecessarily large, padded with laboriously boring collectables and optional multiplayer modes which tend to be the focal point of the project in the first place. Multiplayer isn’t a bad thing by any means. Still, it too often takes precedence over a strong narrative, thus alienating audiences that much prefer gaming to be an immersive, individual experience rather than a fast-paced battle royale.
Kojima’s writing for the Metal Gear series was ambitious and often dumbfounding; it is not uncommon to see the term ‘signature style’ used when discussing his work. Although what makes a game ‘Kojima-esque’ the same concept that makes a film ‘Tarantino-esque’ or Kubrickian? Could Kojima’s signature style be a testament to the frequent breaking of the fourth wall? A case for this would be original Metal Gear Solid, where the player must progress by changing the console’s internal clock or entering a codec which can be found on the back of the game’s box, by command of the in-game characters. Kojima claims to have everything exclusively in his mind (main plot, characters and their backstory) while developing a game. There is nothing to prove this otherwise; although, some of Kojima’s staff have gone on record to say they have had input in crucial stages of development. In one instance, the characters of Solid Snake and Otacon were to be killed off in Metal Gear Solid 4, but Kojima withdrew this ending once consulted by his team who were unsure by the notion.
While Metal Gear Solid and Zelda’s narratives are irrefutably contrary from another, it’s possible that neither game series would exist in the same vein without Kojima and Miyamoto’s game and design philosophies respectively.
Though I would say Kojima is one of the earliest examples of a gaming auteur, I wouldn’t claim he was the first. Shigeru Miyamoto is inseparable when thinking of Mario and Zelda; his style is often characterised by being a lot more playful and spirited. While Metal Gear Solid and Zelda’s narratives are irrefutably contrary from another, it’s possible that neither game series would exist in the same vein without Kojima and Miyamoto’s game and design philosophies respectively. While this is, of course, subjective, I argue that Miyamoto is a gaming auteur that predates Kojima. While the works of Miyamoto aren’t as mature in themes and as sophisticated in the narrative structure; the themes, aesthetic and zaniness attributed to Nintendo’s work exist plausibly due to Miyamoto’s robust creative vision.
Similarly, to how Kojima went on record saying he coined the term ‘Tactical Espionage Action’ as a genre of his own invention; he has since defined Death Stranding, his upcoming project which has been long in the making, as a ‘Social Strand Game’. What does this mean? Who knows? What’s essential is that Kojima has now laid claimant to this term and I’m sure he will inevitably franchise it, should Death Stranding be a riveting success.