SUGOI JAPAN

Special Report 2016 Vol.06 Creating an all-new Entertainment Experienced by Connecting People Throughout the World and Technology

Creating an all-new Entertainment Experienced by Connecting People Throughout the World and Technology

-- 'DEATH STRANDING' Director/Game Creator Hideo Kojima Interview (Part 2)

Game creator Hideo Kojima is renowned for continually creating awe-inspiring video games. After his departure from his former company, he established Kojima Productions Co., Ltd., and immediately began work on a new PlayStation®4 game 'DEATH STRANDING' that is yet again poised to take the world by surprise. He is a man who surpasses the boundaries of game developers, and is often referred to as “Kantoku” or Director out of respect. If the objective of SUGOI JAPAN is to share awesome Japanese content abroad, then Kojima Kantoku - who has already won countless hearts all over the world - is the best creator to speak to. We asked him about his new game and what it’s like to be an artist who faces off with the world. All creators, and fans, pay close attention to what Kojima Kantoku has to say!

©Sony Interactive Entertainment America LLC.
DEATH STRANDING is a trademark of Sony Interactive Entertainment America LLC.

Humans evolve by playing. Connections can be made.
That’s why I will continue to play and take part in entertainment to my dying ay.

Challenging the massive global market without getting hung up on Japan

-- You haven’t created any games that are set in Japan. Is there a reason for this?

Kojima - It’s not that I don’t want to make Japan a setting. It’s just difficult to realize my vision with Japan as the setting If I want to make a game that includes themes like race, ethnicities, creeds and religion. It’s easier for me to use locations or countries outside of Japan, they’re a better match for my style.
However, I used to focus on making games for the Japanese market, but when the original PlayStation® came out, everything changed. America became the largest market, followed by Europe. The markets in Japan and the rest of Asia are rather small in comparison. As a result, I end up focusing on what Americans and Europeans want.

-- 'DEATH STRANDING' features Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen; two actors who are active in Hollywood. What kind of style do you intend to use in this game?

Kojima - There’s a massive global market waiting out there, so I want to take it head on and make them say “This is amazing! It’s great!”.
When I was a kid I remember watching 'Star Trek' on TV and being surprised, because even though it was made during the Cold War, the Enterprise bridge crew was comprised of various races; African American, Asia, even the extraterrestrial Spock. I was moved by the story of them working together to find other life in the universe. It portrayed a future without racial or other divisive conflicts, true globalization.
I believe that the modern Hollywood style is in some ways close to the Enterprise. Although there are surely many issues, people from all over the globe gather together to utilize the materials, methods and technology of Hollywood to make films. If they succeed, they’ll make more. If they don’t, they drop out. My friend Guillermo del Toro is Mexican. Mads, who stars in 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' and 'DEATH STRANDING', is from Denmark. So is Nicolas Winding Refn, the director who introduced Mads to me in the first place. They’re from different parts of the world, but they all grew up watching 'Godzilla' and other films from around the world. We’re able to communicate because we have a global view of entertainment. The only thing that differs between us is the language we speak, I truly believe that.
I often say “Our team is the Enterprise!”. Although this “Enterprise” may be funded by Japanese money or assembled in Japan, it’s merely our starting point. Japan is just the starting point, anyone from any country can join the crew. Where you’re from doesn’t matter, I want anyone who I can work with to bring my ideas to life to join. As I said in Part 1, we’re making the game engine with a Dutch studio, they’ve made a satellite office for KojiPro inside their office, and we’ll be travelling back and forth between studios. That’s the style that I want to take.

-- I see that you’ve met many people abroad, watched an unimaginable amount of films, and read an incredible number of books. What kinds of thoughts do you have about the COOL JAPAN concept?

Kojima - That’s a difficult question. Using food as an example, “sushi” is a food that is much loved and eaten throughout the globe, but the fact that it’s a dish local to Japan makes it special. People love it because it carries the genuine essence of Japan. It’s similar to Japanese films shown at small theaters abroad, where they are praised for their unique qualities. Hardcore fans and the media love their uniqueness, but much of the population has no interest in seeing these films. In Japan too, non-Hollywood films from Europe, Russia or even Asia show in small theaters, and only connect with a niche audience. That’s okay in its own right, but in an age where the world is connected online and traveling anywhere is possible in a matter of hours, I wonder if it’s the right choice to bring “local food” to a global competition.
So, how do we elevate sushi into a global context and make it a truly global food? One example of food that became global is the teriyaki burger. In this case, a local American food is transformed through Japanese context, and is valued as a global food. Hollywood is like having a Japanese chef working with foreign staff and ingredients to make Italian, French or American dishes. That’s my idea of true globalization. I’m currently working in Japan, but 'DEATH STRANDING' is for the global market. I’d prefer being a global chef over deriding myself as someone isolated in Japan.
Although François Roland Truffaut couldn’t speak English, I heard that he still became great friends with Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock. I don’t think there are many Japanese creators who have these kinds of connections. It’s simply not my way to be a hermit and only work with the people of my own country. I try hard to venture out and meet people and companies abroad, and everyone welcomes me. If you’re scared of making mistakes simply because you are an outsider, then this is not the job for you.

A “singularity” is close. Everything will be automated, and the only active thing left for humanity is to “play”

The Kojima Production Logo Movie. It shows the company mascot Ludens taking a step in an unexplored landscape.

-- “From Sapiens to Ludens”, this message from you is posted at the top of the Kojima Productions (hereinafter KojiPro) website. Can you share what this mission statement means for you?

Kojima - (Homo) Ludens means “people who play”. I believe that “playing” brings humanity to the next step of evolution.
With the KojiPro logo movie that shows Ludens walking on a barren surface in space, the intent is to show us like travelers on the Enterprise bringing “play” to new places, and building society on that foundation. I am a creator, so I am both both Ludens and Faber (maker). I want to encourage players to eventually become makers. I want to cultivate new creators whereby someone may think: “Hey, this game changed my life. Who made this? Oh, so it’s a guy called Kojima. I want to make something too." This is the kind of connection I want to work hard to achieve.
I can’t forget the sight of children playing outside on their portable gaming devices after their homes were destroyed by the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Having a means to play helped them confront and overcome their difficult situation. I think that’s what my job is. I can’t send tons of water or rice, but I can deliver something to play with.

-- How do you think video games will change moving forward? What possibilities do you foresee?

Kojima - I think that the gaming, film and service industries will merge, and become a larger part of our daily life, so the concept of setting aside time just to play a game may disappear. The true essence of “playing” will also become more accentuated. Impromptu actions will be the essential element of “play”. A world where almost everything is done through AI (artificial intelligence) will eventually come. There are already self-driving cars, lights and air conditioning will be automatically adjusted for individual preference, and if you get thirsty a drink will be at the ready. People won’t have to do anything for themselves. You’ll be able to go anywhere you want without worrying about running into trouble, and everything will be safe. Personal relationships may change too. A boy might be able to filter out hurtful words spoken from a girl he likes in order to protect himself, etc...
If all this happens, the only true active thing left to do is to play. You have to let your guard down to play with someone. Through playing, people can meet, connect, learn new things and experience things. Having a playmate opens a world of coincidences and adventures. That’s why I decided to play and entertain to my last breath.
I’m now 53. My limits as a game creator are only about ten years ahead, but I’m not thinking about how to prepare the next generation or anything like that. I’m only fixed on what I can accomplish in the next decade, and how I can utilize everyone I know [laughs]. But I’m sure there’ll be people who’ll still pursue me, and I’ll give them a chance because that’s the connection from Ludens (players) to Faber (makers).

Interview conducted at Shinagawa November 18th, 2016
Text by Sayuru Tokai (SCRIVA)
Photography by Toru Fujii
Translated by Tokyo Otaku Mode Inc.

PROFILE

Hideo Kojima

Born 1963 in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, raised in Osaka and Hyogo Prefecture.
Video game creator, CEO of Kojima Productions Co., Ltd. After entering Konami in 1986 as a game planner, Hideo Kojima released his directorial debut work, 'Metal Gear', which marked the beginning of the stealth action genre. In December 2015, he assembled Kojima Productions. At E3 2016, he announced his first independent project 'DEATH STRANDING'. He also recently entered the Hall of Fame at D.I.C.E. Summit 2016, which is considered the gaming Academy Awards, and was also granted with the Industry Icon award at The Game Awards 2016.

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