Hideo Kojima - Biography
Hideo Kojima is a Japanese video game designer, director, producer and writer who is best known as the creator of the Metal Gear series. Initially Kojima wanted to become an artist, illustrator or filmmaker but was discouraged as the social norms in Japan in the early 1980s favored a stable salary job over creative pursuits. His father died when he was 13 years old leaving his family in a financial bind and his uncle who was an artist struggled to make a living influenced his decision to study economics in university instead of pursuing his creative passion.
While attending university he found himself playing video games during his free time. During his fourth year in university he decided to change direction and pursue a career in the video game industry, despite his initial ambition of becoming a film director. The majority of his peers felt strongly that Kojima was making a mistake pursuing a career in video games due to it being a new form of medium that was not as respected or financially secure. However, Kojima felt otherwise and thought a career in video games would be more satisfying.
Inspired by Yuji Horii’s 1983 adventure game “The Portopia Serial Murder Case” and Shigeru Miyamoto’s 1985 renowned platformer “Super Mario Bros”, he decided to apply for a job as a designer with Konami. He joined Konami’s MSX home computer division in 1986 as a designer and planner. His first assignment was Penguin Adventure, the sequel to Antarctic Adventure where he acted as the assistant designer. The first game he would develop from the ground up was “Lost Warld”, an action game with a story based on war. The title used a cross between war and world to help depict the game’s storyline. However, the game was ultimately rejected by Konami and Kojima was asked to take over a new project called “Metal Gear”, from a senior associate.
Metal Gear was intended to be an action game that featured modern military combat but due to hardware limitations of the MSX2 Kojima felt that the performance of the combat gameplay was hindered by the limited number of on-screen bullets and enemies the system could handle. Inspired by The Great Escape, he revised the focus of the gameplay from an action paced shooting experience to a stealth based mechanic with the goal to avoid capture. The game released in 1987 for the MSX2 home computer in Japan and parts of Europe.
His next project allowed him to incorporate story elements that created a unique film like experience for the player, something Kojima would continue to implement in his games going forward. Kojima and character designer Tomiharu Kinoshita treated the project like making a movie or anime rather than a video game as they sought to create a cinematic experience for the player. Released for the NEC PC-8801 and MSX2 computer platforms Snatcher was a graphic adventure game influenced by cyberpunk science fiction works such as Blade Runner and The Terminator. Set in a post-apocalyptic world and centered around an amnesiac detective who faces a race of cyborgs that kill their victims, copy their likeness and assume their place in society. Although the game was praised upon release for pushing the boundaries of video game storytelling, cinematic cut scenes and mature content it was not a commercial success. Several ports were made adding additional chapters and features and the game was localized to North America for the Sega CD. The game continues to have a cult following and in retrospect has been acclaimed as one of the best adventure games of all time.
In 1990, Kojima developed a sequel to Metal Gear for the MSX2 after his dissatisfaction with Snake’s Revenge. A port of Metal Gear was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System which Kojima was not directly involved with and openly criticized some of the changes made to the game in the porting process such as poor translation and the absence of the ending boss fight with the nuclear tank weapon known as Metal Gear. Due to the success of the port for the Nintendo Entertainment System Konami decided to create a sequel to the game. The sequel, Snake’s Revenge was created without the involvement of Kojima and as a result of his displeasure with the game he began plans for his own sequel titled: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The game was released exclusively in Japan for the MSX2 and further evolved the stealth elements found in the original game by adding additional features such as crouching, crawling into hiding spots and air ducts, distracting guards by knocking on surfaces and using a radar to plan ahead. Along with the new stealth elements improvements to the enemy’s artificial intelligence (AI) were incorporated by adding a 45-degree field of vision, the detection of various noises and being able to move from screen to screen.
In 1994, Kojima released Policenauts, a film noir-science fiction-themed adventure game set in a space colony, for the NEC PC-9821. Kojima oversaw the subsequent ports released for the 3DO in 1995, the PlayStation and Saturn in 1996, which all featured animated cutscenes that were not in the PC-98 release. Kojima began development on a 3D sequel to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in 1994. Originally planned in 1994 for release on the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, however after the 3DO was discontinued, development shifted to the Sony PlayStation. Development for the game began in mid-1995 with the goal in mind to make it as accurate and realistic as possible while making the game enjoyable and tense.
Konami invested heavily in the title by backing it with an $8 million promotional campaign which included television, magazine advertisements, in-store demonstrations and a demo giveaway with an estimated 12 million demo disc for the game being distributed in 1998. Metal Gear Solid was critically acclaimed upon release and was regarded as one of the greatest and most influential games at the time. It would go on to sell over six million units and helped popularize the stealth genre and in-engine cinematic cutscenes.
The success of Metal Gear Solid spawned the creation of numerous sequels and spinoffs, creating one of the most successful video game franchises. Konami would appoint Kojima to the series for the following two decades. Kojima wrote, designed, directed and produced Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for the PlayStation 2. After the completion of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Kojima founded Kojima Productions in 2005. Kojima Productions was a development studio controlled by Konami and established as a subsidiary of Konami.
The studio had around 100 employees in 2005 while they where developing multiple Metal Gear spinoff titles such as Metal Gear Acid 2, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus. The studio quickly grew to over 200 for the development of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PlayStation 3 and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain for the PlayStation 4.
In August 2014, PT was released on the PlayStation Store revealing that a new game in the Silent Hill franchise was under development and being directed by Kojima alongside Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro for the PlayStation 4. In April 2015, the playable teaser was removed from the PlayStation store and the game was cancelled. Kojima and Konami’s vision for game development drifted in different directions and Kojima revealed that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain would be his final Metal Gear game and that he would be departing from Konami after its completion.
On December 16, 2015 Kojima Productions split from Konami, reforming the company as an independent development studio in Shinagawa, Japan. The newly reformed company quickly established a partnership with Sony Computer Entertainment to develop a new intellectual property (IP) for the PlayStation 4. During Sony’s 2016 E3 press conference the studio revealed a trailer for Death Stranding. Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment the game released as a console exclusive in 2019 for the PlayStation 4 and a PC version was released by 505 Games for Windows based computers.