Hideo Kojima on films vs. games and his favorite directors

One of the new and exciting additions to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year was the two-day series of panels at the E3 Coliseum. The Coliseum, hosted across the way from the Los Angeles Convention Center at The Novo, hosted numerous panels on Tuesday and Wednesday that featured folks from across the entertainment industry, including film director Ivan Reitman, Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon, and multi-talented celebrity Jack Black.

One of the final panels of two-day event included a conversation between Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima. Fans who entered in the hopes of learning something new about Kojima’s upcoming title Death Stranding eventually left disappointed, but they did walk away with some newfound knowledge about the films and cinema that influenced him during his youth.

Below are a few highlights from the hour-long conversation.

ON WHETHER HE HAS EVER WISHED THAT HE HAD WORKED ON FILMS INSTEAD OF VIDEO GAMES

“As a kid, I wanted to make movies because, as a kid, there were no games so I wanted to make movies. Unfortunately, in Japan, there was no environment to actually make movies. In a way, I turned to gaming because I couldn’t make my way into the movie industry. I almost never think what I would have been if I had made movies but, when I joined the games industry 30 years ago, it was impossible to make that comparison between games and movies because, as far as capacity of expression, movies were so far ahead. It makes me really happy to know that 30 years later after I joined the industry, games are finally reaching that level where you can express as much as movies can through games.

“Don’t get me wrong: I want to make movies! I would love to make movies but, also, I’m making games and making games is so hard! That’s what also makes it so fun…I think I could dedicate my life to doing this and I would never get bored. I also love movies too much that I think that I would start nitpicking all the details that I don’t think I would ever complete one.”

THE FOUR DIRECTORS HIS FATHER INTRODUCED HIM TO AND THE IMPACT THEIR WORK HAD ON HIM

“He was showing me movies before I could even make memories, before I was one year-old. My dad had his four favorite directors: Akira Kurosawa, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Charles Chaplin. He kept showing me the movies and explaining everything about the movies.

“At that time when I was a kid, you’d turn on the TV and you would see movies and shows from all over the world. Nowadays, you turn on the TV in Japan and it’s all Japanese shows but, back then, the TV was a way for me to see through the whole world. Movies were part of my consciousness. Movies and TV were almost like a part of the family. For me, movies taught me so many things, things about places that I’d never gone to, people that I’d never meet, things that I’d never be able to learn through my family or at school.

“As any other kid back then, I gravitated towards live-action movies like Godzilla, Ultraman, Ultra Seven, also stuff from Ray Harryhausen…anime and different TV shows like Masked Rider…also US shows like Little House On The Prairie, Columbo…all of this stuff was part of me!

Little House On The Prairie was a fantastic drama, don’t make a mistake! In this story of a family, the dad of that family was just impressive. I remember looking at that dad and thinking I want to be that type of father.”

THE DIRECTORS THAT HAVE MOST INFLUENCED HIM

“The movies that I found as a teenager are the first movies where I had that feeling that...I found it! The directors are John Carpenter and Martin Scorsese. They were not horror movies, they were not action movies, they were not dramatic movies, they had no genre! There were all these elements in one movie and that had a huge impact on me."

WHAT DRAWS HIM TO THE WORK OF A DIRECTOR

“Every different director has different characteristics. Some write the script, some have brilliant camera work, some just have fantastic characters, all directors keep changing their style from movie to movie so depending on which director I’m watching, I change the way I enjoy that movie.”

HOW THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DIRECTING A FILM AND DIRECTING A GAME ARE LIKE MAKING SUSHI

“Games are offering a service like making sushi or being a chef. It’s kind of like a chef of sushi who can see his own clients. A good chef of sushi has his clients sit at the counter, looks at them, they’re tired, they’re sweating, and depending on that, he adjusts what he prepares. There are people that have been there several times who know what stuff they like and what stuff they don’t like. That’s offering a service and it’s an art on its own.

"For us, we can kind of see our clients, who’s playing our stuff, so beforehand you have to think that these kinds of people will enjoy this kind of stuff, you have to think of all this and put it in. Alternatively, you have to make these characters in your mind and think of this kind of person that will enjoy this, this kind of player will do this and be surprised by this and you think of all this stuff beforehand and that’s how you make a game. That’s how this is all different than making a movie.”

THE MOVIE HE HAS SEEN THE MOST TIMES IN HIS LIFE

"One question people ask me is which is my favorite movie. I don’t like answering that question but it would be 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie is a very special movie to me. As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Back then, Japanese people weren’t allowed in NASA. In elementary school, I gave up on that dream. When I saw 2001, I had the feeling that I had been in space. Every year they do reruns of 2001 in the movie theaters so every year I go see it. For this movie, specifically, I don’t watch it on TV, I don’t have it on DVD or Blu-Ray, it’s a movie I must see in theaters.

“Also, Taxi Driver I’ve seen quite a lot. I probably watch it once a month or something. In Streets Of Fire, that scene where Diane Lane is singing, I watched that one scene everyday before I went to work."

A VIDEO GAME HE CONSIDERS TO HAVE TRANSCENDED THE GENRE

“There was this game called Outer World. Originally, I started getting interested in video games because of Super Mario and those games. Games back then, there were a set of rules and top of that, you made a game within that system, but Outer World completely ignored all of this. It had a fantastic, complete world. You didn’t even know what you were supposed to do. For me, it had an impact like 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had no idea how to get through this game and there was no internet back then so still to this day, I haven’t completed this game.

"Towards the middle of the game, you meet this alien you’re supposed to run away with, you’re always trying to figure out what it’s saying but it’s just running away from you. At some point, you get its help and you’re helping it and you just start loving this alien. Even to this day, I have no idea what is the alien’s name.”

HOW JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN INFLUENCED METAL GEAR

Metal Gear is all about stealth, not being spotted. That’s what I wanted to do. In MSX, we didn’t have this capability. It was an overhead view. The real scariest thing is how the character in Halloween is hiding in a locker. She’s hiding in this locker and you have very limited vision and, from there, it’s very limited information. She’s trying to figure out if the bogeyman is coming or not.

"Once I was able to make 3D quality games for the PlayStation, I was able to make this point of view! Metal Gear Solid is structured with three types of cameras. At that point, if you move that camera right or left, you lose too much information...but that doesn’t make it scary. That’s why I wanted to establish a first-person view when you are hiding in a box or a locker. You can only see the enemy’s feet, for example. I wanted to create that tension but that alone doesn’t make it scary. The other is the Texas Chainsaw camera or the 007 camera when you’re sticking to a wall and the camera changes to a new point of view. Right now, it’s much easier. You can move the camera anywhere you want.”


These transcriptions have been edited for clarity.