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Hideo Kojima Interview

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Play‘s sister magazine Retro Gamer has interviewed bespectacled gaming visionary Hideo Kojima in its latest issue. In it Kojima talks about his early games, the creation of the Metal Gear series and his aspirations as a film director. It’s really rather good. Here’s a sample of the interview, but to read the full article you’ll need to pick up a copy of Retro Gamer, on sale 9 October.

When did you first show interest in videogames? What games did you enjoy playing, what companies did you respect?

Well, I first had interest in filming… but could not be involved… I was facing frustrations at that time. But then there came the Famicom (NES), and I fell in love with Super Mario Brothers. Also, the Portopia Murder case was one of my favourites too. I really respected these creators, and also enjoyed playing these games a lot. But at the same time, I felt that this ‘videogames’ was a new media, a media with potential. I thought that “this industry was it!” and decided to join the company I am in today.

It’s said that you joined Konami with the intention of working in its arcade division. How did you feel when this didn’t happen?

Yes. At that time, the leading platform in videogames was the coin-op. You can use so many colours, and the most sophisticated graphics at that time. Followed by Famicom and then lastly came the MSX, in order of advance technology. I happened to be stationed in the MSX team, and that was really not my wish. I wanted to create things from scratch in the coin-ops, so from the PCBs and all. I had a dream that I can design the control system and the body of the machine… but with the MSX, none of this was possible!

You studied economics in college and originally had ambitions to be a film director. Why did you make the leap to videogames and how did your parents feel about this huge career change?

As I said that I felt that games was a new media, and I felt potential in that area too. If my father was alive back then, I am sure that he would have said “NO” for me to join a games company… all my friends and teachers said that I was crazy that I did not go work for a bank or some other ‘proper’ industry at that time. I have to say… my mother was the only person that understood and supported me on my decision to go to the game industry.

Tell us about your early days at Konami, is it true that you once felt like leaving because many of your ideas were ignored or overlooked? What gave you the motivation to carry on?

I was helping out on the basic plot ideas when I first joined the company. I was like a trainee back then. It was fun, but really tough. No one taught me what to do, I had no experience, and had no one to ask too. So I was struggling every day, and ended up tweaking a bit of the idea – and that project was Lost World. After six months, since our project seemed that it was going nowhere, the company decided to can it. So yes, I did feel like leaving when the whole project got canned. But at the same time, I felt embarrassed to leave after all my friends said “not to go to the game industry” when I joined. I also felt that before leaving, I need to at least finish a project.

After the disappointment of Lost World it must have felt very gratifying when the MSX version of Metal Gear then became a huge success for you.

Actually I had a really great mentor in the company back then. He found out that I failed in my first project, so he invited me out for dinner one night to cheer me up. He was a real great guy. He was one of the guys that helped convince the company to do Metal Gear later on…

What was it like trying to cram so many gaming ideas into such limited technology? Were there any tricks you employed in order to get the most out of the MSX2?

In the division I was in… there were also the coin-op and Famicon team working on those platforms. So, you can really see the difference in technology, right in front of you. Me, being in the lowest technology team, the MSX team, always had to compete with these teams in order to catch the eye. Imagine, you are making two different kinds of movies in one division. One is making a Hollywood blockbuster movie with all the 5.1 sound and all, and the other team is creating a B/W no sound movie! Yes, I was like this B/W movie team. So, I always thought about ideas not relying on technology, but ideas to compete with the Famicom and the coin-op team. An example is Big Core of Gradius. In the Famicom version, you can display the boss, Big Core across the screen. But in the MSX version, you had to make this much smaller. VRAM object technology idea was born like this too. You know, moving the background and faking as if it was flying in space.

The ‘idea thinking’ habit, I think that I owe to this division that I was in. Also, in this division, I had to know ‘everything’. Sound, program, compression… because when you have an idea, you have to pinpoint how this can be managed and give ideas on the technology side too. “Why not move this program smaller here and place it here… so that you have a little bit more space here…” This also helped me establish the ‘idea thinking’ habit!




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