Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear Solid 4

kojima-mainHideo Kojima is a Japanese video game designer, writer and director, best known for the Metal Gear Solid series of games. He has headed Kojima Productions, a video game design company, since 2005, and was once the vice-president of Konami Digital Entertainment. As of this writing, he has recently left Konami and reformed Kojima Productions as an independent company.

Kojima experienced death at an early age, losing his father when he was 13 years old. As a result, he was often alone when he was young as his mother was away working, themes that have carried through into the Metal Gear Solid (MGS) series. He was initially intent on becoming an artist, writing short stories to magazines and later making short films with a friend and an 8mm camera. He eventually decided on a job in the new video game industry, after playing games on the Famicom (Original Japanese version of the NES) during his four-year study at university.

Kojima was eventually accepted into Konami in the 1980s, in the MSX home computer division, as a designer. His initial years were unremarkable, with his ideas being mostly rejected by the management (Such as the platformer Lost World, which was rejected in 1986), until he was asked by a senior associate to take over a project: the original Metal Gear game. The game was well received, and is one of the earliest examples of the Stealth Action genre. Kojima also headed the Snatcher project, which was praised for novel-quality writing, graphical quality and musical quality.

Konami had initially decided to make a sequel to the original Metal Gear game without Kojima’s involvement, but a staff member urged Kojima to make a “true” sequel to the game, which was released as Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, only in Japan, as Kojima’s last game for the MSX format. During the 1990s, Kojima headed several other well-received games, such as Policenauts; in 1998, he released Metal Gear Solid, the game that he became known for in the media. MGS was the first game of the series to include 3D graphics and voice acting, and was praised for an intelligent narrative and well-designed gameplay. Kojima was then directly involved in every MGS game, ending with MGS 5.

Metal Gear Solid 4:
MGS 4 is the sixth game in the Metal Gear Series, released in 2008 for the Playstation 3. The story concerns the future of warfare, set in the year 2014 (which was the near future in 2008). MGS 4 was designed and developed by Hideo Kojima and his production company, Kojima Productions, at the time a subsidiary of Konami.

The game shows a vision of the future where “war has become routine. The economy of the world relies on constant warfare, which is carried out by paramilitary corporations (PMCs, essentially mercenaries). The maxresdefaultfighting shown to the player (on the left) takes place in the Middle East, where most of the notable fighting was happening in 2008, and where most of the notable fighting was likely to happen in the real 2014, an example of the effort put in to make the future shown at least semi feasible. The soldiers are enhanced with nano-machines, their weapons rejecting anyone who doesn’t have them in their blood, as shown when the main character attempts to use one. This vision of the future is dark, with constant warfare and death from around two minutes in until the credits roll.

All of what is shown was potentially feasible for the near future in 2008. Warfare evidently would still happen, and multiple economies have relied on warfare in the past. Nano-machines are and were being actively researched for a number of applications; the vast majority of the field is still experimental, but some progress has been made, such as with the ‘single molecule car’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15637867) created by researchers in 2011. Transistors and other components required for a computer are also getting increasingly smaller, to the point that many of them are now smaller than a human blood cell, with one being made in 2015 that is a single molecule in size (http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-07/22/tiniest-processor-moores-law). Although the technology shown may have been far-fetched for 2014, Kojima had already established the technology of MGS in earlier games as being ahead of what we are capable of in reality, and needed to fit the game in with previous instalments. Firearms are being advertised that reject use by unauthorized users, but the systems rely on palm prints and RFID instead of nano machines in the user’s blood.

Metal Gear Solid 4 was well received by both critics and the public. It was given a perfect score by the gaming website GameSpot (http://www.gamespot.com/metal-gear-solid-4-guns-of-the-patriots/), with a Metacritic score of 94 % (Metacritic aggregates critical reviews from various publications). The narrative was highly praised in many reviews. Personally, I find Kojima’s vision of the future disturbingly close to reality; it is disquietingly easy to imagine a global economy reliant on civil war, and when nano machines are finally developed I have no doubt that the various military groups of the world will quickly find some way of killing people with them. Kojima worked on a single MGS game after the fourth, before leaving the license holders Konami in late 2015.

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