All direct quotes from Livedoor’s Hideo Kojima interview have been translated and paraphrased.
Hideo Kojima opened up about the games industry in Japan and a bit about his take on authorship.
Hideo Kojima comments on the lack of originality coming from the games industry in Japan and gives some more insight into his leave from Konami in 2015. In an interview conducted by Livedoor News, the infamously private game creator opens up on his thoughts about the current state of creativity in his country and his own personal growth through the gaming industry.
Kojima opens the interview with his definition of authorship and creativity. He believes that every person who creates maintains some sort of authorship, going on to state that what you feel and think will come out in your work. Also discussed are the differences between working alone versus working in a group, which is prominent in the game industry. He states that you have 100% purity as a creator when it’s you by yourself but not in group productions like movies, anime, or games.
Livedoor comments that it seems difficult for dozens, let alone hundreds of people to share the same creative direction and that appears that the original attributes of the production process are diminishing.
Kojima, agreeing, says that it is a problem that started a long time ago. A large-scale production needs workers.
“間口の広いものでないと、そもそも制作資金が調達できないのが現実ですから。” [The reality is that we cannot procure production funds unless we have a wide front.]
He indulges that some of the reasons for wanting to develop and produce games on his own were greatly tied to the lack of free creativity he experienced under Konami. Even as a creator, he was still an office worker and had no decision-making power over the people above him. Now he is finally free to do other things.
Hideo Kojima firmly believes that there will be a time soon when creators will have sole discretion over budgets, people, and the content of their work; it’s important to maintain authorship. Touching on the time spent working on Metal Gear Solid, he says that in terms of independence, (the development team) were just developing MGS and it took about two years before release. However, in terms of management, it needed to become profitable as quickly as possible.
Kojima thinks that the release rate of big titles will decrease in the future. Since platforms like Steam are becoming more mainstream, the method of continuous updates will be more productive than simply releasing one lengthy title every few years. Current high-selling games and Hollywood blockbusters take three to five years to release after planning which ties up the hands of the creative team. In addition to the budget being fixed, nothing else can be put out during that time. He believes it is an archaic work model.
Livedoor builds off of his views, commenting that it is basically the same model for social games: More data gets produced and added according to popularity. Kojima replies:
“コンシューマーでも加速していくと思います。だって隅々までプレイするのに50時間や100時間もかかるゲームを、一度にまとめてリリースする必要性が本当にありますか？” [I think that consumers will accelerate. After all, is there really a need to release a game that takes 50-100 hours to play all at once?]
In terms of Japan’s creative workforce, Hideo Kojima shares Livedoor’s sentiment that Japanese creators in both games and movies are struggling to develop original, creative characters. He states his concerns that if the industry continues to do business as they are doing now, Japanese movies and games will eventually cease.
With the release of Death Stranding in November 2019, Kojima definitely seems to be stepping away from the current Japanese business model. Kojima Productions’ first release was well-met (though, it did have its share of critical reviews, too) and surprisingly produced by a team of fewer than 100 people. Even with the small development team, Kojima expressed the goals of making the company even more minimalistic by creating a CG studio where creators can move in and out freely.
It may be better to have a system where staff gathers for each title, rather like anime production, he says. Going back to his previous sentiment on creativity, this would greatly help that feeling of lack of authorship over the work that creators put out for the gaming industry.
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There is still a level of input that goes into the creative process and Kojima believes that what you interact with directly affects what you create. Visiting museums, watching movies, and reading books help to develop new ideas and encourage fresh work. He says that his reasons for being so active and involved in game development are very different from the expression of creativity and the desire to express oneself. He states that he is a game creator and maybe he is helping someone somewhere. And that is his greatest motivation.
それに僕も56歳ですから、あとどれだけ作品をつくれるかわからないし、だったらオリジナルに力を注ぎたい。[I’m 56, I don’t know how much more I can make so I want to concentrate on the original.]
What do you think? Do you agree with Hideo Kojima? Disagree? Tell us below!