Hideo Kojima Isn't Trying to Tell a Story

Hideo Kojima Isn't Trying to Tell a Story

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One of gaming's most prolific writers has a (somewhat puzzling) opinion on storytelling.

Games strike a delicate balance between story and action. The more freedom the player has to interact with the world, the less structure the designers can place on the narrative. Drop the player into a cutscene and you have free reign to tell a tight story, at the cost of completely sacrificing gameplay. Whether or not that trade-off is worth it is up to the designers, but lately many have been leaning towards interactivity - including Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima.

Yes, that Hideo Kojima. The man behind Metal Gear Solid 4, which holds the world record for longest cutscene sequence (clocking in at a whopping 71 straight minutes). The man critically acclaimed for weaving an intricate, generation-spanning saga, one cinematic at a time. It seems the old adage of "do as I say, not as I do" was in full effect as Kojima sat down for an interview as part of the Critical Path Project.

"It's very difficult to implement a storyline into an interactive game," Kojima admitted. "I actually think we shouldn't do that. I am not trying to tell a story."

Kojima's philosophy is based on the immersive nature of games and their capability to put the player directly into the action. "You are inside a story, an environment, and acting as a certain character," he said. "And what that character is feeling inside that environment is what I want the players to feel as they play the game. You don't need an elaborate storyline for that."

This focus on immersing the player in gameplay doesn't mean that Kojima's twisting narrative is wasted - it's just more of a spice than the main course. "Within that environment I want the players to not only have a fun and exhilarating experience, but also think about many different things. That's my concept."

As hard as it is to believe that a series like Metal Gear Solid isn't just an excuse to tell a story, Kojima's ideas do have some merit. The games have always been less about grand political intrigue and more about the experiences of an old soldier caught up in the middle of everything. That's arguably more of a story in its own right, though, so take his advice with a grain of salt.

Source: Critical Path Project

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Actually it's all about nuance: Hideo Kojima IS telling a story with his games, he just isn't trying.

Going just by the title: THEN WHY IS THERE SO DAMN MUCH OF IT?!?!
That's like a beer factory saying that they aren't trying to sell any booze.

No, I think he really isn't telling a story. The drivel that was MGS4 hardly constitutes a story. Take the gameplay out and you have the worst movie ever made.

It's actually not surprising that Kojima thinks the right way to make games is to do it without heavy handed cutscenes. After all, both MGS2 and 4 - the two most notorious games in the series for cutscenes - were his attempts to kill the series. MGS2 is effectively one huge experiment designed to anger fans of MGS1, and MGS4 tried so very hard to end everything. It only makes sense that he'd use what he considers bad game making to aid his attempt at ending the franchise. The problem he faces is that people like me loved those games, and then he keeps letting the pressure get to him to make another.

You know, I'd be disappointed if Kojima didn't have some sort of convoluted, ass-backward outlook on his own games, quite frankly.

Truly-A-Lie:
MGS2 is effectively one huge experiment designed to anger fans of MGS1.

I'm actually quite fond of MGS2. It's more like the kind of affection you'd have for a retarded cousin, borne from a mixture of embarrassment and sympathy...but a fondness nonetheless.

Double post... nothing to see here.

I'm not sure what Kojima is trying to say, but for me games like Demon's/Dark Souls delivered perfectly in this regard, by letting the game's world speak for itself and without a narrator (no matter how invisible) who, well, narrates the story for us.
And that's what makes the story so personal, so relatable. Because we're asked to be the judges of the events: it's not just about moral choices, it's about defining WHAT happened in the first place. Those games do well in showing an adventure as it's seen by the very adventurer's eyes: scraps of contradicting lore in a quest for truth.
When the protagonist is supposed to be me, I find it more stimulating if the game suggests, rather than tell, my world. It's my story, after all.

Proverbial Jon:

Truly-A-Lie:
MGS2 is effectively one huge experiment designed to anger fans of MGS1.

I'm actually quite fond of MGS2. It's more like the kind of affection you'd have for a retarded cousin, borne from a mixture of embarrassment and sympathy...but a fondness nonetheless.

I actually love MGS2. It's very clever in what it does, which is basically trolling. It uses the expectations of fans and turns them on their heads, making you want one thing and giving you another. Most obviously "I wanna be a badass soldier like Snake!" being met with Raiden, someone who ends a boss fight by giving up in cutscene. It's brilliant in a twisted way.

http://www.deltaheadtranslation.com/MGS2/DOTM_TOC.htm
This analysis explains it far better than I can. I always loved MGS2, but after reading this I had a real respect for it as a work of mad genius.

OK, now even -developers- are trolls?? >_>

I don't know who got the courage to play MGS4, I heard that game has 9 hours of cutscenes. And I bet the story is stupid and overplayed. Nothing about it seems appealing to me.

Would like to try the gameplay though, I tried the 3DS demo for a Metal Gear Solid and it was just ok.

I'm scared of what would happen if he was trying to tell a story.

Well this actually makes sense. I find he makes some of the most immersive games that aren't open world RPGs (which I find to be the most immersive generally). Dispite having long cutscenes, the games make you feel like you're IN the story rather than WATCHING far better than games with less cutscene time.

Or a more logical conclusion:
Hideo Kojima is just batshit crazy...

Thinking about it...

I really enjoyed what Kojima did with MGS 4. I thought it was a great wrap up for the series. I had very few problems with the story. I'm excited for his next project.

The Last Nomad:

Or a more logical conclusion:
Hideo Kojima is just batshit crazy...

I'm willing to bet this is it.

Not that I think that's a bad thing. If it's got Kojima's name on it, I've likely bought it and enjoyed the hell out of it.

yankeefan19:
I'm scared of what would happen if he was trying to tell a story.

Existence would rend itself attempting to contain the glory of such a creation.

Or the abomination. Either way.

EDIT:

Oh yeah, and how is it that after years of that picture of Kojima being used for nearly every Kojima-related story, it has yet to get old?

Lord Beautiful:

The Last Nomad:

Or a more logical conclusion:
Hideo Kojima is just batshit crazy...

I'm willing to bet this is it.

Not that I think that's a bad thing. If it's got Kojima's name on it, I've likely bought it and enjoyed the hell out of it.

Its a good thing if anything, insanity breeds the best art.

Truly-A-Lie:

http://www.deltaheadtranslation.com/MGS2/DOTM_TOC.htm

Thanks for the link. That was a pretty damn good read.

Not only does it make me appreciate MGS2 even more, one of the things it mentions makes the idea of Solid Snake leading MGS5 make more sense.

Lord Beautiful:

Truly-A-Lie:

http://www.deltaheadtranslation.com/MGS2/DOTM_TOC.htm

Thanks for the link. That was a pretty damn good read.

Not only does it make me appreciate MGS2 even more, one of the things it mentions makes the idea of Solid Snake leading MGS5 make more sense.

Which part? It's been a while since I've read it all. Anything that can make MGS5 more appealing sounds interesting, as I'm currently of the mind that 4 and Peace Walker wrapped everything up nicely.

Truly-A-Lie:

Lord Beautiful:

Truly-A-Lie:

http://www.deltaheadtranslation.com/MGS2/DOTM_TOC.htm

Thanks for the link. That was a pretty damn good read.

Not only does it make me appreciate MGS2 even more, one of the things it mentions makes the idea of Solid Snake leading MGS5 make more sense.

Which part? It's been a while since I've read it all. Anything that can make MGS5 more appealing sounds interesting, as I'm currently of the mind that 4 and Peace Walker wrapped everything up nicely.

That bit about Snake being unable to live with Meryl after Shadow Moses due to excessive drinking and general not-goodness. He didn't really get his life "on track" again until he joined Philanthropy.

Assuming I'm remembering that from the essay correctly, and assuming it's true, there seems to be only one logical conclusion: Snake and peace don't mix.

There's definitely going to be shit going down after Metal Gear Solid 4's ending, and considering Snake may not take to the quiet life very well (unless he decides to raise huskies again and stay away from civilization), he could very well go back to war.

And considering the technology, they may go so far as to give him a new body. Or a clone. Or something. It's Metal Gear, so it's not out of the question for them to pull something like that out their asses.

Lord Beautiful:
That bit about Snake being unable to live with Meryl after Shadow Moses due to excessive drinking and general not-goodness. He didn't really get his life "on track" again until he joined Philanthropy.

Assuming I'm remembering that from the essay correctly, and assuming it's true, there seems to be only one logical conclusion: Snake and peace don't mix.

There's definitely going to be shit going down after Metal Gear Solid 4's ending, and considering Snake may not take to the quiet life very well (unless he decides to raise huskies again and stay away from civilization), he could very well go back to war.

And considering the technology, they may go so far as to give him a new body. Or a clone. Or something. It's Metal Gear, so it's not out of the question for them to pull something like that out their asses.

Oh of course. While I do hope they have the guts to legitimately kill him off, I know that Metal Gear characters staying dead is about as likely as Kojima actually managing to leave the series alone for good. At least Snake returning to the battlefield makes sense though I suppose.

Cognimancer:

Drop the player into a cutscene and you have free reign to tell a tight story, at the cost of completely sacrificing gameplay

I have to call BS here. Yes many games give up gameplay for story but thats not always true. What about a game like Jak 2? Cutscence heavy but its game play mechanics help it tell the story. Or at least the missions do. I mean you are in a resistance fighting an overwhelmingly strong army. So missions like destroying [spoilers] the walking bombs or the upgraged Helicats [/spoilers] were you are facing down tough foes are adding to the core game. And then there is one on rails section that everyone who has played Jax 2 knows and knows how tough that can be. That sure makes you feel like a lone resistance fighter against an army. Its a game where the story and the gameplay combine to make a great combined experience. At least IMHO.

Truly-A-Lie:
Peace Walker wrapped everything up nicely.

4 wrapped everything up, Peace Walker only showed more layers of what went went down in the past that would transpire to the later games.

Big Boss' story though isn't over yet.

In regards of what's next for Metal Gear after Solid 4 (chronologically...unless they reboot it), I think fans don't mind a new direction of narrative...well, do they?

Considering that Hideo Kojima is one of the worst storytellers I have ever encountered I'd greatly appreciate if he'd stop trying to tell a story. Because it's pretty excruciating when he does...

BBboy20:

Truly-A-Lie:
Peace Walker wrapped everything up nicely.

4 wrapped everything up, Peace Walker only showed more layers of what went went down in the past that would transpire to the later games.

Big Boss' story though isn't over yet.

In regards of what's next for Metal Gear after Solid 4 (chronologically...unless they reboot it), I think fans don't mind a new direction of narrative...well, do they?

Yeah I meant 4 and Peace Walker together wrapped everything up. 4 closed off all the characters stories, while Peace Walker showed the transformation of Naked Snake into Big Boss, leader of Outer Heaven. I don't think there's anything else that needs to be told. The only other thing that hasn't been done on screen is Big Boss returning to America to resume command of Foxhound, and that's pretty much just backstory, it doesn't need a game to itself. The entire cast of characters has finished their arcs, which leaves two options. First, you could add a new story on the end for some of those characters, which undoes the closure they had at the end of MGS4, or you could make a whole new cast of characters, in which case it would make more sense to just make a new series.

Truly-A-Lie:

Oh of course. While I do hope they have the guts to legitimately kill him off, I know that Metal Gear characters staying dead is about as likely as Kojima actually managing to leave the series alone for good. At least Snake returning to the battlefield makes sense though I suppose.

Also, if Kojima continues the pattern set by previous even and odd-numbered MGSs, 5 might drop the player hatred and just focus on being awesome.

CrazyBlaze:

Cognimancer:

Drop the player into a cutscene and you have free reign to tell a tight story, at the cost of completely sacrificing gameplay

I have to call BS here. Yes many games give up gameplay for story but thats not always true. What about a game like Jak 2? Cutscence heavy but its game play mechanics help it tell the story. Or at least the missions do. I mean you are in a resistance fighting an overwhelmingly strong army. So missions like destroying [spoilers] the walking bombs or the upgraged Helicats [/spoilers] were you are facing down tough foes are adding to the core game. And then there is one on rails section that everyone who has played Jax 2 knows and knows how tough that can be. That sure makes you feel like a lone resistance fighter against an army. Its a game where the story and the gameplay combine to make a great combined experience. At least IMHO.

I agree completely there, the Jak games had good cutscenes but didn't rely on them completely; the gameplay and setting reinforced the story. What I meant was that while the player is in a cutscene, they're watching a movie, not playing a game. Of course cutscenes, if done well, can greatly enrich a game's story in a way that the player might not appreciate if they were still in control of the character (in a cutscene you know they won't be looking the wrong way and miss something, or do something silly that undermines the drama), but leaning on them too heavily makes them more of a crutch.

 

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