Originally published in German on www.welt.de, June 12th '08
by Thomas Lindemann
Welt Online: Your games are always quite progressive and guide through a complex storyline that often surprises the player. But what are video games at all? Are you telling stories like novels or movies?
Hideo Kojima: If I was sad as a child, naturally, I talked with friends. However, what shaped my experience even more, were movies and novels. Their characters gave me courage. So I always intended to give the user of my games something consistent as well. The telling and the creation of the world and the characters is most important for me.
Welt Online: Are video games art at all?
Hideo Kojima: Not really. Video games are something completely different from movies and novels because everything depends on the player as well. Novels reflect the ideas of the author, a game adds the freedom of the player. An artist can paint something and then say: this is no pipe. In a game however, a flower always has to be a flower to make the game world usable. A game developer has to comply with this.
Welt Online: This sounds a little too modest. Your games are considered outstanding and have many fans. There has to be something you are doing very well.
Hideo Kojima: A good game developer is similar to a good cook or sommelier. He surprises the users, offers them things they can be happy about. He toys with their tastes. Only in this sense can a video game be art.
Welt Online: In one part of your "Metal Gear Solid" series, a friendly character is suddenly possessed and controlled by evil, at one point. Violence does not help there, the player has to think of something else. How did you know that the allegedly dull game fans would accept that?
Hideo Kojima: At that time, it was 1998, the principle of games always was: There is only you and the hostile outside world. You could shoot at everything that moves. I disliked this style. I wanted that the players have to to think even in an action game, for instance, if the enemy is really an enemy.
Welt Online: Did one really have to think at that moment?
Hideo Kojima: In this scene you are referring to, Meryl, the hero's loyal companion, is suddenly used by the evil Psycho Mantis. Shortly before, she has said to the character controlled by the player, Snake: Shoot me, if I'll ever stand in your way. I wanted to ask the players: What are you going to do, if it really happens? I wanted them to think about their ethics.
Welt Online: The year 2008 is extremely successful for games, yours should once again be a millon seller. Why is there a breakthrough just now?
Hideo Kojima: The new consoles Xbox 360 and PS3 were released, it just took a while for the game developers to adapt to these new technologies. Now is the time. We are influenced by the technology. But we are also ready now, to instill it with our ideas. The gaming industry just made a leap, this is the year of its bloom.
Welt Online: The other big successes this year all came from North America. What is the specifically Japanese aspect in your games?
Hideo Kojima: When I turned on the TV as a child, there were drama-series, quiz-shows and movies from the USA, Europe or other parts of Asia. The same applied to novels. I grew up in a mixed culture. In my games, there are no Japanese characters. Neither are there in the novels I write for myself since my childhood. On the other hand, I am Japanese, never lived anywhere else and have been brought up typically Japanese. The Japanese essence in my work is this weird sense for an intercultural mixture.
Welt Online: Snake, the main character of your game, has committed acts of violence and now has to pay for it. Were you tired of the common insensitive gunslinger?
Hideo Kojima: Old Snake, who I created for this new game, also resembles myself. I am getting older as well. In my games, there is always a theme. The essential question of the saga is: What can we pass on to the next generation? The first part, for example, is about genes. This time it is about things one can not precisely label but has to pass on. For example, values of education. Whoever plays Snake only sees his back. He is supposed to think about what is behind Snake. He only has one year left to live, has to go on a mission, has to save the world, yet what it all means, the player has to guess for him.
Welt Online: This is the last part of your "Metal Gear Solid" series. Would you make a game completely without violence once, too?
Hideo Kojima: For me, the games I make are no violent games, even though many are likely to consider it a shooter. I only wanted to transfer the player into another world and generate a strong tension with it. That is why Snake has to be in war. But in actuality my game is supposed to be a hide and seek. If you are discovered you could be killed. I included it because hiding is boring otherwise. I will continue to look for ways to generate tension in the future. Not necessarily with violence. But it works well. Therefore it is so popular in video games.
Source: Welt Online - "Ein Spiele-Designer ist wie ein guter Koch"
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