In an interview with The Guardian, conducted during E3 2014 and published on July 18, Kojima discussed story themes and narration in games, as well as his role as both a producer and a creator.
The interview room at E3 2014
With Ground Zeroes, Kojima addressed US foreign policies, with Camp Omega being a representation of the controversial Guantanamo Bay. Kojima tries to question the US dominance and their role as the ‘good guys’ as it’s often presented in movies.
In the past the US was the centre of the world, where everything was happening. I think my stories have always sought to question this, maybe even criticize it. But the situation is changing. America is not seen as the centre of the world any more. So the focus of my stories is shifting alongside with that change in the real world.
“[Guantanamo] was definitely something that I made decision to address in the game. Hollywood continues to present the US army as being the good guys, always defeating the aliens or foreigners. I am trying to shift that focus. These movies might not be the only way to view current affairs. I am trying to present an alternate view in these games.
While MGSV will obviously be a very dark game, with heavy themes, but there will also be light hearted elements, as have always be the case with the series. Things like the famous cardboard box and the fulton recovery, for example. Including elements like these is a conscious choice by Kojima.
With a movie it’s probably easier to sustain intensity and seriousness over the 90-minute duration. But in an open-world game it becomes exhausting, demotivating and even uninteresting for the player. In order to avoid that fatigue, I try to interrupt that heaviness with visual jokes in the world, something to provide the player with some comic relief and change the mood dynamically.
Kojima first wanted to be a film maker, but now he sees the advantages of using games to tell his stories. They allow him to do things movies couldn’t.
I love movies but if I was to create a film I’d use different methods. I make games. That’s what I do. So I think about ways that I can use the game systems to reinforce my story, or do things that simply aren’t possible in other media.”
One of these means is the base building element present in The Phantom Pain. An interesting detail here is that Kojima seems to suggest the player will be given the choice if he wants to acquire a nuke or not.
The message is anti-nuclear weapons. But it’s not just about shouting that message at the player. Through the game, the player is motivated to make a base and build up their military centre. But at some point, when it reaches a certain size, the world begins to take notice and, in that sense, you become the threat. Countries begin to attack you.
At this point I give the player the option to think about acquiring a nuclear weapon, in order to deter these attacks, a kind of threat. It illustrates the cycle of nuclear weapons, what inspires people and nations to enter into that system. It’s something that you can only really do in video games.
Of course, there are also difficulties when telling a story in games, as opposed to movies.
In games it’s very difficult to portray complex human relationships. Likewise, in movies you often flit between action in various scenes. That’s very difficult to do in games, as you generally play a single character: if you switch, it breaks immersion. The fact that most games are first-person shooters today makes that clear. Stories in which the player doesn’t inhabit the main character are difficult for games to handle.
Even though Kojima has been developing games for over 25 years, his creative fire has far from died out. In that sense, not much has changed for him since he first started at Konami.
I agree that it’s far easier for me to get my plans approved these days. The company is much more willing to take risks on me and my ideas. But that might be the only thing.
That desire is pretty much the same as when I started out. The biggest difference might be that I now have the role of producer as well as director. I’m forced to think about the business side of things too. When I was just creating games, I didn’t even have to think about budgets. I didn’t care whether a game was a financial success or not.
Kojima once again emphasized that he feels it’s important to do as much as possible himself, to ensure the game will have a clear vision.
I try to do as much as possible myself. I develop the design and construction of the environments and I set the theme and topic from the game and work to ensure that it fits with the game systems. That all has to come from me as the vision holder.
To read the full interview by The Guardian, go here.