Yoji Shinkawa: working with real actors is easier for me

Yoji Shinkawa, concept artist behind most of the Metal Gear games and currently working on Death Stranding with Hideo Kojima, visited Monaco recently to attend MAGIC 2018, a convention about video games, comics and animation. While he was there, he was interviewed by French website Gameblog about his work. Note: his answers have been translated from French.

First of all Shinkawa was asked why he thinks his collaboration with Kojima, that has been going on for many years, works so well. He answered that he does not know exactly, but that perhaps it could be because they like the same things, mentioning the movie Blade Runner as an example.

Has working together on Death Stranding been different from working on Metal Gear Solid? No, says Shinkawa. “In all the games we work on, we do things quite naturally, we do the things we want to do. For example with Metal Gear Solid 1, we did not say “we will sell a lot” it happened naturally. The main thing is that we create games that we would like to play and we create worlds that we like.”

With Death Stranding, they are working with real actors who will lend their appearances to the various characters in the game, such as Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen. How does this impact Shinkawa’s work? “In fact, working with real actors is easier for me. I start by meeting the actors and thanks to that, I can get an idea of the kind of person they are and the kind of characters they will be. After that, I go and create the whole vision of the character, wether it’s his clothes or everything that goes with him. For me, it makes things a little easier.”

In the interview, Shinkawa was also asked which of the Metal Gear games he has the best memories working on. His answer was Metal Gear Solid 3, because it was both very interesting to create and a lot of fun to play. What made it interesting to create for him? “First of all, it was a very simple story to understand. The game evoked many themes but they were all very interesting and easy to understand, such as the context of the Cold War between the Americans and the Soviets. And aside from that, there was also the espionage side. I really like the action-espionage side.”

His favorite character that he designed is Gray Fox. “He is a tragic character with a tragic story. In addition, he sacrifices himself to help Solid Snake, which is something very Japanese. And aside from that, there is the design side of the character that I like.”

When he is designing characters, does he get very specific and detailed information about them, or just some vague concepts  to work with? Shinkawa says it depends, sometimes he gets very detailed information, and other times just a few key words. Between the two, he prefers to get just a keyword, but this can also make his job difficult because he has to guess what the director wants exactly, and what he means by this word.

Shinkawa was also asked what he though of Metal Gear Survive, from an aesthetic and design point of view, but he replied, laughing: “No comment.”

For Shinkawa, it’s very moving to see his 2D characters come to life in 3D on the screen. Sometimes it happens that it does not correspond to the image he had in his head, but Shinkawa doesn’t mind. “Since we all do team work, the result may also be better than what I had in mind.”

Lastly, if there is any thing he could work on, free of choice, what would he like to draw? Shinkawa, laughing, answered: “I can not think of anything but robots.”

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