Hideo Kojima wants people to connect. This is not only an issue in his latest game, Death Stranding, but also a big part of his marketing platform. The famous game designer wants to meet people all over the world and recently toured like a rock star.
Hundreds of fans in different cities lined up to meet him on stops for the Death Stranding World Tour, like in Singapore, where hundreds waited patiently in the scorching heat. A fan said they started at 3 a.m. Several participants came from regional countries – a Deadman cosplayer from Malaysia, a group of friends from the Philippines. This was a rare pilgrimage for fans and an opportunity to track down their idol. At the main event, a panel discussion and a photo session, 600 people came to the historic Victoria Theater.
This immense machine is powered by a small army – various groups of Sony employees, a local PR agency, videographers and photographers, event security, a merchandise team, guards and caretakers, and of course Kojima’s own people.
The tickets for the event were free, but had to be registered online. On November 4th and 5th, the tickets were immediately sold out at the planned release times. At least one appearance on a local online marketplace cost the equivalent of $ 220. On PlayStation Asia’s Facebook event page, fans complained about potential scalpers and the ticketing process carried out through the event registration service Peatix. Several people raged that a finger was ready to register at noon just to encounter technical problems. One Facebook user joked about building a human wall to kidnap Kojima at the venue, while another wrote that only Singaporeans could get tickets. “I just saw a Malaysian and a Filipino comment [that everyone has a card],” they wrote. “This event takes place in Singapore, the locals should get it first before the others. I have to exclaim that, which is a sharp contrast to the connecting message behind the game.
Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment via polygon
In Death Stranding, protagonist Sam Porter Bridges suffers from an anxiety disorder called aphenphosmphobia – the fear of being touched – that he gradually overcomes. “You have to shake hands or hug in real life,” Kojima said in an interview with Polygon at the Singapore station about the interpreter Aki Saito. Kojima remembered the stop of the World Tour in London, where over 700 people were waiting for him in the pouring rain. When the fans finally arrived, they were soaked, which didn’t bother Kojima.
“It’s an indirect link to the game,” said Kojima. “That’s why I’m close to the fans when I take pictures.” But it seems that Kojima has limits – during the free photo shoots for fans after our interview, the event staff kept reminding people that Kojima doesn’t like to shake hands.
“Filmmakers are punk. You have a punk ethic. You’re doing something that hasn’t been done yet. ”
Kojima is a rare game developer who focuses so much on promoting games he has worked on – something that Kojima recognized on the stage of the main event. Amidst the overwhelming spectacle of his fame, he still tries to emphasize the importance of connecting with a larger whole. “It all starts in the game and then the players go outside and feel a connection. I want players to feel that there are connections in the real world too, ”he said. “As if you were talking to your friends or maybe you see construction work outside. Perhaps you felt something during the game and would like to somehow thank the people who give you things like the people at Amazon or the people in real life. ”
Gratitude is an issue that runs deep through Death Stranding, with most, if not all, of his NPCs recognizing the role Sam plays in keeping them alive. During the main event on this tour with Kojima, character designer Yoji Shinkawa and Saito, who is also responsible for marketing and communication at Kojima Productions, moderator Joakim Gomez asked a light-hearted question: “What is the heaviest bag you have with you? ? “And without missing a beat, Kojima made a joke:” I founded Kojima Productions three years and nine months ago. I had a hundred employees. I think that’s the hardest thing. “The audience laughed. After all, this was a full house of players who were familiar with the concept of team support, but in such a team-oriented industry it was amazing to see him and two of his executives say the quiet part out loud.
In the past, Kojima was often portrayed as a lone writer, most recently with a poorly translated tweet that incorrectly suggested that he was doing everything he could to do with Death Stranding, which bothered Kojima. But his favorite meme, he admits with a smile, is “Kojima is God.” “A lot of people send this to me.”
Deploying ladders and bridges in Death Stranding might originally stem from an urge to survive, but Kojima hopes that players will see how their own little actions can help others: “People use your bridge and you get likes. So you think I did it just for me, but it helps other people. This is the important part. “He adds,” I know Asians think that way – and that’s an important part. “The unspoken cultural differences between western individualism and the eastern community are emphasized.
Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment via polygon
When asked whether the recent changes in the entertainment world – increasing openness and critical interest in representation and diversity – have affected Kojima’s approach to world building and writing, he says: “It didn’t really affect me. I always listen I listen to people and see the trends in the world. I always think about what to deliver. “Ultimately, he points to the cyclical nature of art – after centuries of cultural history and development, stories and trends repeat themselves. He named the emerging format of shorter episode shows as a new trend in film and television. “There is about 120 years of film history. Something new always comes out, people follow the new one and then someone copies the new one. And that every 10 to 20 years.”
Kojima enjoys museums, which is reflected in its overall picture of art, film and games. “Cinemas will always exist, but I think everything will flow into the streaming world. The film always lasted two hours, but when it turned to television, it became an hour-long episode. People [watch] drama from everywhere, ”he says and shows with his hands how a medium could change depending on the preferred platform: tablets and tiny screens. But he also believes that there are only a few archetypal stories in the world and that we only repeat different variations. Stories can change with new formats, he says. “In Japan, there is a drama on NHK every day that lasts 15 minutes for six months and there is a big story,” he says of the station’s legendary Asadora or “morning drama” program. “A cliffhanger has to be created every 15 minutes.”
Kojima may prefer longer film sequences and repetitions than short episodes, but is open to projects that neither fit into the “Film” category nor into the “Game” category. Despite all the cutscenes, Death Stranding is not a movie, and so far there has been no comparable game. “Maybe in the future I will no longer highlight the story,” says Kojima.
On the subject of political resonance in various media, Kojima does not believe that people tend to reject political messages in games rather than in films. “If you see a movie when the main character is expressing something, try to understand,” he said. “But in games you make the decision based on the actual character. You’re the one. Everything you actually feel is you. So that’s different. It is more effective because you only see the figure in the films. “
At the end of the day, the cult game designer has an old-school cinematic stance and likes to tell about the time he spent on the first Death Stranding trailer at E3 in 2016. “There were no employees or technical aids. I just started making Norman, a crab and a baby,” he says of the beginnings of Kojima Productions in a coworking office when he played around with a mop and analog handprints. “Filmmakers are punk,” said Kojima. “You have a punk ethic. You’re doing something that hasn’t been done yet. They fight for it and are sometimes criticized – like Nicolas [Winding Refn]. We talk about it. We’re still punk. ”