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Kojima hopes to tackle controversial themes with AAA design

Kojima hopes to tackle controversial themes with AAA design

June 11, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

"This is my challenge right now; to keep creating good things with authorship while working in AAA."
- Hideo Kojima speaks about his struggles to create meaningful big-budget games at E3 2014.

Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima attended E3 in Los Angeles this week to promote Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, which has come under scrutiny in the wake of widespread criticism of the depictions of rape in its predecessor, the prequel game Ground Zeroes.

Gamasutra attended one of many roundtable interview sessions that Kojima participated in during the show to try and learn -- with help from a translator -- a bit more about why he's chosen to explore darker themes of rape, misery and revenge in his recent work, and how his experience working on The Phantom Pain differs from the projects he tackled earlier in his career.

This will be the most expensive game he's ever designed, and Kojima claims his decision to continue working with big-budget teams and technology is handicapping his ability to exercise creative freedom in his work.

"I want to use a lot of technology, but as we use more technology we need more budget, and when you need more budget it's more difficult to put more authorship into [the game]; the relationship with the marketing department becomes more difficult," says Kojima, citing the high risk of big-budget development as a chilling force on designers looking to explore new themes. "So, as a creator it has become very difficult; the more technology we use, the more difficult [being creative] becomes."

And yet, when another interviewer asks the designer about why his work reflects contemporary realities like private military contractors or the threat of domestic terrorism, Kojima claims that his work remains a clear reflection of what he's thinking about and the environment around him.

"I believe there has to be some authorship where you reflect your feelings. That's how I make games; I'm just reflecting what I feel, the things in my mind, I put them out there, and therefore some of the things that I'm going through, that surround me, might be reflected in [my games]", says Kojima.

The designer is fond of comparing game developers to filmmakers, and during our interview he

"There are things that I just cannot look away from and I need to depict."
points out that the Metal Gear games are much akin to the Godzilla films in the way they use the same characters to reflect and explore different themes through the years. For better or worse, this is what he clings to when the interview inevitably turns to reflect on the rape and torture depicted in Ground Zeroes.

"Of course I expected people to react to this, but then again the theme of the game I'm trying to create here...there are very dark themes; themes such as race, and revenge. That's something I don't want to look away from," says Kojima. "I did see the reaction coming, but that doesn't change the message I want to relay."

Despite opening our interview with complaints about the creative shackles of big-budget development, Kojima closes by taking full responsibility for the messages his games convey and promising to continue exploring controversial themes.

"Certainly, what I'm trying to do is different from just shooting at zombies," says Kojima. "I'm trying to depict something, a very specific message about things that happened in history. I think that, just because I have a very specific theme I want to relate, there are things that I just cannot look away from and I need to depict."

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