The inaugural Tribeca Games Festival took place this weekend and with it came panels featuring conversations with some of the industries brightest talents including Ken Levine, director and writer of the BioShock series, and Sam Lake, creator of Max Payne. The event, produced in association with indie games publisher Kill Screen, was held at the Tribeca Festival Hub at Manhattan’s Spring Studios and brought together New York City’s passionate gaming community to examine the past, present, and future of the world’s most popular medium. Of all the guests present, perhaps the biggest name was industry trailblazer Hideo Kojima who took part in a one-hour keynote conversation tonight with journalist Geoff Keighley. Ever since the original Metal Gear Solid was released, Kojima has continued to push the envelope in terms of making video games cinematic and now the legendary video game developer who once said “70% of my body is made of movies,” had a chance to talk about his cinematic influences at one of the world’s leading film festivals.
When he was asked about his introduction to the world of cinema, Kojima told a story about how his parents would encourage him to watch movies late at night before going to bed and about how he remembers his first theatre experience being the original Godzilla, and named Norman Jewison’s Rollerball (starring the great James Caan) as the first movie he saw by himself at the age of ten without the company of adults. Anyone familiar with Kojima’s work knows the man loves movies but listening to him talk for an hour about his obsession with the medium makes the quote above sound even truer. Before there were ever any video stores and VHS tapes to buy and rent, Kojima would take the bus and train to the theatre and watch the same film back to back just so he could purposely sit in different seats and get a different vantage point of the screen – studying each frame closely hoping he would see something new every time. When his family finally did get a VCR, Kojima would watch Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver daily before going to school. Not surprisingly, he listed Taxi Driver as his second favourite film and Robert De Niro as one of his favorite actors. And although many believe Metal Gear’s Solid Snake was inspired by Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken from John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, Kojima stated that those similarities were purely coincidental and the true inspiration was Robert De Niro’s character Michael in The Deer Hunter. As expected Kojima was quick to drop several names throughout the evening citing Steve McQueen , Bruce Lee and Charles Bronson as actors he grew up admiring and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as the best movie he’s ever seen.
Finally got to meet my hero, De Niro! I shaked hands w/ Al Pacino, James Caan & Robert Duvall! I can die now but I won’t! What a lovely day! pic.twitter.com/cyNceFEsTw
— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) April 30, 2017
Anyone hoping he would divulge any new information about his upcoming Death Stranding will be disappointed. Kojima kept things vague when speaking about his new project joking that Norman Reedus will indeed be wearing clothes throughout the game and reassuring the audience that he and his team are working hard, painstakingly overseeing every detail of storyboarding before going into performance capture. When Keighley asked why Kojima liked working with actors so much he replied saying that actors bring something CG creations can’t – and they help elevate a scene in ways technology can’t do. Storytelling in games has always played an important role in his work. Kojima said he’s been first and foremost interested in character development and world building ever since he played one of his favourite games Super Mario Bros as a young child. He admitted that while he loves the game he was always bothered that there wasn’t enough story – and wanted to know more about the background of those characters such as the motivation behind Bowser’s evil actions.
“I wanted to know why Bowser was taking away the Princess, and why was this complete stranger Mario trying to rescue her?”
When asked about his creative process and when he feels he is at his best, Kojima said it is a question he is asked often and admitted it is hard to answer since he is constantly thinking about the projects he is working on, so when he gets to the office he’s simply outputting his daily thoughts. When asked what role VR will play in the future he replied he’s looking forward to seeing how artists find ways to fill all 360 degrees of a frame using virtual reality and expand the possibilities of storytelling. For Kojima however, virtual reality is just another canvas, albeit a new technological advancement but he tries to focus on the present and not worry about the future or the limitations of current technology. He simply remains positive at all times.
Keighley rounded out the keynote conversation by asking the question everyone has been wondering: Will Kojima ever direct a motion picture? “I love movies, so one day I’d want to try but at the moment it is impossible,” he said while noting that his biggest concern is that if he ever did, he might not ever be satisfied with the results. When asked what sort of film he would be interested in directing Kojima kept it broad and replied anything from a big-budget blockbuster to a small indie film. Hopefully one day he’ll deliver.
The Tribeca Film and Games Festival runs April 19 – April 30 and we will continue to publish our coverage throughout the week.