New Game+: Playing mind games with Hideo Kojima

April 6, 2013

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During a recent interview with Geoff Keighley, Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima discussed his reasoning behind the promotional campaign for The Phantom Pain, now officially known as Metal Gear Solid V. He did this to essentially get people actively chattering and deciphering the many mysteries behind The Phantom Pain and the then-unknown game developer, Moby Dick Studio.

While the secret behind this charade was pieced together rather quickly, it still led to many interesting and entertaining discussions that I truly missed getting involved with. It shows that developers like Kojima know exactly what they need to do in order to get people talking, and just how much fun it can be to speculate.

This event doesn’t come close to topping Kojima’s handling of Metal Gear Solid 2 and the fan outrage that followed. Not only was the game advertised to star Solid Snake, it never once made mention of Raiden’s existence. Some people are most likely still upset to this day about what they might consider a betrayal, but from my perspective, as someone who loves the franchise, it was all in good fun. Not many developers today like to have fun (or, in some cases, poke fun) at their fans in ways like this, which is something that should happen more often. It shouldn’t be a constant thing, but it’s also not something we should scowl at when it does occur.

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The mystery surrounding The Phantom Pain was less about the actual surprise, and more about everything leading up to it. The detailed analysis of the trailer that was shown at last year’s VGAs, all of the vague hints about what Moby Dick Studio is and if it (and its supposed president, Joakim Mogren) even exists. We all knew it was probably Metal Gear-related in some way, but its connection to the already announced Ground Zeroes, along with other speculation about the franchise as a whole, was nothing short of entertaining. Even if you’re not a Metal Gear fan, you have to appreciate how Kojima can get people talking.

It wasn’t long before an interview came out with “Joakim,” face completely covered by bandages, to briefly discuss The Phantom Pain and hint at the release of new details. Eventually, people speculated whether or not the man was even real; some believed he was entirely CG and a demonstration of Kojima Productions’ new engine, the Fox Engine. How people even began to reach that conclusion is beyond me, but the fact that they believed it to be the case is alone hilarious and something we don’t often see in this industry. Speculation exists (we know all about that), but not to this degree of detail or, well, craziness.

When Metal Gear Solid V was officially unveiled at last week’s Game Developers Conference, nobody was surprised. We all saw it coming, and we all knew that Moby Dick Studio, Joakim Mogren, and the entire campaign surrounding the game since the VGAs were nothing but a ruse. Whether you found it clever or stupid, it was hard not to talk about it or at least observe others gabbing away about the every tiny detail they discovered. It wasn’t always informative discussion, but I found it captivating, even down to the silliest of claims and supposed discoveries made by the many Internet sleuths involved.

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When it comes down to it, this industry needs insane marketing campaigns like this one to get people talking. Not to downplay the important conversations and topics that come up about games and everyone involved with them, but sometimes it seems like we forget how to have fun. When people complained about Kojima’s approach to the game announcement and the follow-up interview with the man claiming to be Joakim Mogren, it made me realize that we take certain things way too seriously. Maybe, just maybe, people like Kojima know exactly how to get people ruminating about things that are all in good fun.

We don’t have to have every game reveal involve a fake game company and interviews with random people claiming to be CEOs, but a little mystery is good every now and again, even if the mystery is inevitably solved within hours. Is it something we need to focus on? Not at all. But when it happens, let’s embrace it and enjoy it while it lasts. Let’s find time to celebrate those who do something just a little different, not just for attention, but to foster a conversation (or several) with peers. Sometimes a small, but amusing stunt can go a long way.

{ 1 comment }

Jeff DeSolla April 6, 2013 at 10:05 am

Very well said.

Video game information this far ahead of release is often kept pretty secret, with a planned slow release campaign to try and build interest in the product over time. Often, a company will stubbornly deny every leaked rumor, only to do a total about face at the media event of their choosing – which tends to leave some gamers feeling confused or ignored – wanting a more direct line of commuication with developers.

The biggest danger with breaking from the usual, is that trying something like this might leave gamers feeling lied to, or that they’ve been taken for fools. Kojima and the people working on this project seem to have a good idea of how to manage this balance perfectly, and it worked out very well for Phantom Pain. It’s a refreshing change from the usual stuff.