Today at work I opened Spotify to find a specific song. Midge Ure’s 1985 cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” has stuck with me these past few days. For those unfamiliar, the song was used in the opening cut scene of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The whole introduction is a haunting blend of nostalgia, familiarity, uncertainty, and unease. For me, it was another reason I should have been respecting Hideo Kojima’s work far sooner.
My first experience with Metal Gear Solid came during college; a friend was working through Metal Gear Solid 3 and wanted me to see it. I watched this friend play what seemed like an excruciatingly long shoot out (the fight against The End), followed by a somehow longer cut scene. Every cut scene in that game seemed to last hours, days. That afternoon I experienced a boredom so intense it has yet to be rivaled. Who made this Metal Gear Solid game and how the hell did he justify taking up so much of my time? Isn’t this a game? Aren’t games meant to be played?
Based on that single encounter (and my own unparalleled stubbornness), the name Hideo Kojima became synonymous with pretentious, hammy, and boring games. I’d watch my boyfriend play other entries in the series and hear things like the mooing Gekko, meet characters like Vamp and Raiden, and sit through monologue after overwrought monologue. I wanted to fly to Japan, march right up to Hideo Kojima, and shake my fists wildly into the air at him. This mindset carried on for years. Imagine how I felt when news broke that Hideo Kojima was handed the reins to my favorite franchise, Silent Hill.
The Silent Hill series was, at one point, very special to me. No other game really nailed psychological horror the way Silent Hill games could. While the decline in quality installments was very apparent in recent years, hearing that someone whose work I despised so wholly was going to be adding his Metal Gear flavor to my series made my blood boil. There were furious tweets condemning whatever this “PT” garbage surely was. I opened an article about the Silent Hills reveal video, already sour and ready to lambaste this hack developer for ruining everything in the world. The video played, and I felt myself softening up. This actually looked… scary? More than that, PT looked damn good. I agreed to try it.
That night, I sat next to my boyfriend as he led us down that hallway over and over. We died, we screamed, we jumped, and we had a blast. In our darkened living room, clutching a pillow into my chest as defense and salvation against unknown nightmares, I was glowing. PT had me unsettled and nervous and howling like no other horror game before it. PT was and will always be an absolute masterpiece. In my broken and humbled weakness, I again wished to fly to Japan and march right up to Hideo Kojima, but this time I wanted to thank him. His direction led Silent Hill to new heights I never dreamed it could reach.
Watching the opening of Metal Gear Solid V, listening to “The Man Who Sold the World” while Kojima slowly let the scene build around the bits of environment and atmosphere, I appreciated his work. In learning more about the man himself (the guy loves Mad Max: Fury Road), I’ve come to understand who he is and why his games are what they are. While I may never feel an affection towards the Metal Gear series itself, my resentment for Kojima’s work is gone. Hideo Kojima is very, very good at what he does. Will he ever get to work on a horror game again? Will we see more from him and Guillermo Del Toro? Will another studio pick him up? Today doesn’t hold the answer to these questions, but I very much doubt Kojima is done. Hideo Kojima is an absolute game development star, and I truly hope that Konami’s demise doesn’t slow him down.
PS: I’m still a little bit mad at him for being such a dweeb about Quiet’s costume.