So Metal Gear Director Hideo Kojima is being cryptic again. Yeah, we know, that’s like taking note that oxygen is useful, or that Paul W.S. Anderson films are still shit. But this slice of Koj-ramble is kind of interesting, in that he’s hinted that an upcoming project will deal with such a taboo subject that if he messes it up he’ll ‘probably have to leave the industry’.
So what’s the big deal? What kind of subject matter might he be considering, to cause him to put such emphasis on its sensitive treatment? We've thought about it, both in terms of the current state of games and in terms of Kojima's career so far, and we've come up with these possibilities:
It’s possible because: We’ve finally got past the point where sex in games is a big deal. Yes, adults play games. Yes, adults are allowed to have sex. Yes, adults are allowed to watch sex. No biggie. But in other media, sex is frequently treated as more than just titillation.
In film and literature it’s often a key plot point used to talk about the psychological states of the characters and their relationships. David’s Lynch and Cronenberg do it all the time. Given that he’s often perceived as the same kind of semi-mainstream avant-garder as the aforementioned film directors, we wouldn’t be surprised if Koj was thinking of taking in-game sex-scenes past the point of filler and titillation, and using them as some sort of relevant narrative device.
It’s possible because: When drugs are referenced in games, it’s usually rare and it’s usually in massively cartoonish terms. Jayden’s drug addiction in Heavy Rain could have been a nice touch, but it was portrayed in too broad strokes and in far too black-and-white a way to be truly interesting.
Other media use drug culture in much more interesting, much more worthy ways. They properly discuss the world around it. They get inside the heads of the characters embroiled in it. They use the perceptions of those characters to tell deeply expressive stories, at times beautiful, at times nightmarish. All of these concepts fit in perfectly with the multi-layered way Kojima constructs his narratives, and a sensitively-portrayed, drug addled protagonist would be fantastic for inciting the abstract perception-whacks and ambiguous story-telling he loves to throw at the player.
It’s possible because: We’ve had child-killing in Heavy Rain, so why not continue into that disturbing area with abuse? Given that no-one bats an eyelid at the gratuitous gory excesses of games these days, we hardly think it’s asking too much to allow an intelligent and story-driven game director to study a dark real-world subject with a bit of sensitivity. How would he do it? Well Kojima likes his tortured, self-doubting characters, so rather than see the events in question depicted in the game, he might use them as a past event responsible for his protagonist’s current psychological make-up. That would be a pretty smart way of dealing with it intelligently, while avoiding any accusations of exploitation.
It’s possible because: There’s basically no reason not to. Kojima has flirted with the subject in the Metal Gear Solid series before, and thanks to Rockstar, Gay Tony is now a recognisable character and a recognisable title on the shelves of your local GAME. But if he does this, it’ll have to be a big deal purely because it isn’t a big deal. The time for camp stereotypes is over. If we’re going to have gay game characters, they need to simply be game characters who just happen to be gay, rather than ones defined solely by that fact. But we have every faith that Kojima’s pledge to get this one right means that that’s exactly the angle he’d be taking.
It’s possible because: Video game discussion of mental illness currently goes as far as cartoon psychotics. When was the last time you saw a depiction of mental trauma more subtle than “OMG I DESTROY WORLD BECAUSE DEMONS MAKE ME DO SO! COME HERE SO I EAT YOUR GUTS”. It’s crap. But a Kojima depiction of mental illness? With his predilection for troubled characters with deep personal motivations? And his penchant for warping the view of reality he feeds to his players and protagonists? Not crap. In fact it could be viscerally thrilling and emotionally profound all at the same time.
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