Hideo Kojima's twitter bio famously says 70% of his body is made of movies but right now his feed is about 50% 'Oh God so tired'. With Death Stranding coming in November, Kojima's tweets are increasing painting a picture of an exhausting and oddly isolated life.
For the last couple of months, among all the game promo, celeb chasing, film love, and music playlists there have been a few tweets like this:
Fatigue pic.twitter.com/ENiHg9H5PEJuly 1, 2019
Fatigue. Tired. Exhausted. There's been a lot of messages like this that suggest at the end of the working day, Kojima is done:
So exhausted. pic.twitter.com/QyuOc160fVJune 27, 2019
Fatigue pic.twitter.com/ENiHg9H5PEJuly 1, 2019
Having a break since I had a rough day👍🌈🦀🐋🐟🐬☔️💀👶 pic.twitter.com/C9przhKT3vJune 13, 2019
Sometimes they're not always quite so negative, but the general theme is always that a rest has been earned from all the game checking. What's strange is that it's always the same scene – the parallels between the in-game Sam taking the weight off his shoulders when Kojima pauses for respite are hard to miss.
Resting pic.twitter.com/k1lSCzG1ruJune 30, 2019
Actions repeat over time
To be fair, this isn't exactly a new phenomenon. Regular Hideo watchers will know that Kojima has done all of this before. Here's something similar that started appearing online during the development of Metal Gear Solid 5. This tweet is from back in March 2015 (when the game was due in September of the same year), this time using Snake sitting down and taking a well earned break:
Tired. pic.twitter.com/XYmChwgzMCMarch 10, 2015
Over the last couple of months, however, these messages have become far more frequent. They have been hitting Twitter almost weekly as the Death Stranding release date approaches (and I've honestly only used a fraction of what's out there). While there are plenty of tweeted screens more obviously part of the Death Stranding hype machine, usually repeating the the tag line "Tomorrow is in your hands", and images of VO, music, games and movies, the 'Sam is tired and so am I' messaging is surprisingly consistent.
The format of these tweets is always the same, so much so that it's starting to feel like a coded message as this point [blinks in morse]. Death Stranding's lead character, Sam Porter, played by Norman Reedus, can be seen sat on the floor. Is this the character mirroring his creator's need to take a moment? Is there something about the scene that appeals to Kojima's state of mind? Other tweets are a little less coded, not about Death Stranding but more blatant about stating the author's exhaustion:
Ozu's LATE SPRING(1949).When you're exhausted, you should choose the film that touches your heartstring. I felt relieved to see Setsuko's smile. But there's this line by Ryuchishu telling his daughter."I'm already 56, reaching up to the end of life". I will be 56 in 2 months.😅 pic.twitter.com/Pzrrs04CFNJuly 2, 2019
I was exhausted from the overwork so I decided to watched Tokyo Story. pic.twitter.com/hT06N2oSgxJune 27, 2019
Start watching I AM MOTHER on Netflix. I’m not sure if I can make it to the end as I’m so exhausted from my life as a cicada. I just remembered this Japanese song called “I am a father” by Shogo Hamada. pic.twitter.com/DUVYttzrQcJune 10, 2019
That most recent entry into the online diary of Hideo Kojima's life, also introduces the 'life as a cicada' theme. Something he has been tweeting about a lot, ever since getting this book by artist, author and filmmaker Shaun Tan:
I bought as soon as I found CICADA by my favorite Shaun Tan. Got emotional when reading it at the cafe. It resembles my lonely despair game creation everyday life. I’m the CICADA.👍🌈 pic.twitter.com/93aXwIi4mEMay 11, 2019
The book, which is about an under appreciated insect who works in an office, alternating between being ignored and abused by the people around him, seems to have struck a nerve with Hideo Kojima. His tweets constantly reference similarities between his office-bound days working on Death Stranding and the dutiful little insect:
Life as cicada 👍🌈🦀🐟🚀🐋☔️👶💀 pic.twitter.com/Ck5VqJJgFQJune 8, 2019
Can’t go E3 or Shanghai Wonder Festival.... my life as cicada 👍🌈🦀🐟🐬🐋☔️💀👶 pic.twitter.com/1Q7pufa5C9June 8, 2019
What's interesting, or perhaps odd, here is that the book Cicada focuses on the isolation of the insect in the title but the exact reason isn't really ever made clear, other than he's an insect. He's mocked and mistreated by the humans around him but for no clear reason other than he's the only cicada in a suit working in an office full of people. The main theme is one of loneliness and exclusion, of not being adequately rewarded despite working hard and doing all that is asked of you without question. This is something Kojima clearly seems to be drawing parallels with as he works on Death Stranding. Especially with tweets like this deliberately matching pages from the book to his life:
My life as a cicada pic.twitter.com/2fybk6f6EAJune 3, 2019
It's an odd metaphor to draw on overall because there isn't really a clear moral or resolution to the story. In the book the insect is physically and psychologically abused by the people around him, who are portrayed as lazy and cruel: "Humans never finish work. Cicada always stay late. Finish work. Nobody thanks cicada" the book states, as it shows the creature being kicked around the floor by human co-workers. It's forced to live in the walls because its unacknowledged hard work and lack of promotion means it can't afford rent. It's not even allowed to use the human bathroom and has to leave work to use one outside of the building, being docked pay as a result.
At the end of the book, after all this suffering, the cicada retires, and, with no job to do, it goes to the roof of the building where it pupates, grows wings, and flies away from a grey city with all the other cicada to live in a colourful forest. "Sometimes think about human. Can't stop laughing" the book finishes. It's a nice, if surreal, story but hard to really take literally unless Kojima actually eats his sandwiches in the walls and gets docked pay every time he needs to use the toilet?
Less literally, does it mean Hideo Kojima sees running his approximately 100 strong studio as an isolated life, working alone and tirelessly without thanks? He certainly seems to occasionally resent his role as game director for keeping him trapped underground and away from the light:
E3 is the place where cicada-man who lives underground doing creative job day after day, sees the bit of light. It’s such a special place to reunite another cicada men, encourages each other and then going back to their cicada lives. The photos of E3 last year👍🌈🦀🐟🐋🐬☔️👶💀 pic.twitter.com/bscovU3N6oJune 10, 2019
Obviously, all developers work hard and, as the ongoing crunch debate continues, it's clear the vast majority work far too hard. But you don't see many airing their complaints about it publicly, albeit a little surreptitiously, while development is in progress. It doesn't help that this tweet thread below implies that Kojima tries to do, or control, possibly too much - apparently expressing some sort of responsibility for just about every aspect of Kojima Productions' development, promotion and business:
I guess what I'm saying is let's just keep an eye on the next few weeks and months and see how many images of Sam Porter sitting down we see. As Death Stranding's "gold" date approaches – when the final published code is burned to a disk to be duplicated and distributed before release – Kojima's "cicada life" is only likely to intensify. Right now his eyes are getting tired "from checking the gameplay" a lot:
Since my eyes are sore from checking the gameplay I visited Mizuguchi-san’s office to experience his new tool.👍🌈 pic.twitter.com/QsAzRUZG7lJuly 8, 2019
But it's not all bad at least: there are plenty of happier tweets about friends, films and music, but as that release date gets closer Kojima's not going to getting much time away from his desk any time soon.