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Hideo Kojima and His Creative-Active Phase

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In this paper, I will be discussing the renowned game designer, Hideo Kojima. I will briefly the background and the path of Kojima in the field of video game design. Furthermore, I will explore the three steps in the Keys to Mastery: The Creative Task, “Creative Strategies, and The Creative Breakthrough, discussed in Robert Greeneв Mastery, with respect to Kojimaв creative phase in the industry. In addition, I will also reflect on some of the Emotional Pitfalls discussed in Greeneв book, that Kojima has faced in his journey so far. Finally, I will perform a cross-comparative analysis between Kojima creative journey with one among the nine people profiled in the Strategies for the Creative-Active Phase chapter in Mastery.

Hideo Kojima works in the industry could be compared to Jonathan Franzen of the creative writing world, David Chase of the television producing world, and Peter Jackson of the filmmaking world (Croal & Itoi, 2001). Kojima is a multifaceted creative artist that dreamt of being an artist, filmmaker, or illustrator when young, but became a videogame designer instead (Hideo Kojima Versus the Big Robot, 2004). He was held back by the social pressures from family and friends to rather get a salaried job that was likely more stable than pursuing a creative career (Hideo Kojima Versus the Big Robot, 2004). During his fourth year studying economics in university, he announced his plan to join the videogame industry, surprising his family and peers (G4TV, 2007).

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In 1986, Kojima joined one of the more famous videogame publishers of its time, Konami Entertainment as a designer and planner. He worked on the MSX2 home computer platform, and published his first game, Metal Gear, that focused around a special operative codenamed Solid Snake specializing in espionage (Kent, 1988). Going forward, I shall discuss how Kojima came to his creative best that resulted in him being, what I feel, an erudite in the game designer world.

The Creative Task

Robert Greene (2012) states in his book Mastery, that the first step to awakening the creatively active mind is to find the creative task to work on. The creative task needs to have an obsessive element that will stretch you to your limits while being realistic (Greene, 2012). Kojima formulated his creative task when he decided to pursue the video game industry while his initial interest lies in filmmaking (Hideo Kojima Versus the Big Robot, 2004). He realized that it was quite impossible for him to make films professionally as there were no film schools near where he lived. Also, the budget for Japanese cinema was quite low at that time, Kojima didn’t think he could make the kind of movies that interested him (Parkin, 2012). Cumulatively, he had no family or friends that would encourage him in that career. Around then Nintendo had released its console, Famicom, and the idea struck to Kojima that video games are another creative endeavor like filmmaking (Parkin, 2012). In fact, he realized that video games are different from films, as they are interactive and demand you understand people in a tangentially different manner (Parkin, 2012). I believe, this pursuit kept him driven to design video games creatively.

Creative Strategy

Greene (2012) mentions five strategies in his book to help the mind stretch itself open and flexible. Two among them: Cultivate Negative Capability and the Allow for Serendipity strategies, I believe, resonates with what Kojima had applied in his career. Greene (2012) defines the first strategy as a tool to open your mind to new and even opposite ideas by enduring failures and embracing uncertainties. The second strategy is a conscious decision where a person allows for the association of ideas with his/her experiences by moving outside your normal realm of interest and exploring new ideas without jumping to conclusion. This venture may surprise one and help discover new avenues (Greene, 2012).

Once he got into Konami Entertainment, Kojima still faced many failures trying to publish his first project, Lost World, which eventually got canceled (Parkin, 2012). After every session trying to put forward his ideas and being rejected, he felt empty, but he continued to pursue these ideas in his dreams, giving him even more energy the next day. Eventually, one of the managers approached Kojima with a new project, Metal Gear (Hideo Kojima Versus the Big Robot, 2004). One could argue, that the game presented to him his greatest opportunity so far, to expand upon his creativity.

The Creative Breakthrough

Robert Greene (2012) defines The Creative Breakthrough as the stage in which a master of the field reaches a high point of tension, due to being conscious of their ideas and detecting flaws in them. At this stage, they let go for a moment and decide to focus their thoughts on something else. This could be a simple task like going to sleep or taking a vacation. In almost every case, the solution to complete the piece of work presents itself in their mind (Greene, 2012).

When Kojima began working on Metal Gear, Konami had directed the team to create a war game, due to their popularity at the time. However, Kojima wanted to diverge from the standard formula and started thinking of ways he could subvert the genre (Wilson, 2012). Working on improvising the game, he reached a creative mental block. At this time around, he began going through his collection to decide a movie for the night, when he remembered the film The Great Escape and decided the prisoner escape concept was ideal for the game (Parkin, 2012). The idea evolved on the whiteboard to a non-combat stealth game finally, giving birth to some of the most spectacular series in the video game history (Parkin, 2012).

Emotional Pitfalls

Greene (2012) states that once a person reaches his creative-active phase, he is likely to be confronted by various emotional pitfalls that will pose a trap to our creativity. I believe that Kojima had undergone a major emotional pitfall during his time in Konami, namely Inflexibility. Following the third part of the Metal Gear series and the success of the franchise, Kojima had adapted his game designing process to create a more cinematic experience for his games (Morris, 2015). But this came at a much larger expense of the company and complications to work with him. Kojima would have people rework many of their creative assets only to turn them down (Morris, 2015). He had become very obsessed with perfecting a game that he overlooked Konami budget and timelines. His inflexible nature caused the fallout of Kojima leaving the company and starting a new production line of his own, Kojima Productions Ltd.

Cross-comparative Analysis

Greene (2012) defines nine different strategies in his book that can be used to enhance our creatively active mind. Each of the nine strategies outlines the journey of one person and how he/she successfully implemented the strategy to enhance his creative-active phase. In my opinion, I see an overlap in Kojima journey with respect to Santiago Calatrava, mentioned under the Natural Powers strategy.

In conclusion, I briefly outlined the background of Hideo Kojima till he started working on his first release project, Metal Gear. Next, I dwelt into the three steps Keys to Mastery described in Robert Greene book of Mastery, and profiled Kojima journey against them. After the journey to mastering the Creative-Active Phase, we next described one emotional pitfall that Kojima faced during his journey. Finally, I did a cross-comparative analysis between Kojima creative journey and one of the nine people profiled on the Strategies for the Creative-Active Phase section from Greene book, Mastery.

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