OPINION: The Phantom Pain – Hideo Kojima

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

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Is Joffrey Baratheon running Konami? Because all of the petulant measures they’ve taken, all the embarrassing mistakes they’ve made, all the frustration their decisions have caused, went without so much as a single legitimate mea culpa. The sheer arrogance of their behavior is all but unforgivable. It’s no surprise they refused to truly acknowledge they had a hardcore group of the most loyal fans in the entire gaming industry. Even Microsoft, a company with much deeper pockets and economic security than Konami can even dream of, did their best to mend fences and restore confidence after Don Mattrick’s now infamous and highly-memed Xbox One presentation at E3 2013.

Hideo Kojima | Big Boss

Kojima is bigger than Konami…and they can’t stand it.

Konami didn’t just insult Hideo Kojima or the legacy of Metal Gear Solid. They forgot that they were a video game company. They forgot they had fans. Loyal consumers. A generation of gamers that saw their logo appear when they inserted those cartridges and discs into their consoles and prepared to go on unique, fascinating and engaging journeys into virtual wonderlands and nightmare realms that gripped them to such a profound degree that the games left a permanent, indelible mark on our collective consciousness.

And why, Konami? Why did you have to be so antagonistic about this? Where was the diplomacy? Where was the effort to try and make it all work? Why reduce Hideo Kojima, one of the industry’s most noteworthy individuals, to a contracted employee? Why limit him and his team during the development cycle? What did he do that was so awful that you couldn’t just part ways and wish him well, thereby saving face for all?

I am still waiting to hear the explanation for Konami’s tyrannical campaign against Hideo Kojima, their own digital entertainment division and their fans. At the rate Konami’s going, I’m all but surprised they haven’t accused Kojima of treason against the throne and forcibly removed his tongue for his seditious thoughts.

Whatever Kojima did, whatever unspoken rule he broke or resistance he gave behind closed doors, the reaction from Konami has been oppressive, vile and unwarranted. They’ve locked him up so tight that I feel like we need to send Big Boss into Konami’s corporate headquarters to rescue him.

Hideo Kojima with Konami Logo

A picture from a time when Konami wasn’t complete bollocks.

What happened at the Video Game Awards on December 3, 2015 is practically a punchline to the sad joke Konami’s become. They had a lawyer bar Kojima from appearing at the VGAs, still being a contracted employee of the company, to accept an award for what will likely be the final Metal Gear Solid game he’ll ever work on. This is wholly surreal. The guy can’t even show up and receive the rightful appreciation from an industry that recognizes his contribution to the form over THREE DECADES. This is practically a singular accomplishment, especially in this day and age.

They lawyered up to stop him from going anywhere near Metal Gear Solid V in a public capacity. The series he created. The series that matters because of his unique vision and genius.

Consider this: even if you don’t like Hideo Kojima, even if you think he’s overrated, even if you think he’s a hack, overindulgent, incapable of restraining his vision, arrogant, oblivious or any other disparaging trait you want to use to describe him, you can’t deny that the guy has done something that is almost a singularity in this industry. The Metal Gear series, like it or not, has had both critical and commercial success during its thirty year lifespan. And each game in the series has not only built on the previous entry in terms of gameplay, it’s also added a considerable density to the mythology. Nobody else in the game industry has been in charge of a single game series for this long and sustained a continuous narrative. That Metal Gear continues to captivate audiences after this long is a rare achievement.

There is no taking that away from the man. Even Konami, with all their authority and ownership of the series, can’t disregard his legacy. It’s the very reason they barred him from the VGAs. They want to diminish Hideo Kojima and are doing everything in their power to do so. They’re quite cognizant of his importance to both the industry and the IP they unfortunately happen to own. And they hate that inescapable reality.

But he’s always going to haunt Konami. He’ll forever be the true ‘phantom pain’, the missing appendage that Konami will always feel throbbing and aching no matter what they do to amputate him from Metal Gear and forget about him. Even if everyone in Konami does manage to erase him from their records, the fans will never let him fade from memory. Every time they release a product, the fans will give them an earful. Every time they make an announcement through social media, they’ll have to endure a scornful storm of nasty responses from Kojima’s legion of fans. Every time their name comes up in the media, for any reason, the fans will respond with colorful metaphors and vulgar hashtags.

And yet, despite all this, despite Konami getting a much deserved comeuppance for their many transgressions against the hobby we all love, I’m angry, sad, shocked and despondent all at the same time.

This is how dreams die.

It sucks.

And because they’re the ones responsible, so does Konami.

About Tom Tolios

Really smart, talks too much, loves the video games and the Star Wars and the Game of Thrones, likes the manga and some anime and knows that Kentaro Miura's Berserk is the greatest thing ever made.

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