I already feel like I have experienced Guillermo del Toro’s new film, The Shape of Water, after reading Hideo Kojima’s take on the movie. Hideo Kojima is most well known as the creator of Metal Gear Solid and is currently working on Death Stranding. A game that will convince me to get a PlayStation 4, or a PlayStation 5 if it ends up getting delayed. Meanwhile Guillermo del Toro is known for numerous films, both independent and big budget. Personally, I love his take on kaiju and robots in Pacific Rim.
The Shape of Water intends to be a more existential look into the false dichotomy present within those with societal power and those without. I have not seen the film, so I will not pretend to write about more than I know, but I urge you to read the following article:
On the surface The Shape of Water is about a merman and a female night custodian falling in love in the midst of the Cold War. Personally, that was all I needed to hear in order to convince me to see the film. But Hideo Kojima goes on to describe the film as an allegory about people of the day juxtaposed with the people of the night. In other words, the assembly line of industrial profits versus the artistic pursuit of creation.
Hollywood blockbusters are no longer viewed as artistic creations. Films are viewed as entertainment and judged based on their box office revenue. Hideo Kojima argues that directors are no longer the creators of their own visions, but rather slaves to the assembly line machinary of industry and profit. Artists, like Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima are few and far between.
Video games suffer the same fate, if not worse. I can name very few video game creators, Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear), Shigeru Miyamoto (Mario, The Legend of Zelda), and Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil) are some of my personal favorites. Most games today are made by corporations, not individuals. Games today sorely lack a vision and purpose, obfuscated by the hundreds of different hands that try to leave their mark on a game. Game directors try to create as much content for games as possible in order to achieve a “one size fits all mentality,” but in this process the games lose that which makes them unique. I believe games are often too long, with too much to do, which ultimately leaves the player bored and uninspired.
I had more of an impact playing The Stanley Parable for two hours over the weekend, than I did playing Call of Duty: WWII for fifteen hours two weeks ago. The latter is found using the same tired mechanics to give the player excitement and grind, while the former uses the video game medium to provide a unique commentary on life itself.
Hideo Kojima gives words to many of the things I have been feeling in my own life recently. He states,
“these industries are ruled by the majority opinion of the “day dwellers”. To avoid risk and ensure the success of big budget blockbusters, or AAA games, economics and efficiency are given top priority. As a result, originality that springs from creativity, the shape and essence of the creator, are seen as impediments to the marketing driven manufacturing line.”
He goes on to write,
“This process is akin to the factory line assembly of industrial goods. What’s important is making sure the appropriate cogs and screws are assembled just as the manual indicates. At no point is the manufacture of uniquely shaped triangle or square cogs required. Sure, this kind of process guarantees a functional product, but something new, something unlike anything anyone has seen, something original; that’s the kind of thing this process won’t yield.”
Are films and video games (as well as music and sports) becoming mere entertainment instead of art? Corporations are opposed to uniqueness because it is risky. But this risk is necessary to push the medium forward. It is necessary to enhance the lives of ordinary citizens, to challenge individuals to see things in a different light. Films, video games, music, and sports have become a numbing agent to keep society distracted.
Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro want to deliver works that can only be created through their love of their craft, not their love of profits. When corporations favor profits over individuality and creativity, customers end up with loot boxes.
Is there still a place for independent game creators? Games like Stardew Valley, Fez, and Super Meat Boy, prove that small development studios with a hands on creator can create fantastic video games with great vision, purpose, and unique qualities. Death Stranding may take years to release, but Hideo Kojima has created a name for himself by creating games that bear his signature style. By putting his name on the product, players can begin to get excited about his next work of art. I know that I am, in the meantime I’m headed to watch The Shape of Water.