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[Gamer's World] In the Studio with Hideo Kojima, One of Gaming's Most Unique Developers

A rare documentary on game developer Hideo Kojima offers a glimpse into the creative process of the visionary behind historic classics like Metal Gear Solid.



Kojima Productions founder and revered game designer Hideo Kojima. Photo by Hiromichi Uchida (The Voice)

A new documentary on Disney+ offers a peek inside the inner sanctum of one of the videogame world's most revered creators. Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds focuses on Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima hard at work on Death Stranding, the first game released by his studio Kojima Productions.

Documentaries on filmmakers and musicians are common, but it's quite rare to see one based on a game developer. Game companies tend to be much more secretive about their work. And while games themselves are known to fans around the world, the number of prominent developers who could headline a documentary can be counted on your fingers and toes.

The game documentaries that do exist are usually produced as promotional devices by the game's publisher rather than as journalistic endeavors, but there are some good ones. Connecting Worlds was funded by Sony's PlayStation Productions, which also made the excellent Raising Kratos, a fascinating and sometimes tense doc about the development of Santa Monica Studio's God of War. Game studio Double-Fine Productions made the sprawling 20-hour docuseries PsychOdyssey about the creation of its latest Psychonauts game. It is a warts-and-all account that showed the soaring highs and crushing lows of making games. 

Raising Kratos follows the developers of PlayStation game God of War through the trials of game development.

The Man Behind the Vision

Connecting Worlds doesn't quite go to such extreme places. Nonetheless, it's a rare and welcome chance to see Hideo Kojima at work. The documentary delves a little into Kojima's childhood and how his upbringing in the 1960s and '70s shaped his views of the senselessness of war, a theme he would go on to explore in his Metal Gear series. He explains that the loneliness he felt as a child was finally expelled when he joined the game industry and found his peers, and how his lifelong love of arthouse cinema has informed his incredibly cinematic games.

But the majority of the one-hour runtime focuses on Death Stranding, which was released in 2019. Kojima has always been something of an auteur. He obsesses over every aspect of his games, from the story to the gameplay mechanics, the visuals, and even the marketing. Here, we see Kojima in situ in the studio during production, overseeing in-progress builds of the game and giving detailed feedback to the developers on his team to make the game better match his vision.

"Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds" premiered at New York's Tribeca Festival in June 2023. It was globally released on Disney+ in February.

A Cultlike Figure

While Kojima is interested in the many aspects of building his games, the kind of high-production-value games he makes require large teams to produce. He explains the difficulties of expressing his ideas to his staff so they can visualize and recreate them. But by the same token, the documentary highlights Kojima's strongest talent: inspiring others to see his vision and give their all to realize it.

With its sprawling story filled with complex allegories of war, bizarre humor, and cutting-edge gameplay innovations, the Metal Gear Solid series of games is considered historic classics. Their influence on generations of game developers is difficult to overstate. As a result, Kojima is almost a cultlike figure, and getting to work alongside him is a dream for many.

In Connecting Worlds, we hear from game developers such as Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami and Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who explain that as budgets rise ever higher, games have become riskier to make. In the face of such hurdles, they express admiration for Kojima's drive to nonetheless try new things. 

2019's Death Stranding is a weird and wonderful slice of sci-fi that seemed to foreshadow the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Making of Death Standing

Death Stranding is a case in point. A thoughtful and strange slice of science fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world, its story muses on the benefits and the dangers of modern communication and human connection. Its protagonist Sam Bridges (played by The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus) traverses lonely landscapes to deliver equipment that will reconnect the residents of a devastated United States — all the while carrying a fetus in a jar that can sense ghosts. Convincing a company like Sony to invest in a concept so weird is not easy. But Kojima has the trust and loyalty of his fans and the vision to pull it off. 

He also has the instinct to make games that tread the line between arthouse and the mainstream, selling millions of copies while fuelling rabid online discussion and interpretation.


Both Reedus and Death Stranding costar Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) appear in the documentary. They explain that they themselves had no idea what they were getting into when they signed up for Death Stranding. However, Kojima won their trust through his creative commitment. 

Kojima Productions founder and revered game designer Hideo Kojima. Photo by Hiromichi Uchida (The Voice)

Missed Opportunities

It's not a perfect documentary. Kojima's detractors resent the way that Kojima absorbs all of the spotlight for his games, despite the hundreds of people who work on them. This documentary does little to amend that.

For example, we see Yoji Shinkawa, the revered artist who worked with Kojima throughout the Metal Gear Solid series and now on Death Stranding. He is also a co-founding member of Kojima Productions. But we learn nothing at all about Shinkawa's work. Along with Death Stranding story writer Kenji Yano and others, Shinkawa appears only to evangelize Kojima's genius. As a fan of Shinkawa's work, it feels like a wasted opportunity. And when he calls Kojima a "prophet," it starts to get a bit much.

Also, it's a shame that the film ends shortly after the release of Death Stranding, which came out five years ago, without really touching on its upcoming sequel and Kojima's several other projects. These include a new action-espionage game for PlayStation called Physint and a postmodern game collaboration with filmmaker Jordan Peele for Xbox called OD. Nor does it mention Kojima's budding forays into the world of filmmaking, with the recently announced A24-produced adaptation of Death Stranding. 

Hideo Kojima inspects the office space that would become Kojima Productions' first studio space in "Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds."

Worth the Watch?

Even the studio we see in the documentary is old. I visited Kojima Productions in January 2017 to interview Kojima and produce a video for IGN. This was the same studio as we see in the film. 

But as the team has grown, they have moved to a larger office, which I visited in December 2022 for a new interview celebrating seven years of Kojima Productions. The new space is really something. The kitchen area resembles something out of Stanley Kubrick's classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey (only with more space and fewer killer computers). A large pure-white room houses a lifesize statue of the company's mascot Ludens and nothing else. This flex is designed to overwhelm visitors with awe, deepening their belief in the cult of Hideo Kojima. And to be honest, it works.

Daniel and IGN Japan writer Shuka Yamada pose with Kojima Productions mascot Ludens during a visit to their current studio.

Regardless of your feelings for Kojima and his games, his influence is undeniable. This rare opportunity to see him at work is well worth a look. And having a documentary on any game developer available on a major global platform like Disney+ is really cool. Here's hoping for more.


Author: Daniel Robson

Daniel Robson is the chief editor of videogame news site IGN Japan. Read his series Gamer's World on JAPAN Forward, and find him on X (formerly Twitter).

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