Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds—PlayStation Studios and Kojima Productions’ hour-long documentary on Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima—is too in awe of its subject to see him clearly. Premiered at Tribeca Festival on June 17, the documentary inflates Kojima’s mythology as an untouchable auteur until it totally obscures him, like a cloud. And in the times when it’s clear that he is only a man, it hides him again behind his work with impressive shots of 2019 game Death Stranding.
Kojima, to his credit, seems skeptical that this was the right approach. At the Q&A following the Tribeca screening, he quickly dismissed a worshipful comment from Kojima Productions developer made in the movie: no, he’s not a prophet. “I don’t see the future,” he said, “I’m living just like you.”
There were some mild factual inaccuracies in the movie, too, that appeared to needle him. In particular, there’s animation sprinkled throughout, mostly representing Kojima’s childhood spent living through sci-fi books, picturing how his life could be made more incredible through technology. But he grew up in the northern region of Osaka, not the southern region like the animation depicts, Kojima said during the Q&A without being prompted.
Connecting Worlds is nothing new
Anyone could have known that, and double-checked it, had they read his essay collection, The Creative Gene, in 2021. Anyone could have known all of what little personal information the documentary offers if they were familiar enough with Kojima to have read or seen his existing writing and interviews.
For example, Connecting Worlds spends some time on Kojima identifying as a “latchkey kid,” returning daily to an empty, unlit house because his parents were always working. A New York Times profile already discussed it in 2020.
“He’s a hard worker—he’s a sleepless genius,” Connecting Worlds has creative industry members like Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and musician Grimes say repeatedly, in marginally different ways. I could have looked at any Reddit thread to hear that.
Kojima is obsessed with movies, the documentary eventually presents like a revelation. Hm. No shit. His Twitter bio indicates, with dry humor, that “70 percent of my body is made of movies.”
Because of its superficiality, Connecting Worlds isn’t a documentary for anyone who wants to actually learn something about Kojima, his obsessive creative process, or why I can’t recall seeing a single woman in any of the shots filmed at his studio (“We have very similar […] awkward behaviors [toward] the opposite sex,” Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn said while introducing Kojima at Tribeca).
Connecting Worlds is for the superfan who is terrified to challenge Kojima’s reputation. It avoids the topic of Konami (which Kojima left behind after three decades, establishing both his career and cementing a somewhat angsty reputation) altogether, and spends the majority of its runtime on cherry-picked moments from Death Stranding’s production. There are several breathtaking scenes from gameplay, which enforce the idea that Kojima is creating things inconceivably larger than life. When something isn’t beautiful, we see Kojima provide fastidious, fatherly guidance from over developers’ shoulders, but the camera doesn’t linger on their drowsy eyes.
“When the camera is rolling, the atmosphere is suddenly positive,” Kojima says amusedly during one filmed development meeting.
The viewer is never given a reason as to why the atmosphere should be anything but happily deferential. When not focused on a colleague’s glowing testimonial, or an employee’s nervous endorsement, Connecting Worlds has Kojima staring mirthlessly at things—pink sunsets, steel parking garages, Joy Division records. He stares at his actors wearing intricate full-body motion capture until they deliver the performance he wants and at computer screens until they crash. The audience laughs patiently.
I kept thinking that he’s scared to die. “This year I’ll be 60,” Kojima mused during the Q&A. “I’m a little old, right?” Later, he said, “Maybe, I don’t have much time to live, but I want to keep [making games].” After that, he shyly brought up his age once more—“A 59-year-old guy creating a game…isn’t that something!”
Connecting Worlds doesn’t poke this anxiety, though it ripples under its runtime like a fish in a shallow pond. I see Kojima’s fear of death in his urgency, and in his incredible games—they so often melt humanity into science and into fantasy to form one, invulnerable blob.
But, despite his protests, Connecting Worlds maintains that Kojima is a prophet, after all. His unbelievable talent is unknowable, and unknowable things don’t suffer stakes as high as death.
I think it’s heartless to look at a person and see only their output, not them, how terrified they insist themselves to be. But being a true fan requires some denial.