5/29/2019: death of the auteur

Pretty much everyone in my social circles this morning has been talking about the new trailer for Death Stranding, the upcoming Kojima Productions game. And something I should not be surprised by, yet I was, was that literally every person who talked about it trashed it. To my particular part of the web, Death Stranding is a joke. As well it should be.

This is kind of a weird thing that needs some explaining here: I actually really like the Metal Gear series. I own all of them, and have gone through them multiple times to 100% completion (except MGS4, the reasons for which will be obvious to anyone who actually played MGS4). All that being said, I cannot fucking stand Hideo Kojima. He’s shown himself, through his work and his personality, to be a misogynist, a homophobe, a transphobe, and all sorts of other horrible shit. For every one good idea he has, he has about ten that are complete garbage. Like, yeah, Metal Gear Solid 2 is more profound these days because it was eerily accurate in its prediction of the internet being used as a tool for propaganda, and to perpetuate the rise of fascism. But then there’s also Policenauts, a game where the main character can sexually assault random women, and who stops in the middle of a gunfight to go on a rant about gay and transgender people being degenerate freaks. Metal Gear Solid 5 was an unfinished mess of narrative that contradicted itself, undid literal decades of plot, and outright forgot its own messages; commentary on the use of “detention facilities” and child soldiers took a backseat to a photosynthetic woman who needed to be mostly naked or else she would die from a lack of sunlight (never mind that Metal Gear already has a photosynthetic character who didn’t have this problem), and a meandering revenge story between two walking action figures named “Big Boss” and “Skull Face.”

I realize that I play all these games despite all of this because 1) MGS1 was a pretty formative game for myself and a lot of people in my generation, and I kind of need to see how that series ends, 2) there’s still a lot of goodwill being carried over from MGS2, and 3) when you’re surrounded by the best programmers, artists, sound and level designers in the business, your games will at least play well.

But through all of that, I don’t fucking care about Death Stranding. I’m tired. We’re all tired. Because the thing is: Metal Gear is done. That part of our lives is over. It’s not 1998 anymore, and we’ve all grown up. We have outgrown Hideo Kojima. Hell, we have outgrown the concept of the video game “auteur.” We all know by now that mainstream games are not made by a single person. For us, an auteur is someone who is willing to take all the credit. Some loudmouth asshole who thinks that without them, none of this is possible when in actuality, without all of this, they are not possible.

Remember when Kojima was fired from Konami? Remember when he showed up at whatever Geoff Keighley’s bullshit event is called? He got this grand pro wrestling entrance, complete with people in tears seeing him. His story of being a well off, successful producer getting fired from one major company, then immediately being snatched up by another major company so he can work on a well-funded, heavily marketed game featuring major Hollywood stars made him the biggest martyr in the history of games! Forget that this was all taking place while Gamergate was still very much in the headlines, and people who did not have a fraction of his notoriety were left twisting the wind. But Kojima really wanted us to feel bad for him.

What an asshole! I’m glad my friends are shitting all over his new project!

It’s a new era. So many creative people working on games, trying to make a go of things. It is frankly insulting to see so much time and attention being given to a man who is very clearly disgusted by our existence, and whose current game looks to be some cowardly, centrist, “the truth is in the middle” bullshit. And this isn’t just a Kojima thing, even though he’s the point of this post. You have so many of these men showing their asses on a frequent basis, but being forgiven because the games other people worked on that they take credit for are good. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kojima, or SWERY65 and his anti-union beliefs, or Matt Conn being an abusive sex predator, or Suda51 being ironically stuck in the past, or Cliff Bleszinski being Cliff Bleszinksi. There should not be a place for one man to be idolized and held to this demigod status while so many marginalized creators bust their ass and get fuck all in return. I don’t know if it’s something that will change anywhere besides the small bubbles and scenes that exist, but man, that would be fucking cool. Give a queer person, or anyone who isn’t just another cishet man Kojima’s budget, and watch them blow the world away with what they can do.

Until then, we should just maintain a healthy amount of skepticism at a group’s work being attributed to a single man. After all, Kojima once told us that given the right situation, the right story, anyone can be shaped into the hero.

ADDENDUM: the only auteur that should exist is John Romero, because he fucking rules.

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