Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Graduate School - Hideo Kojima Visits USC

On Wednesday, October 5, 2011, I attended an Evening with Hideo Kojima put on by the Interactive Media Division of the School of Cinematic Arts. Hideo is a video game designer and Executive Vice President at Konami Digital Entertainment. His work is well established in the video game industry, including the Metal Gear Solid series and Zone of Enders. The event was moderated Geoff knightley, the host of GTTV, and a USC alumn who served as translator for Hideo.

The event started with an introduction of Hideo's early life growing up in Tokyo. His patents worked in the pharmaceutical industry. These positions were full time, leaving Hideo alone for a majority of the day. He developed a relationship with media, leaving televisions on in every room in the house. This life style, he asserted, brought him early exposure to the world abroad and thus broader perspective than his Japanese peers.

Hideo's interested in film and story started in his youth when he was invited to make a film with his friend and his friend's father. They used home movie equipment to create zombie horror films which they were screen at school and charged a small entry fee. From films he moved to writing fill length novels in high school. His first story, a survival battle, was based on the not to distant future cursed with rampant overpopulated. The premise of the story was to solve this overpopulation problem, one must fight to extend their life expectancy after the age of fourteen. This fascination with fatalistic social-horror themes, he attributed to several near death experiences he had as a kid.

After graduating High School he studied economics. When he turned in his thesis paper, he also included an related story he had written. Although the teachers did not seem to appreciate an auxiliary piece of work, he still graduated. His transition into games from a degree in economics was difficult. Games like Super Mario Brothers by Nintendo and Devious by Namco inspired to want to push the possibilities of digital interactive medium. As a creator, he asserted, one must institute change rather than conform to preset industry ideas.

He set out on a mission to create a more immersive gaming experience with a higher entertainment value than just passing time. Gamers could leave the experience enriched when their if the story contained a overlaying message. This is evident in his game, Metal Gear Solid, deal with topics of nuclear proliferation. A fear he inherited from his parent's generation who experienced World War 2.

The presentation went on to introduce an unreleased game creation program called the Fox Engine. Special footage of the engine showed an game editor in the process of creating a game environment. The technology allows dynamic game creation. An editor can to affect the game in real time with an advanced AI reacting and adjusting accordingly. An editor can affect the map within a simulate game-play. This allows the editors the accessibility to measure the difficulty level and balance the map within a real time game play setting. Hideo feels it is the responsibility of the industry to seek out talent. As a way of establishing a stronger relationship between Konami and outside talent,  plans to donate the Fox Engine to the USC.

A mock USC ID card reading KOJIMA HIDEO, Visitng Scholar.

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