Hideo Kojima’s entrance to the Singapore leg of the Death Stranding world tour felt carefully calibrated for impact. After a few moments in a pitch black hall, a palpable sense of anticipation pulsing through the crowd, the famed video game designer made a sudden appearance centre stage. Illuminated by the spotlight, his figure cast a faint silhouette on the wall, with only his face visible through a cutout in an opaque screen. Then the audience roared their approval as the screen gradually rose, unveiling more of the man himself and the rest of the stage. It was an electrifying moment, but it also encapsulates the spirit of the Death Stranding tour: a celebration of Kojima’s unorthodox achievements.
This may sound like sheer bombast, but there probably isn’t another figure quite like Kojima in gaming today. To his fans, his work on Metal Gear Solid cemented his title as one of the industry’s few gaming auteurs, while the series’ popularity – and his constant shoulder-rubbing with Hollywood celebrities such as Mads Mikkelsen and Guillermo Del Toro – also propelled him to mainstream success. Hell, even Kanye West isn’t immune to his fame. An air of reverence follows him wherever Kojima goes, with think pieces written about his (and his team’s) creations with the same breathless awe others would ascribe to beloved film directors and renowned musicians.
This prestige surrounding him has inevitably seeped into real life. During the Death Stranding tour, both the organisers and backstage crew fussed about him as they busied themselves with every minutiae of the media interview. Does he have enough sparkling water to drink? Where should the interviewers stand? Do the reporters need this additional seat in front of the coffee table? It was a stark departure from the appearances of other game designers, who have visited our sunny island with significantly less fanfare. Yet when Kojima finally arrived for his interview – with a small entourage, no less – he warmly shook our hands and quickly went to his seat. Like clockwork, a Sony representative swiftly brought a drink and coaster to the table, while the rest of the team stood around eagerly, watching closely as the interview proceeded. At one point, Kojima gestured nervously and muttered something in Japanese, and one of his crew members motioned for us to take a seat; our staring at him was making him a little skittish.