Kojima on Resident Evil 7, Death Stranding, and Norman Reedus

The cat's out of the bag: Hideo Kojima's upcoming PlayStation 4 game is called Death Stranding, and beyond confirming that it will star Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead, P.T.) we have almost no idea what to make of the teaser that ran at the end of Sony's E3 2016 press conference last Sunday. Of course, there are clues throughout the trailer both big and small, but how they all piece together is anyone's guess. There are a lot of theories online already, and some vague explanationsfrom Kojima Productions' Twitter account, but let's be real: we won't understand the full story behind the teaser until Kojima wants us to.
Given that, when we spoke to Kojima at E3 this year, we picked his brain about other topics, rather than get caught up in a yet unsolvable mystery. Our conversation below touches on his relationship with Reedus--who plays a hand in molding his own character in Death Stranding--, why people think of Kojima as a perfectionist, and how he felt when he saw Capcom's trailer for Resident Evil 7, which bears many similarities to Kojima's cancelled project, Silent Hills.
GameSpot: How does it feel to be back at E3?
Kojima: It’s been two years since the last time I was here, but it definitely feels like it’s been ten years. E3 is a location where there are a lot of players and a lot of creators, so it’s a special time and I feel good being back, being able to feel that sensation. Last year, because of different circumstances, I wasn’t able to come.
I’m also getting old and my family has been telling me to retire and do what I want. In the end, I want to make games, I want to make something fun. I like to share that with players. After all of that, I’m able to come back here, and being out there with everyone, I feel like I made the right choice.
Why is Norman Reedus a good fit for your games?
I’m a fan of The Walking Dead and The Boondocks Saints. When I met him--he’s a fantastic guy and a very nice person--I began to think how I could bring new things out of him, and that made me want to work with him.
I asked Guillermo Del Toro to give me his phone number a few years ago. Making a movie or a game is a very long process; you can only get through it if you’re working with people you know and trust.
You're known as a game designer, but you’re also known for your love of film. You’ve worked with Norman for a while now; how are you two marrying your individual expertise for Death Stranding? Does it almost feel like you’re making a movie?
I talk with Norman and I explain what I want his character to do, then he acts it out. I don’t think the process of making a game or making a film is very different. When it comes down to the cutscenes, we are working with performance capture, which is the same process that’s used in movies.
Since I went independent, I’ve received many offers to make a movie, but I’m avoiding that temptation and focusing on games for now.
Does Norman collaborate with you during the process of defining themes or his character?
So far, we’ve only created the teaser, but yeah, when Norman has any ideas, I try to implement them. I enjoy going back and forth with actors. A lot of people think of me as this guy that only comes and gives orders, and doesn’t take second opinions, but that’s not the case. Whenever an actor has an opinion or suggestion, I try to take in as much as possible and create together.
Why do you think people have those ideas about you?
I want to make everything perfect, but if you try to do that it’s impossible to make something creative. I have many people working for me, and ideally, I would want to do everything myself, but there’s no way to do that. When you take in talent from other people, something different comes into play, because people lead different lives than me, their abilities enrich my work; they make them better. It’s the same thing with Norman. If he has something different that I can incorporate into the project, then that makes the project better. It would be a waste to ignore that.
As to why people think I’m a perfectionist, I do put a lot of detail into my games, so maybe the misunderstanding comes from there. I want everything to be high-quality, so when people see that, they might assume that I’m this way with actors.
When I saw the reveal of Resident Evil 7, it looked very similar to P.T.. What was your reaction to that trailer?
I guess there’s some influence there, even in the format of having a demo teaser. I haven’t played it yet but I would like to try it.
If you think about "I’ll keep coming" (the tagline from the recent teaser image from Kojima Productions)--I came back, Kojima Productions came back, I feel like some of the projects came back too.
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