The last book I read during 2021 was The Creative Gene by well-known game developer, Hideo Kojima — creator of the Metal Gear series at Konami before starting Kojima Productions in 2005.
The book reminded me in many ways of another book I read earlier in 2021, Ask Iwata (by another well-known developer, Satoru Iwata), in that both books are a collection of previously written articles from different publications — in Iwata’s case the content came from online publications and Nintendo’s running column “Iwata Asks.” For Kojima many of these short essays were previously published in magazines (Da Vinci and papyrus).
Even with their similarities the content within the books are very different. What the books have in common is that they can both be inspirational for people in all industries. Ask Iwata shared some of Iwata’s philosophies and insights into business. Kojima’s book focuses more on his influences (books, movies, shows…).
Even if his inspirations do not align with your specific interests, the essays in the book made me start to look introspectively into my own influences. I started thinking of some of the books, movies and shows that have impacted my life.
*You can find my previous “Gaming Book” post on Ask Iwata here.
A Book by Kojima?
Back to The Creative Gene by Hideo Kojima. When I first saw a book on “Creativity” by Hideo Kojima I was instantly intrigued, but also a bit surprised. Although I have only played a couple of his games (mainly MGS V: The Phantom Pain), I am still very familiar with his work. A few years ago, I learned that I much preferred watching my buddy play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain over playing myself, but I do plan to give Death Stranding a try at some point this year.
What surprised me about the book was its release. I had no idea that Hideo Kojima had an upcoming book release until it was already available. I’m not someone that keeps up with every book being released each week, but I typically know if someone I follow is releasing a book soon, so I can be on the lookout.
I purchased The Creative Gene without really knowing what it was. When I first started reading I remember thinking, Oh, it’s just a compilation of essays about other books and stuff. As I read on, it became more and more interesting to me. I started thinking of what books and media had shaped my way of thinking and how my interests and the content I consume has changed over time.
Kojima & Me
In The Creative Gene, Kojima mentioned not really being a reader at a young age. It wasn’t until a bit later when he was sort of forced to read a book that he realized how great books can be.
Two people can watch the same film and leave with a different message, but they will ultimately see the same imagery, take in the same sounds, and have a pretty common shared experience. What’s cool about books is that two people can read the same book. They can talk about how they imagined the world, the characters and every detail and come up with two totally different worlds. Most books (other than comics and artistic books) only really have words to express themselves — our minds must do the rest of the work.
Kojima still spends a great deal of time in bookstores, one of his favorite places to visit. I also love visiting bookstores. I visit Barnes & Noble almost weekly (at least I once did, pre-pandemic). Even when in a new town I always try to visit a bookstore. There’s just something special about the environment.
The Creative Gene is broken up into two halves. Part one is mostly about books Kojima had read early on in life, before being a game director. He talks about many types of books from different genres, written by people all over the world. Many of these books influenced the person he became.
Part two is more about media he liked at a certain time in his life. This part goes beyond books and into film, shows, anime, series and so many other influences outside of books. These may be more influential on his work as a game director and his career making games.
If you’re a fan of Hideo Kojima and his work, you should definitely check this book out. Even if you slowly read through, or skim it to find the essays about projects you’re already familiar with — like the essays on Blade Runner, Taxi Driver and Agatha Christie novels.
The end of the book also features an interview from August 2019 between Kojima and Gen Hoshino (musician, actor and writer). I really enjoyed the dynamic of these two creative people sort of interviewing each other.
While reading I wanted to compile a list of all of the works he mentioned that sounded interesting to me. The problem was he made a lot of it sound interesting, so I may just go back through the book and pick a few random ones to read. Each essay features a short write up about how the book, movie or project was important to him. At the end of the essay there is also a short blurb about the context of each book.