In the realm of video games, Hideo Kojima is considered an auteur. The man has created plenty of video games, most notably Policenauts, the Metal Gear Solid series, and most recently Death Stranding. It’s the last game that is of note, especially for Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds. Within this hour long documentary, we learn not only about the development of the game, but also of Hideo Kojima’s struggles creating it due to that being the first game he made in his new independent video game studio after an ugly split with his previous employer Konami. Connecting Worlds wants to show you the struggles of making this game and the pressure that Kojima was under to bring it to reality and keep his employees employed.
Or at least, that would be the focus of the documentary if it didn’t spend an hour telling us how amazing Hideo Kojima is and why he’s the greatest video game designer on the planet. If you thought that Stan Lee was a narcissistic look at a man’s career, Connecting Worlds wants you to hold its beer.
Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds
Director: Glen Milner
Release Date: June 17, 2023 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Set over the course of several years, we follow Hideo Kojima’s studio, Kojima Productions, as they design and create Death Stranding, a game that released in 2019 to warm, yet polarizing reviews. It’s impossible not to associate this documentary with your thoughts on Death Stranding if you were someone who has played the game. Let’s assume hypothetically you have never heard about the game or the man who created it. What does Connecting Worlds tell you about both of them?
Well first, you’ll have a lot of talking heads telling you why Hideo Kojima is so great. From famed directors Guillermo del Toro and George Miller to manga creators like Mamoru Oshii to actors like Norman Reedus, everyone is in awe of how brilliant Kojima is as a visionary. They can’t really offer up why that is, and in fact, several of the accounts recalled paint a picture of a person who can’t vocalize or execute his ideas properly, something that is only bolstered by his library of titles. This documentary perpetrated the myth of Kojima, something that is shown through somber visuals of Kojima looking through windows in empty rooms or staring at paintings by himself.
Kojima sucks so much of the focus that the actual purpose of the documentary, showing how Kojima established his studio, feels woefully underdeveloped. We have a few asides at the beginning about the fears Kojima has about delivering a bad product, which would result in his studio shutting down, or the worries he has for his employees because the burden is all on him, but these brief looks at the man’s humanity only last for a moment. Then it’s back to self-aggrandizing praise that feels obsessively pretentious. It’s as if Connecting Worlds is worried you won’t think of Kojima as a brilliant force of nature, so it overcompensates at every turn.
It comes across as one giant advertisement for the game he was developing and its upcoming sequel, Death Stranding 2. With the PlayStation Studios logo emblazoned on the front, the documentary plays its hand almost immediately. This is marketing, much like how Stan Lee was a tool by Disney to perpetuate the myth of Marvel. However, I find this worse in several ways because we don’t learn anything about him due to how shallow it is. Even as someone who has followed Kojima’s career since the 2000s, the documentary paints him as this mysterious man who is all about these high concepts ideas. Who is he as a person? What are his fears? What are his interests? What is it like creating a massive studio with these gargantuan expectations of its first product?
Who is Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds for? Fans of his will only have their opinions of Hideo Kojima reinforced and not challenged. Newcomers will be left wondering how this man deserves the praise and attention he receives. Critics will have their criticisms confirmed and supported by unending praise. This documentary feels like a special feature that is going to be released for free in the lead-up to Death Stranding 2 that won’t challenge any opinions on the man and won’t bring him any new converts. It’s a softball documentary that matters little at the end of the day and doesn’t seek to inform or educate, only to sell more of Kojima’s products.