Author: Maya Koshaba

Kojima’s Standing Ovation

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For those watching The Game Awards 2015, it was very disappointing when Geoff Keighley gave the news that Hideo Kojima would not be stepping up to accept his award for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Waves of disbelief spread across the gaming industry when he revealed why— Konami forbid him from doing so. The same Konami where Kojima had spent decades turning Metal Gear into one of the most iconic series ever.

Shift In Focus

March of 2015 was when we first learned of the drama that would unfold throughout the year. Out of nowhere, the official Metal Gear website was stripped of any references to Kojima and Kojima Productions. This was followed by the renaming of Kojima Productions Los Angeles to Konami Los Angeles Studios. While many thought this was another one of Kojima’s pre-release publicity stunts, enough speculation arose that both Kojima and Konami had to release a statement assuring fans that Kojima was still working on The Phantom Pain.

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In the following months, reports would come up surrounding the struggling relationship between Kojima and his long-time company. According to Nikkei, a large Japanese media corporation, Konami had become a tension-filled workplace with very unhappy employees. This all seemed to have begun as soon as Konami started shifting their focus on small mobile games instead of big-budget console titles. In October, more reports of Kojima leaving Konami forced the publisher to say that he was merely “on vacation”.

New Beginnings

On December 16, 2015, not long after the Video Game Awards, Kojima revealed that a new Kojima Productions was born. Free from Konami, the independent studio would be focusing on creating exclusive games for the PlayStation 4. A statement by Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, was released simultaneously. For the first time since 1986, Kojima was officially not an employee of Konami.

While no one likes the idea of the Metal Gear franchise continuing without its mastermind, there’s excitement in knowing that Kojima is free to work on something entirely new. Two of his closest colleagues from Konami, artist Yoji Shinkawa and producer Kenichiro Imaizumi, have joined him to form a team that will be kept small. As of this writing, only around 20 jobs are available on the Kojima Productions career page.

Recognition

Fast-forward to February 2015 and D.I.C.E. Summit, an annual event where the top people from the video game industry get together to celebrate games and vote for their favorites from the previous year. The winner for best adventure game was none other than Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but neither Konami or Kojima went up to accept the award. The odd part about this was that earlier in the show, Hideo Kojima stepped up onto the stage to accept a Hall of Fame award from Guillermo del Toro.

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When doing so, Konima was met with a standing ovation. Developers and executives alike couldn’t help but give the man behind Metal Gear Solid the recognition he deserves. After almost a year of confusion, it’s great to see that Kojima is putting his past with Konami behind him and is ready to continue doing what he does best— make great games.

To both aspiring and veteran game developers out there, Kojima’s struggle is a reminder that the gaming industry isn’t perfect. From layoffs and crunching to publishers pushing developers to make something they hate, making games can be a tough career. But as Kojima has shown us, game development is also very rewarding. Why else would he come back to games after such a grueling ordeal with the company he called home for three decades?

Directors Essentials: 6 Spike Lee Masterpieces Everyone Should Watch

Previously in the Directors Essentials series:

Every now and then, we delve into the filmography of not just directors who have a few great movies under their belt, but who have revolutionized an entire genre or pushed the art of cinema forward in unprecedented ways. Spike Lee is one director who definitely falls into that camp.

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For over quarter of a century, Lee has amassed an entire laundry list of awards for his subversive, often highly-politicized works holding a mirror up to a wide range of societal… and here’s six of the best.

Malcolm X (1992)

Arguably the most celebrated of Lee’s movies to date, and for good reason; the partnership with long-time collaborator Denzel Washington hit all the right notes, resulting in the biopic being hailed as “one of the greatest screen biographies” by Roger Ebert. And it was something of a miracle it ever got released, let alone to critical success. Production-killing arguments over budget and length, extreme difficulties in securing permission to film in Mecca and intense pressure from black nationalists to honor X’s legacy properly nearly broke the project. Fortunately for cinema, Lee received enough donations from black celebrities to finish the film as he’d envisioned it, and did indeed do Malcolm X’s legacy justice.

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Usually high up on the list of greatest movies of all time (and definitely one of the most important of the 80s), Do the Right Thing endures as a breathtaking exercise in craftsmanship. Set on the run up to the hottest day of the year in Brooklyn as both the mercury and racial tensions rise, the movie’s stifling atmosphere is punctuated by levity thanks to an all-star ensemble cast, a tight screenplay and exceptionally formed characters. A huge tip of the hat goes to cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, who managed to brilliantly translate the sweltering heat to film.

She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Spike Lee’s first ever feature film, and as far as career debuts go, it’s something of a monolithic achievement. Shot independently on a budget of less than $200k, the landmark comedy ended up being a seminal moment in the history of cinema upturning the status quo – for one of the first times on screen, African American characters were portrayed as erudite and cosmopolitan urbanites. To boot, Lee’s depiction of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood as one of prosperity and opportunity actually resulted in more talent being discovered due to increased media interest.

4 Little Girls (1997)

Originally destined for a HBO release, the television run was cancelled once executives saw the finished product… because they decided it was too important to not get a theatrical release first. Centered around the story of the 1963 terrorist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama (and the eponymous victims who were killed), 4 Little Girls is as much about exploring the human condition as it is a documentary on the KKK attack itself. Nominated for an Academy Award for best Oscar, the film was also notable as the first in a long line of collaborations between Lee and editor Sam Pollard (which is of little surprise given that the documentary itself is a master work of editing.)

Inside Man (2006)

Dubbed as the “Spike Lee movie for those who don’t watch Spike Lee Movies”, Inside Man is a straight-forward heist movie albeit one which stands head and shoulders above the rest. With Denzel Washington (in his fourth Lee collaboration) joined by Clive Owen, Jodie Foster and Willem Defoe, the movie’s exceptional performances are matched only by the killer pacing and slick camera work. Arguably Lee’s “straightest” movie, it was also his most profitable to date but sadly repeated attempts at developing a sequel have failed.

With a filmography as extensive and successful as Spike Lee’s, we had a tough time narrowing it down to just five must-watch joints, so over to you…Know of a criminally under-watched classic that every film fan should see? Drop your suggestion down in the comments below!