The first edition of the continuation of the book “Kojima Genius” (in the original The Kojima Code) has been shipped to Russian retail, ” Bombora publishing house reports. It’s called “Genius Strikes Back” (in the original A Stealth Game). The author is the same — Canadian blogger Terry Wolfe, who became interested in amateur theology after video games. As for the book, it is devoted to a speculative theory about possible competition between Hideo Kojima and Rockstar Games.
A little below we give a chapter about the origins of the possible confrontation of the series.
It’s 1997, before the release of Metal Gear Solid on PlayStation, there is only one revolution of the planet around the Sun. A blue and white police Chevrolet Caprice drives through an intersection on Fifth Avenue in New York. A beautiful car, they don’t make such anymore, and where can modern people compete with it. Behind the car, the recognizable stepped facade of Trump Tower is carried away into the sky. This is not a very good photo taken around the 70s, blurry and under-illuminated. But it doesn’t make any difference. Only three words are important, printed on top of the image, typed in a massive font and seasoned with a tongue of flame: Grand Theft Auto.
It is not surprising that this photo was used for the cover of the game. No matter what anyone says, the notorious 70s changed the face of New York forever. Rampant unemployment and rampant crime, police raids and unbearable heat, prostitution, riots and constant power outages, graffiti, drugs, disco, nightclubs, street gangs, punk and hip-hop, sensation hunting, debauchery, pornography, exploitation movies and the millionaire Donald Trump reveling in his wealth — here he is, New- York of the 70s. The decade began with the fact that America learned about COINTELPRO, an extensive secret FBI program aimed, among other things, at undermining the activities of such dangerous “communist” movements as, for example, anti—war societies and demonstrations. Well, the 70s ended with a grandiose anti-nuclear demonstration in New York, which gathered about two hundred thousand people. Confidence in the government has fallen to an all-time low. In 1975, the Vietnam War ended, but the veterans returned completely different people — mentally and physically crippled and unnecessary to their country.
It was during this turbulent time that the directors of a new generation took the stage, who changed the world of cinema overnight. The audience was captured by bold and tough, repulsive naturalism and idealizing the life of American streets plots. The new films have intensified the already growing anti-government sentiment and hatred of the police. “Taxi Driver”, “Dog Noon”, “Saturday Night Fever”, “Warriors” and other film classics, which can be enumerated endlessly, tried to capture in every detail (sometimes colorfully exaggerating) the underside of New York soaked in sex, violence and sincerity. Until now, writers and screenwriters often turn to the era of the 70s, finding sources for inspiration and role models there. And the appearance of a low-quality photo of Trump Tower with three words on top affected the whole world.
After the release of Grand Theft Auto, the studio that created the franchise will change its owner and expand its staff, but it will not find much fame under its original name. They called themselves DMA Design, and that name meant nothing. No, seriously, DMA stands for “Doesn’t mean anything” — “Doesn’t mean anything”. However, most missed this joke of humor, but it’s a pity. This is not only a mockery of people who are looking for a deep meaning in names and abbreviations, but also a message to gamers and critics: “Hey, these are just games — stop taking them so seriously, they don’t mean anything!”
With a sense of humor, the guys had everything (and will!) excellent. Their first success was Lemmings (1991) — a game in which a tiny people cheerfully marches towards imminent death, until you decide to take on the role of their savior, starting to give Lemmings the tools and assignments necessary for survival. The game shocked people not only with explosions of pixel men, but also with the most difficult puzzles. The chip of the Scots from the city of Dundee were cocktails of black humor and daring outrage, and GTA perfectly confirmed this. Despite the fact that at the time of its release it already seemed a little outdated — the top view and 2D graphics did not pull for the title of the most technically perfect game of 1997 – GTA became a hit. Well, where have you been able to explore as many as three huge cities living their own lives before? Having tried on the role of an unnamed gopnik who performs morally questionable tasks issued through payphones, you will steal, kill, tear claws from the crime scene, steal cars and shoot law enforcement officers with such undisguised pleasure that, perhaps, someday you will ask the question: “Is everything really okay with me?” it’s just a game. The characters look like gnarled sprites, which do not look like people because of the view from above. But when they die, mowed down by machine-gun fire or smeared on the sidewalk by a car, it is immediately clear that this is a human corpse. Sprite. The game is full of various weapons, but there are no rules about what to do with them or where to go and what to do. Instead, there is a system of points, rewards and obstacles. You need to earn a certain amount of money to open access to the next city and new tasks. The game begins in Liberty City, continues in Vice City, and ends in San Andreas – satirical versions of New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Avoiding detention, you will earn good money, and knocking down pedestrians in a police car, in general, you will get twice the number of points (in real life, everything works a little differently). Having picked up an icon with a skull on the street, you turn on the “Bloody Frenzy” mode: you will have in your hands some kind of merciless weapon like a flamethrower, with which you will have to kill some people in a limited time. If you do not have time, then after the time has elapsed, the search level gained during the murders will remain — it was necessary to kill everyone more actively, now clean up the consequences. But if you kill everyone on time, you get a full pardon and a bunch of points. Don’t look for meaning in this, the game just gives you the opportunity to come off to the fullest. Giving the player the opportunity to entertain himself at that time was an innovative solution. The game world existed by itself without reference to tasks, and the movement of the plot only justified the growth of your arsenal.
In short, banditry in the fictional world of GTA was worth doing. The game was released in Europe simultaneously on MS-DOS, Windows and PlayStation platforms, and a few months later it reached North America. Less than a year later, everyone was struck by the incredible and gloomy MGS videos — the game made it its goal to take games to new artistic heights. Kojima’s creations, unlike DMA Design games, will try their best to mean something.
Whoosh — fast forward to 2001. Despite the success of the original GTA and its successor, nothing could prepare gamers for the monumental third part. It was released just twenty-two days before the release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (MGS2) and became an exclusive for PlayStation 2. The action takes place again in New York. Oh, I mean in Liberty City. This time the world was stunningly three-dimensional, people began to look like people, and the characters had voices. The game clearly shows the confidence and talent of developers that have grown over the years, and the strong cinematic storyline was inspired by such masterpieces as “Nice Guys” and “The Sopranos Clan”. Another revolution has taken place in the industry.
It is difficult to assess that some event has changed the course of history (especially when you live it) until you think about it. Let’s see what kind of game this is and what does the postmodern MGS2 farce have to do with it. It all starts with light jazz. The opening credits are accompanied by a leisurely montage of urban landscapes. We see the everyday life of Liberty City and no hints of unrestrained action. The credits are coming to an end, we can’t wait to start the game. And now we see the night street and the facade of the bank. Disturbing music is playing. A sports car flying like a bullet barely fits into a turn and drives into an alley next to the bank. The door of the bank is kicked out by a kick to the deafening roar of drums. The alarm goes off, and three robbers run out into the street. Last, behind the girl and some guy, our hero is shown. But as soon as he turns the corner, two of his accomplice’s pistols are aimed at him. “I’m sorry, honey, I’m an ambitious girl,” she says, pulling the trigger as we watch the scene through the eyes of a man who got shot. “And you’re just a small fry,” she adds. The main character falls to the asphalt, and we are left to watch as the traitor picks up the suitcase and leaves without looking back.
The next frame is the front page of the newspaper with a photo of our hero. They call him a bank robber who was thrown by his girlfriend — that’s how we find out who she was. The plot is developing at breakneck speed — the hero has already been found guilty and is being transported to prison. The scene changes, and we see him in an orange jumpsuit sitting in the back of a police van, accompanied by a patrol car, and hear a report about an attack on the convoy in which he is being transported. The dark streets are flooded with rain. Cars drive onto the suspension bridge and if we didn’t know what kind of game we were facing, we wouldn’t be surprised at all if Solid Snake appeared on the bridge at that moment in a rubber cape and with a cigarette in his teeth, and under the bridge there was a tanker carrying a new Metal Gear. The coincidence with the introduction of Sons of Liberty is incredible — even the color correction of the videos is almost identical!
During the assault, the bandits do not release you, but all the criminals manage to escape. The hero and another prisoner escape together. Soon the accomplice brings you together with a person offering to work for the mafia, and the bridge leading to other areas of the city will be blocked until you complete the required number of missions and advance through the plot. That’s just the players are free to spit on the passage of the plot and can start having fun in the city as they please. Many did so, only later discovering that there are areas on the map that are blocked. And the city is bigger than it seemed! The game has just started, and the gamers’ heads are already exploding.
Grand Theft Auto III (GTAIII) shocked the gaming world, but MGS2 did not succeed. By the way, MGS2 was expected much more — thanks to the beloved predecessor and the most powerful trailers at E3. But Kojima betrayed his fans by releasing his postmodern show-off, openly laughing at their desire to be handsome mercenaries again, and endless ridiculous plot twists left behind only bewilderment and an unpleasant aftertaste. GTAIII also staged a revolution in its own way. The list of her achievements, without which we can no longer imagine modern games, is huge. Take, for example, the change of day and night, depending on the in-game clock, or changing weather conditions affecting transport management. The artificial intelligence of the townspeople was also impressive: they purposefully went somewhere, drove and convincingly went about their business. Drivers changed lanes, observed traffic rules and reacted to obstacles in the same way as pedestrians. They buzzed and complained about everything around them, and when patience ran out, they tried to squeeze between cars standing in traffic or ram an obstacle. Downed pedestrians and accidentally committed crimes, the police did not forgive not only the player’s character, but also the NPC. Firefighters, medics and taxi drivers did their job and reacted to what was happening — and you could steal their cars and earn a little extra money. Some of this already existed in previous games in the series, but, like MGS, which in places repeated its predecessor Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, GTAIII became a revival, not a remake.
At first, people did not understand how to evaluate MGS2 and GTAIII, but one thing everyone understood — these are not just games, but the most powerful statements of significant people in the industry. In the case of GTAIII, the developers even overdid it a little, stepping on the heels of other genres. For example, the driving system turned out better than in some racing games. And a variety of vehicles — from old clunkers, buses, vans, trucks and to supercars — turned almost every escape into a comedy show. The physics of the game allowed cars to ride on two wheels, fall off a bridge and land on the roof of another car or fly head over heels down a steep slope, turning into a pile of metal. With severe damage, cars exploded, causing panic and chaos. The bonnet and trunk lids loosened and jumped up and down when damaged. Lampposts, fire hydrants and newspaper racks were also destroyed with a bang. The controls, of course, are crooked, especially aiming and jumping, and the level of detail is not equally good everywhere, but these are trifles. The game had an author’s vision, she was trying to prove something. Many, by the way, had no idea who was voicing the characters! But this is Michael Madsen, Frank Vincent, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Rapaport, Kyle McLachlan and other famous actors — is it cool? And some of them will be heard in the subsequent games of the series. GTAIII won people over not with the cast, of course, but even young gamers who are not familiar with the roles of these stars were glad to see (and hear!) characters voiced by non-professional programmers. The voice acting in MGS2 is also amazing, no doubt, but it could not boast of big names or the size of the game world. There is a happy ending to this story, don’t worry — the MGS2 voice actors eventually became stars, but of the world of video games, not movies.
In addition to the release year, the console, the public’s attention and partly the location of the action, the games had something else in common: social commentary on American culture and the establishment. Only in GTAIII they worked differently. Instead of tormenting the player by reading him lengthy lectures about conspiracy theories and dystopian technologies, the word was given to urban life. Crime-infested streets. The opportunity to pick up a prostitute by car, find a secluded corner and use her services shocked both parents, legislators, and the press. Almost all cars have a radio installed, and the advertising that is being played on it is a hilarious satire that ridicules everything. Radio hosts wittily banter the target audience. “You tuned in to the 90s, but you got stuck in the 80s,” the Flashback 95.6 FM station DJ mocks. You can hear the video of the AmmuNition store chain, where a stack of banknotes is exchanged for weapons, which are not always available to the military. Or here is an advertisement for Ares sneakers, where criticism of working conditions at Nike factories is easily read. In the video, a company representative interviews a worker whose voice looks suspiciously like a child’s. They ask him if he likes his job: “It’s fun here! We are allowed to play with knives!”, the young hard worker happily answers. When asked about colleagues, the child answers: “My friend Joey sewed his hands together!” What about the salary? “I earned a whole dollar yesterday!” As you can see, everything is fine in the company. Her slogan? “Ares sneakers. They run forever. From everything.” And this is just a fraction of all the jabs at corporate America. There is also a completely talkative station where all sorts of madmen and losers splash out on the host of ideas about how to equip America. One of them is an angry activist who called to inspire fellow citizens to go to a rally in the park, but he has no idea what to rally against. He throws empty, meaningless slogans about patriotism, justice and “stop putting up with it.” The presenter continues to question what the “fighter” is fighting for, but in response receives accusations of indifference to the common cause or lack of “Americanness”. Surprisingly, the players easily forgot about the plot and post-shooting, parked a car somewhere and sat for a long time, enjoying topical satire and excellent music. Radio stations really enlivened this world.
Satire saved the game from the stigma of “cop murder simulator”. This is a real miracle, given the recent terrorist attacks of September 11, which raised a wave of patriotism in American society. Even those who do not care about politics, in the end, burned over the cheerful chatter and jokes — the Americans were able to genuinely laugh at themselves. Social commentary was elegantly woven into the setting without the use of stuffy speeches. People appreciated this move.
Hideo Kojima did not foresee this. He focused on his secret desire to release his creation on PlayStation 2 faster than Japanese competitors. But a small studio from Scotland ruined Kojima’s plans. And their game dominated the charts before and after the release of MGS2. GTAIII sold twice as well and became the benchmark for video games of the future. DMA Design changed its name to Rockstar North, but the rest, as they say, is history.