Well, the news has broken. Now that Death Stranding is out, cinematic game director Hideo Kojima has tweeted that he wants to turn his talents back towards horror. It’s a hint, really, and an admission that he was watching The Eye while making P.T., but it hasn’t stopped me from getting excited about the idea. I’m not really a Metal Gear fan (V was cool!), but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of Death Stranding and think P.T. is a small masterpiece — a teeny game that effectively leveraged the idea of loops and creepy shifting environments to make something fresh.
It was also genuinely terrifying. I remember staying in a semi-remote cabin for vacation the week after I played it and checking the bathroom for Lisa in the middle of the night.
I was 30.
So now, at the tail end of 2019, our director is thinking back to my favorite genre again. I’d love to see him working small again; P.T. was so good partially because of its strict restraints, as a tiny little artifact from nowhere that just popped up on PSN one August afternoon. In my heart of hearts, I would love a small game — or series of small games — pseudo-experimental projects even, that constrain Kojima and team to a 2-3 hour timeframe and a few simple gameplay concepts. Keep it simple, but go wild with the ideas and imagery and mind-fuckery, much as they did in 2014.
The idea of a big-budget horror game excites me less. Though I know I’d certainly play it and probably enjoy it, whatever it is. I’m sure a big-old collaboration (say, with Guillermo del Toro) would bear some wild creative fruit. Just give me, say, a creative Playable Teaser ahead of time.
Steven, I know you have some thoughts here as well. What’s on your Kojima horror wishlist?
I never actually beat P.T. Although I do maintain a PS4 with it still installed, since you can’t get it anymore. And I’ve watched with trepidation and excitement as much, much smaller devs have tried to replicate its magic. Anatomy by Kitty Horrorshow is one of my personal favorite stabs at the “take something mundane and make it more and more sinister with each repeated trip through haunted halls.”
These smaller games remind me that, while I didn’t beat P.T. on my own, I have watched the ending many times. That’s the part nobody ever talks about: Norman Reedus escaping the iconic house, into a sprawling world, punctuated by the extra “S” fading in on “Silent Hills.” It always implied, to me, that Kojima Productions had something much larger and grander in mind than the so-called teaser we got.
I absolutely don’t want some kind of open-world, third-person horror game. But if the promise of Silent Hills was just an excuse to travel from house to house, town to town, ghost story to ghost story, experiencing a dozen or more little P.T.-sized nightmare boxes… I’m down! Horror often works best when it’s short and sweet. The budget and hype of a Death Stranding applied to an “anthology” horror game — providing both scope and focus — sounds incredible.
Kojima’s work is overwhelmingly about contact and relationships between men, which always verge on the homoerotic. I would love to see him explore some of these themes in a horror context. Horror has always been a rich site for exploring cultural anxieties around sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, and films like this year’s Knife + Heart show the possibilities the genre holds when it openly foregrounds these topics. If Kojima returns to horror, I think this would be the most interesting — and likely — way for him to do it.
Kojima is at his scariest when he turns an in-game comfort into an unfamiliar confrontation. In the original Metal Gear Solid, he turned control against the player in the battle against Psycho Mantis, forcing the player to interact with the real world in order to defeat him. In Metal Gear Solid 2, your game-long conversations with Colonel Campbell turn into a glitched out nightmare at the end of the game, turning what is typically a welcome respite from intense stealth into an uncomfortable glimpse the game-player relationship.
I’d love to see Kojima play with comfort mechanics in a horror game, reversing tropes of safety and security to emulate what actual terror would feel like. I think he’d probably be good at it. Mix in his use of unforeseen consequences like having the ghosts of soldiers you kill haunt you in The Sorrow boss fight of Metal Gear Solid 3 and you’ve got a recipe for a very scary foray into horror.
I am afraid of most things. I would like it if Kojima never made a horror game. However, if his team created a very scary version of Dracula in a new Boktai game, I would probably play that.