In 2001, Hideo Kojima fooled a video game industry and an audience that were not accustomed to being fooled.
The creator of the Metal Gear series created misleading trailers with asset replacement to convince the world that Metal Gear Solid 2 was a fairly straightforward sequel to the previous game — and why wouldn’t it be? There was no reason to doubt this, no reason to think the video games could be intentionally lying in their marketing in order to create a bigger surprise when actually playing the game. Kojima and publisher Konami pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes by doing something no one saw coming in 2001.
Twenty years later, people are convinced that every anomaly in the gaming industry, every glitch in the Matrix, every strange coincidence is just Hideo Kojima putting on his Batman villain makeup and preparing to trick the world in a way that defies all other possible explanations. It has long reached the point of absurdity and at this point rocketed off into ludicrousness that feels borderline embarrassing to witness.
A few months ago, the PlayStation blog published a piece about a game called Abandoned, a new horror title from indie studio Blue Box Game Studios. We wrote about it too, mostly because it was a PlayStation 5-exclusive video game release in a year that isn’t, like, jam-packed with those. There was an immediate eyebrow raise from social media, wondering if there might be more to the game than people think. Specifically, there was a bit of wishful thinking that this was a new horror game from Hideo Kojima that may or may not be related to Silent Hill and is all just a big deception, especially considering its obvious similarities to P.T.
These thoughts were immediately dashed when IGN reached out to Blue Box, which confirmed Abandoned had nothing to do with Silent Hill, Hideo Kojima, or any sort of mysterious ARG people expected. That was the end of the story, the game went back into obscurity, and everyone left it alone.
Until the rumors started swirling up again. Blue Box, intentionally or unintentionally, waded back into the rumors to promote the game, and people of note started paying attention.
Now Abandoned, a small little indie horror game that would not have been terribly notable in normal circumstances, is at the center of a surprisingly divisive discussion between people who do not think there is anything more to this than what it says on the tin and diehard conspiracy theorists who believe this is a Hideo Kojima trick and will continue to think that until the day the game comes out.
I don’t want to relitigate whether this is a Hideo Kojima game or not. There are a lot of odd coincidences, but many of those are people just wishing to see connections that aren’t really there, or for some reason thinking of Google Translate as a sort of translation deity. Before we just all move on and admit this was a collective fever dream, I think it’s a good time to reflect on the fact that we should all probably stop treating Hideo Kojima like Xanatos.
I can sort of understand why people do it. The aforementioned Metal Gear Solid 2 trick was shocking and people were simply not used to being so fundamentally lied to when previewing a game, at least in ways that are interesting and not just bad. Over a decade later, when Kojima tried a similar deception by donning a blonde wig and trying to pass off Metal Gear Solid V as a game by a different company with Joakim Mogren — partially an anagram of Kojima and the entire word “OGRE” — spearheading the project, people figured it out within the hour. It felt like a plot twist coming out of M. Night Shamylan’s less creative years. It’s reasonable to have the thought in the back of your mind, but it continually enters the public conversation for reasons transcending reality.
Kojima’s record with doing this isn’t great. There’s a good reason for this: it really only works once! After that, you have the reputation of being the mystery guy, which makes it way harder to actually market the thing you’re trying to market. People mistake silence for machinations rather than just keeping your head down to make the art you want to make. They look at a game being incomplete because of disagreements with the publisher as just one more piece in a puzzle that leads to a complete game.
The thing these people want — the big surprise, the major reveal, the fool-making of publications that reported on the assuredly fake video game in earnest — is not a thing that happens these days. There’s just too many ways to root out the deception. Sony as a publisher and marketer absolutely knows better than to outright lie to the press in order to market a game, which does immense ethical damage to an already somewhat acrimonious relationship between press and publisher. In a situation where AAA developers did want to maintain some kind of illusion about what their game really is, it wouldn’t be a battle between evidence vs. plausible explanations, it would be an absence of enough information to say anything at all.
There’s an actual game at the center of it this time, which may or may not be any good, but will certainly be lambasted for not bearing the fruit of a fanbase’s mass delusion. At the end of the day, all that really comes of this is creating expectations that cannot possibly be met.
I’m begging people: Stop treating Hideo Kojima like he is five steps ahead of you in a chess game. Maybe he is figuring out some way to really surprise people with his next game or maybe he’s just focusing so much on developing that game that he does not have time to, for some reason, buy an entire studio to create an ARG that some people would have figured out at the first post. Whatever the case, we can be better than just randomly pointing at things and trying to link them together.