Hideo Kojima really wants to go to space, possibly more than anybody on Earth including actual astronauts.
Kojima’s fascination with space is no big secret. The branding for his studio Kojima Productions features a mysterious space explorer planting a flag on an alien world, and his 1994 game Policenauts takes place in space. But when I picked up his new book of collected essays, released as The Creative Gene in English, I was taken aback by just how much his as-yet unfulfilled desire to go to space seems to define him. It doesn’t even need to be fancy, like a trip to the moon or Mars, but Kojima writes in a 2009 essay that he’d be happy with just eking out past Earth’s atmosphere. Here:
“If I could have just one wish in my life—if I could cast a magic spell and make anything come true—without hesitation, it would be this: ‘I wish to go to space before I die.’ It doesn’t have to be anything as extravagant as a trip to the moon or Mars. I would be satisfied with only a brief orbit, just beyond Earth’s atmosphere, where I can gently brush against outer space. I would give up anything to make that wish come true: my current place as a game designer, which I’ve built up for forty-five years; I’m even prepared to throw away my family or my own life. That is how powerfully I—or rather we—yearn for the cosmos.”
Let that sink in. Hideo Kojima, one of the most celebrated video game auteurs of all time, would trade it all in for a trip to space. He would give up his life and even his family. Honestly, I can’t even really comprehend that. But there it is.
Kojima’s essay is a thoughtful rumination on how space exploration inspires and invigorates us, filled with admiration of the heroism of astronauts, and concludes that the chief purpose of sending humans into space is to allow us to reexamine ourselves collectively and as individuals.
The essay is full of personal reflections, like how Kojima gave up his dream of being an astronaut as a profession and settled on game design because Japan’s fledgling space program didn’t have astronauts when he was a youth. But Kojima’s dream never left him; during an interview with Geoff Keighley at Summer Game Fest in 2020, he said that he planned to visit SpaceX with Valve CEO Gabe Newell, to which SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded on Twitter, “Welcome anytime.”
“The journey to reach outer space is the journey to know oneself,” Kojima writes, “To return from space is to return to Earth, from the past self to the future self.”
“To where will I, a game designer, return?”
The possible answers to that final question in the essay are dizzying to consider. Death Stranding expanded my idea of what a video game can be, and I consider it to be one of the greatest works of art to emerge from the medium.
Here’s the thing: Kojima’s dream isn’t even all that ambitious now, or far-fetched at all. The space-racing billionaires of today are currently sending rich people, actors, and normal people to just-past-the-edge-of-space on a regular basis. To be perfectly plain, they simply owe it to the rest of us to also send Hideo Kojima to space so that he can finally achieve his dream, and we can enjoy the results through his art.
Seriously, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, whoever: Take a break from being captains of industry or whatever and do one good thing by sending Hideo Kojima to space. And let him do astronaut training, because he really, really wants to do that.
This post has been read 21 times!