Shigeru Miyamoto is Walt Disney: Shakespeare
(Howdy, Schmamers and welcome to a new feature here on GS: Shigeru Miyamoto is Walt Disney. In this feature we’ll present a historical figure, find their counterpart in the gaming world, and explain why. Join us for this exciting new series of examinations!)
With these words, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark bids adieu, parting with not quite so sweet sorrow, and after a few lines more, what could be the finest achievement in all of literature comes to curtains.
It is a final line that has echoed for centuries in every language known. It has flummoxed scholars, inspired artists, and will outlive all of us by a wide margin. Simple words, but with such a deep destination.
Too bad that play is completely fucked (not in the fun, we’re bored on a Thursday afternoon and the internet’s out kinda way) and was written by a total fucking hack.
Men and women, you mere players you, allow me to briefly introduce William Shakespeare.
There he is.
Check out that beard. Check out that bardy beard.
Not much, I hope, needs to be said about ol’ Billy Shakes here. I’ll mention some interesting trivia, though.
Every night of the year, somewhere in the world, a Shakespearean play is being performed. Neat, huh? He had a son named Hamnet (yes, you read that correctly) who died very young, and Shakespeare’s plays took a much darker turn following that. His next play? Take a guess. (Sigh, it was Hamlet.)
He was also a total sell-out and a pretty obvious thief.
The lines can be traced from several stories of old and Shakespeare’s work. Romeo and Juliet is a big culprit, as is King John, one of my personal favorite’s Richard III and others. This isn’t news, folks. The biggest Shakespeare scholars in the world admit it, too. Bill just took these stories, or, more accurately, storylines, and retold them in his inimitable, truly genius style. But still, thievin’s thievin’.
As for accusations of hackery, William is undeniably guilty of that, too. By hack I mean someone who creates art more or less solely for money. You must realize, though, that in Shakespeare’s days this was considerably more difficult a task, and you’d be a fool to not take advantage of it if given the chance.
Shakespeare was certainly no fool.
There’s a reason his work is still performed today and will be for the rest of human existence. If there’s one thing to be said of his work, one adjective that could describe that entire thundering catalog in single breath it is this: universal.
Shakespeare took a hacksaw to humanity’s defenses and presented our soul in totality with uncompressing honesty. Nobody was safe from his incisions.
And the guy had balls. When the crown asked Shakespeare to write a historical play, he gave them Richard III. Go give that a read and see how kindly it portrays royalty. When an uppity theatre manager FUCKING DEMANDED a comedy, Shakespeare created Nick Bottom. And so on.
The inevitable tragedy of young love, the coldness of ungrateful children, the thrill of honor, the pressure of life being defined by death, the paradoxical nature of hatred, and how crazy pussy just never stays away are some of the thousands of themes Shakespeare wrote about that are as relevant today as they were then. The man was prescient as few other artists ever are.
Keep in mind, too, please, that Shakespeare was revolutionary in his time, and was just as bizarre to hear as he is now. No one was, is, or probably ever will be a writer like Shakespeare. He is utter uniqueness.
A mad man to some, a genius to others, and just too goddamn goofy for others to even try to understand.
So, who could he be?
My friends, who else?
Hideo Kojima is one one-of-a-kind game designer. Holy moley. Fans of Mr. K know that I could sum it all up in one phrase, “Psycho Mantis.” For everyone else, though, I’ll explain.
Kojima, known best for his Metal Gear Solid series, has been called by many the best video game auteur working today. And it’s hard to disagree. His games always come barreling through with originality few artists in any medium could ever hope to present. His storytelling techniques were remarkably innovative for their time, and unquestionably influenced the evolution of writing in gaming.
There’s nothing like playing a Metal Gear Solid game. Nothing.
Well, except all the other Metal Gear games. And all the other Kojima games. And if you watch Blade Runner.
But fuck it, Kojima did it all bigger and better. Even if he was essentially ripping himself off gameplay wise every time, he knew that he had to add his own inimitable flair to each title to avoid accusations of plagiarism. And in my opinion, just like with Shakespeare, Kojima’s good definitely outweighed the bad of potential stealing.
Shakespeare was big but not the biggest playwright of his time. Just like Kojima. In fact, Shakespeare’s iconic status came long after his death, which could very well and mostly likely will be the case for Kojima. We’re all so cynical while they’re alive. Only after they pass do we ever admit our love.
Kojima’s work, by the way, is also tremendously flawed, which he himself has admitted. Earlier I said Hamlet is a flawed play, despite it being considered the greatest of all time. But the flaw definitely exists. Hamlet starts off an emo douche of the umpteenth degree. Whining and crying and fussing and fighting and blah blah blah woe is me. This continues well into the play until eventually Hamlet is sent away on a boat to America (to be murdered, but he don’t know that). The boat, however, is taken over by pirates and Hamlet returns to Denmark.
This new Hamlet is now remarkably calm, able, and accepting of whatever the fates may bring him. “The readiness is all.” He says, and sets his plan, which eventually succeeds, into action. This is all well and good and a great metaphor for growing up.
BUT WE NEVER FUCKING SEE IT HAPPEN. We never see Hamlet’s balls drop or know why he suddenly man ups. This complete shift of characters happens entirely off stage. We are simply told about it, which is the exact opposite of theatre. If my playwriting mentor saw me doing this, he’d chop my balls off.
But Hamlet still works despite it. And beautifully so.
Just like Metal Gear Solid works despite its flaws. And beautifully so.
Kojima could have easily just made a moody, atmospheric stealth game and probably still made a trillion dollars. Metal Gear could have easily been Splinter Cell and probably would have made more cash. But he stuck to his artistic guns (or tranq darts) and created something of merit.
And when that fucking sell out decided to sequelize his masterpiece, he didn’t just give us Solid Snake all over again, he gave us Raiden. And instead of another screed against big military, he gave us a rather intimate look at a troubled relationship with universal themes of disconnection and loneliness abounds. And when that money grubbing fuck went back to the well, we went back in time and learned about the power, as terrible a thing it can be, of fathers and sons.
Even mired in studio success, Kojima never compromised his heart, and we have a series of truly unforgettable games because of it.
I love Mario and BioShock and Half-Life just as much as the next guy, but there’s something inside me that makes me think that the work of Kojima might just outlast them all. Passion, to me, will always shine through. A passion to create is as close to godliness as we can get, and Kojima has nothing but. Perhaps we don’t recognize it now, but we’ll see what history has to say.
Not convinced enough? Fine.
Shakespeare always tossed in comic relief even in the darkest of dramas. Otacon anyone? Shakespeare SLAMMED on the brakes in his plays to share an esoteric bit of wisdom with us through the flimsy facade of some side character. How about that anti-nuke ending to MGS? If rumors are true that Hamlet was a response to the death of Shakespeare’s son, then the rumors that MGS2 is a response to the near death of Kojima’s marriage sure seems to make a lot more sense.
Simply: they are both geniuses. Flawed geniuses. Brash, bold, but still so heartbreakingly beautiful at nearly every turn.
There is no one like Shakespeare. There is no one like Kojima.
The rest is silence.