shy mintz

shy mintz

Okay. My name is Shy Mintz. I'm 25. I'm out of Malibu, California.

And I guess -- I'm trying to think. Where did it all start to go wrong?

[Laughs.]

I guess it all started to go wrong when they announced Metal Gear Rising. I really do think that was the start.

Because before then, I had gotten big into the Metal Gear fan community. I got Fox, my girlfriend, into the Metal Gear fandom. I got her playing these games and she got into the community with me and it was fun. We were most active on Tumblr.

But I noticed that after this game was announced and definitely after this game came out, it created a big huge, I guess, split in the fan community. I would later learn that this is not the first time that that's happened in the community.

But it started turning into debates and drama and anger and all sorts of, you know, tempestuous emotions that we eventually realized was just bad for our health. [Laughs.] It was a community that we had gotten into that we went from enjoying it and it just turned us ugly. [Laughs.]

What was the catalyst that turned things ugly?

I guess it's hard to say it was any one particular instance.

Everything from people arguing about the game's interpretations of its main character to -- I guess a lot of it hinged on that, too.

The nature of the gameplay and then, within fandom, which I guess cares in a different, deeper way than most people playing in the "is this game fun to play/does it have a good flow/does it have a good climax/does it make sense/is it not buggy?" sense. A lot of people who play with these kinds of focus.

In fandom, it's more about the characters and their narrative and their story arcs and things like that. So you have a lot of emotional investment. And people's interpretations of that clashed a lot and I guess this was at least how I perceived it and how I came in in the community, because the Metal Gear community had been around longer than I was in it.

I wasn't one of those people who started playing ever since I was a little kid.

But there were people who were very set on believing that this character -- he was either this or that, and it was really the start of where Konami started being very hazy with whether or not it was a canon game and a lot of fights erupted over that because if they did determine whether or not it was canon would determine whether or not this was something within this character's arc. That was, I guess, you could say that was the start of when Konami started trying to do Metal Gear without Kojima and, as you can see, that's affecting that community now. [Laughs.]

It's blown up into this huge Konami versus Kojima thing that wasn't really around when -- or was around at a very less important, less people talking about it, less people giving a fuck level.

It's tied up in a lot of deep, deep fandom lore.

Yeah. I'm trying to think of people outside that community and even outside the community of games. We're talking basically about a company making a game and what are they doing that is making people upset? Is it just they're not making it clear how it fits into the bigger universe? What's upsetting people?

What's upsetting people is --

This is with Rising originally?

Yeah. Yeah. [Sighs.]

One of the upsetting things -- one of the big ones, that narratively it took this character who was supposed to represent our generation, let's say, and basically turned him. He was a character who turned from mindless dude-bro, he got self-awareness, decided, "I don't wanna do that anymore. I want to actually live my life and be done with this shit and go be world's No. 1 dad and husband."

[Laughs.]

I think that I think it's great for the story, arc-wise there can be a character whose ultimate victory is found not in escapist fantasy situations, and escaping the escapist fantasy situations. [Laughs.]

The problem with this game [Rising] is that narratively it undid Kojima's message that he put in at the end of his series. It undid it and it reverted this character to a -- it went back to the whole escapist power fantasy that he had in this character who in his debut had learned the dangers of. And Metal Gear Solid 2 was a very special game. It's still a very popular -- I guess I would say I feel comfortable saying it's AAA.

Insert

One of the very, very few AAA games to actually have this kind of intentional message and from Kojima to pass onto his players. And to many fans, Metal Gear Rising was really a spit in the face of that. It felt like it was a spit in the face to what Kojima was trying to teach these players -- this idea of becoming a better person and being a more adult person. It was, "Who needs to be an adult when you can a powerful manchild instead?" [Laughs.]

There's a fair amount of irony.

Oh, yes. Very ironic.

Well, what irony do you see?

I see irony, you know -- the people who ended up playing and buying and enjoying this game were people who hated the message that the actual creator of the series wanted to teach people. They're following suit of this character who they hated. They're being just like him before he learned.

They're saying, "Why do I have to face this reality I don't like when I can escape this reality where I can do whatever I want and be rewarded for it? Where I can find reward for causing chaos and destruction?"

That chaos and destruction is what ended up happening to the community. [Laughs.]

I guess to take a larger picture, that kind of mindset you also see in some of the more -- in these more, I guess, "dude-bro" types of fans. You can't see my air quotes, but I have them on "dude-bro."

[Laughs.] I heard them.

But it's ironic that a game that came out in 2001 is professing, "Hey, how about instead of escaping into these games where we can play pretend, we actually do something with our lives and stuff instead of just playing pretend? Let's take responsibility for ourselves and our generation."

And then a generation later you get, "Naw, man. Let's just cut up a bunch of stuff with some rock music in the background. So hardcore. It's so edgy."

Insert

You're talking about Rising here, just so people maybe not familiar can follow.

Mmhmm. Yeah.

I know you wanted to tell me a little about how you came to the community and how you ended up leaving it. In the midst of that is the fact that that particular character you're talking about -- do you want to talk about your experience literally embodying that character? [Laughs.]

Okay, yeah. I -- with one exception at the moment that is physiologically impossible for me to -- have cosplayed every different outfit of Raiden's. The only exception being that I haven't cosplayed him in the nude. [Laughs.]

I've done the tattoos, but, you know. Other than that, it would be kind of difficult to do.

You were sort of mocking this before we started, but you said you were a professional cosplayer which you said is not really a thing.

No, not at all a real thing.

[Laughs.] Well, tell me a little bit about how that came to be and why you say that.

Well, cosplay -- to be brief, cosplay is a hobby. You can't really be a professional cosplayer. You can be a professional model. You can be a professional costumer. You can be a spokesmodel, a brand model, whatever.

When you make a costume for a company, you're being a professional costumer. When you're wearing that costume and at their booth and showing it off, you're being a model. You're doing two jobs but those are not being a professional cosplayer. Nevermind that the amount of jobs that there are for that are very miniscule. It's not something that a person can do as a profession. I think that that term's very misleading.

Do they give you assistance on, like, "Hey, you're gonna be playing Raiden. These are the specifications." Or is it more like, "Hey, you're gonna be playing Raiden. Do whatever."

It depends on the company, 'cause I've done something with Konami and I've done something with Sony.

I've gotten some some art assets. I've gotten that. But that's usually all you'll get is something to help you physically make a costume. Nothing in terms of personality. Nothing in terms of history. Nothing that you -- sometimes you'll need an NDA just to see some designs or something like that maybe.

Because it's for a game that's not out yet.

Yeah. Right.

But that's about where it ends.

There's not much really about the cosplay world in and of itself I think has much bearing onto gaming on stuff. If anything, it's just I really appreciate this character. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] So how do you get one of these gigs?

You have to know people. It's like anything else in any creative industry.

How did this come together for you, then?

For the Konami thing?

For any of the work you've gotten doing that, yeah.

Well, you know my good friend Shane Bettenhausen.

I do.

He's the one who got me the gig with Sony doing Divekick.

And the people at Konami, when I did stuff for them, they just -- they asked me. One of my friends was working on doing, like, their PR and stuff like that. She asked me and because she asked me, I'm like, "Okay. Sure. I'll do this for you."

But going back a minute to talking about the irony of this game, to touch a little more on that.

Yeah.

We were starting to talk about how there were people who would rather, I guess, follow this escapist fantasy and indulge in that rather than listen to the lessons of the person who created this character, who created this series.

There's a little bit of an even darker irony there in that when this game came out, these people really wanted this escapism. They wanted it so bad. They took -- they knew, maybe some of them knew, and Metal Gear Solid 2 was a warning against that kind of thing, but they really wanted to not believe it. They wanted to bury their heads in the sand so much that when Metal Gear Rising came out, they would look in all these interviews for intentions -- well, I can't say whether or not they did it intentionally.

But they really just wanted to believe that Kojima worked on this game, and in doing so somehow he was absolving them of responsibility, saying, "No. Escapism is cool, guys. It's cool to be a badass who can cut shit up whenever the hell he wants, who doesn't take shit from anyone with loud music playing in the background."

Yeah.

That kind of desire of the individual players to override the message of the game I think -- I mean, anyone can play a game and interpret it however they want, but when you take it outside of the individual game and start saying, "Oh, well, this is something that this creator must believe, and because I hold this creator in such high regard and I want him to believe the thing I already believe to make me feel better about believing it."

It's fake.

I'm not Kojima. I don't know. If I was a creator and saw that happening, I'd be very frustrated, very angry.

I mean, yeah, like, Kojima. Kojima -- he had to tweet saying, "Hey, I didn't work on this game at all. In case you were wondering, guys, I didn't have anything to do with this. Please stop saying I did this."

Why do you think people in videogames need their fantasies to be so true?

You know, I think it's because they want validation without having to work. At least these particular people doing it.

I don't think everybody needs their fantasy to be validated. Not at all. I think that part of the reason why so many people enjoy videogames is, especially of our generation, who has grown up with comparatively more fun fantasy, less grim dark stories -- we've experienced enough types of games now that we can subvert them and we can subvert these tropes. I think younger generations who either haven't played as much, played more casually -- maybe they haven't gotten enough of that media to be bored with it to want to subvert it maybe?

I do think that the kinds of people who do feel that need for validation in their fantasies -- I think it's a matter of insecurity. Anyone who says, "Tell me I'm doing the right thing. Tell me that what I think is right," clearly doesn't have the internal sense of belief that what they're doing is right, so they have to either be reminded or validated by outside sources.

What's a more valid source than the person who created the thing they like?

Insert

Well, as you and I both know, very oftentimes the people who create games or work on them are in a position of not being able to say much of anything. So it's almost like: Here's your validation through silence.

[Sighs.] I think it is -- on the topic of videogames and violence, maybe with some exceptions in the same way that you'll have some movies that may be violent but not necessarily gory or hyper-excessively violent for its own sake. The difference between some torture-porn horror versus, like, "gotta get away from the monster" kind of horror, more suspenseful stuff. I think in games, having violence is -- I think in some cases it's an easy choice in terms of design, but I don't think that the average player is looking at it in terms of, "Oh, look at me. I get to inflict violence on another person." I think it's a, "This is my means to an end of completing an objective."

I think there are some exceptions in games. I don't usually play those types of games anyway, so I don't feel comfortable making blanket statements about them.

But some games, I think it's like how you see a lot of people who don't play games complaining about first-person shooters. It's not that these people are enjoying violence and shooting up other people. They're enjoying it for team aspects almost in a sport kind of way. Not sport like hunting, but in a, "How well can I communicate with my team? How good of a performance can I have? What types of feats of skill can I do to show off in this game?"

That's where a lot of shit-talking comes from. Of course, you know, there's a lot of lines being crossed there, but that's a topic for another day.

[Laughs.]

So, I think that regardless of whether or not you're engaging in particularly acts of violence, it can be escapist either way. Just like, you know, some sports games can be an escapist thing, too, because you get the fantasy of being a successful sports star if that's something you care about.

Yeah. So, talking a little bit about being on a team. What was it like being on a team with Konami and Sony at events?

When you're a cosplayer, you're not very high up in any kind of rankings. You're a promotional marketing tool. It's unfortunate that that's how they really are seen, cosplayers. I was saying before that you can't really be a professional cosplayer as a job because there's just not enough gigs for it. It's because more gigs than not won't pay.

And they won't pay because these companies realize that they don't have to. They don't have to pay you because there's this idea of, "Well, you know. You're a fan, so you get the privilege of working for the company."

It's really, like, all those "for exposure" kind of job things, only it actually works because fans really like these companies so much, they'll make the costumes of the characters for themselves. They won't have to get paid to make the costume at all. They won't feel the need to ask for pay because they're seeing the job as a privilege.

And so companies don't need to acknowledge this as a job of someone making a costume or someone, you know, working on the floor all day and interacting with people or things like that. Whereas, if they didn't get a fan and they hired a costumer and/or a model to do it, of course they'd have to pay them. That's a job! [Laughs.]

So I think fans have sort of prevented "professional cosplay" from being a viable thing.

It also sounds like you're describing writing.

[Laughs.] Yeah, I guess there's some crossover there. [Laughs.]

Maybe you could be a cosplayer!

Maybe! I heard there's not a lot of money in it, though, so I don't know.

No, not at all.

[Laughs.]

Not at all. Not. One. Cent.

So have you not gotten paid, then, for the work you did?

Not from Konami, but I did from Sony because Shane is a miracle worker. Because Shane is a real hero and a real human being. I'm not sure if this is just him or if this is just Sony or because the game is an indie game, but, yeah, they paid me to make the costumes, to wear it. I got coverage. I got to keep the costume even though they paid for it.

Yeah.

It was very nice. And I do wonder, because there are so few experiences for things like this -- I wonder if the difference is because it was an indie game or because it was from Sony directly and not from a company who -- sorry, Konami. Konami is losing a lot of money [from people] who may not have been able to afford to pay for a costume piece to be made.

Yeah. I mean, I was going to ask what the perks were for this work, which is not always necessarily monetary.

Well, the perks for cosplaying for Konami -- the biggest perk that we got was this past E3. Because since I do a lot of cosplaying Raiden just on my own and not for Konami or for any other purpose other than the fact that I enjoy this character, I enjoy these outfits. Konami actually invited myself, Fox, and some of my friends out to E3 as guests because, as you remember, they had these prosumer badges that they were doing for the first time this past year.

So they invited us out to E3. Konami got us in, and we were considered their VIPs, getting to go into the PES Soccer area and drinking beer all day. There was one night where they took us and some other people who were big in the fan communities as well who ran a bunch of notable fan websites and basically just took us all out to dinner and gave us really nice Korean barbecue. It was a great experience.

That, of course, has happened a few years after because I guess I had an established rapport with them and I knew people who now used to work there, so it's really, at that point, I think a connection thing.

Like I said before, I'm not a popular cosplayer. I'm just a well-connected one.

Yeah. I want to ask you a little bit about that, but I am curious: What events have you worked?

I've worked E3. I've worked the Metal Gear Rising release event. I've worked the Smithsonian, for when they did The Art of the Videogame Exhibit. I was a cosplay model at the photo booth. That wasn't paid. It was volunteer.

What do you feel you learn about people who play games or people in the industry through that vantage point?

I learned -- God. I learned that I love E3 a lot. I love the -- but not for any --

I feel like because I like being around the atmosphere of the people who are creating these games or are contributing to, I guess, the gaming industry in some way more than I enjoy being around the consumers of the game industry. [Laughs.] I've noticed that those people are more positive thinkers. They're more open. They're happier. They're less aggressive. They're less hostile.

Insert

Which group are you talking about here?

The industry side.

They're easier to be around than consumers?

Yeah. Much easier to be around than consumers.

What do consumers do that makes it --

There's a lot more of gatekeeping of, "You're not a true fan unless. You're not enough of a real fan. I bet you don't even blah blah blah." The whole "fake geek girl" thing extends not just to girls, I think.

This is people talking shit to you, even though you're there in an official capacity?

Yeah. And, again, I will say this. Generally doing any of the indie-game cosplay stuff, like, with -- I did a character from the game Divekick. That one was fine. I even went around to some of the different booths. I'll say, most of the games I play aren't fighting games. I'm not really up on in the fighting-game community. But despite that -- and I was a little bit worried given my experience in the Metal Gear community where there is a lot of side-eyeing and not to be vain, but, "This is a pretty person. They must be faking." [Laughs.] "They can't really like this. They're pretty." [Laughs.]

Or whatever other mindset that it may be.

Yeah.

But I didn't get that at all when I was in the Divekick costume and I went around to the Mad Catz booth and things like that.

[Laughs.]

And they were talking with me a little bit and not once was I ever questioned, which, if they had, I would have been fucked. You know? I don't play fighting games.

But they were very relaxed, welcoming, fun. I had my little clipboard and stuff. "What are you writing in your clipboard? What notes are you writing?" And I was like, doodling little pictures, and they're like, "Hey, write this! Write that!"

It was a much more fun experience. Would that have happened if I were at an anime or videogame convention or a meet-up or something like that? I doubt it. I doubt it.

Insert

Yeah. So you're at the overlap of fandom and games stuff and cosplay stuff. This is a huge question, but how do you feel the average person misunderstands all three of those?

Oh, all right. How the average misunderstands all three? I guess you have to look at all three individually.

I think in the U.S., at least, a lot of people will see a cosplayer and think it's a sex thing. I think that stigma still exists. Or they think it's weird because it's not Halloween. Because the culture is now more popular, I think that's starting to fade away a little bit. But you still have this, I guess, "sexy cosplay girl" image where all those kinds of thoughts, I guess, are still helping craft that image. And there are some, you know, female cosplayers who -- they like doing sexy costumes. It gives them a sense of confidence. It makes them feel happy to portray their characters in a way that shows off their assets and makes them feel sexy and confident and comfortable. And I'm like, "If that's what you want to do, awesome. Go for it." Like, it's not what I do, but everyone has the right to express what they love in their own way and who am I to judge that, someone else's enjoyment?

Yeah. And if I understand this correctly, it's also a way for people to try on other identities?

Yeah. Different people have different reasons but people will choose who to cosplay for any number of reasons. Everything from, "Oh, I just like the design of the outfit," to, "Oh, my friends like it and they wanted a group of people," to, "I identify with this character, I see a lot of myself in him or her," to, "This character possesses some traits that I wish I had but I don't," to what you were saying of, "This character is nothing like me, but there are some traits that I think it would be fun to pretend to have or to play around with and try the role on for a little bit and play around while in the costume."

Yeah.

I know I've done -- I've run the gamut for reasons for doing things. Yeah. I've done costumes just because my friends are like, "Oh, let's do it! But we need this person! Will you be our this person?" I'm like, "Fine, okay!" Which is actually how I got into Metal Gear. I was first asked to do Metal Gear cosplay that way. And then I started playing the games and I kept playing the games.

Playing really helped me through a very dark place.

But I wouldn't have agreed to even start playing the games if it hadn't been for my friends saying, "We're gonna do a Metal Gear Solid 3 cosplay group! You should do it with us!" I'm like, "I usually don't do costumes for other people because it's such a big time/money investment, but I like you guys enough that I will give this a shot."

That was something I wanted to ask a little bit about, was the subculture in cosplay. Do you feel that you often see it misrepresented or misunderstood?

It depends through what venues. Sometimes. Like, Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay. Terrible. It's like The Real Housewives of Cosplay, which is fine to watch if you're an actual cosplayer. I mean, if you like watching drama reality TV, then it's fun.

But if you take a step back and you look at it through the lens of, "Is this media portraying my community properly?" Nuh-uh. Not at all. [Laughs.] Nope.

What about through the lens of videogame stuff?

Through videogame stuff? I think if you're a videogame player and you see cosplayers and stuff, I think they're the new sex icon. I do think so.

I was going to say -- I'm trying to remember which game conference it was. But I remember on the back of the badge it basically had language on it that said, "If you sexually harass anyone working at the show, the event itself takes no responsibility over inappropriate behavior."
I feel like it's a thing with cosplay around videogame stuff where it's just like, "Look. You're just gonna be treated like shit. There's nothing we can do to change it."

I've actually done some event work at parties of cosplay work at E3, at Comic-Con, and it's very interesting because of all the people they hired, they hired both men and women -- most of whom are, um, you know, attractive people, let's say.

[Laughs.]

And I was the only person who they hired who was a trans cosplayer. I was the only one who, you know, physically my body is one thing but the characters I cosplay as and what I identify as is another. I mean, good on them for hiring me. A+! Good job. That's awesome. And they kept hiring me back, which is great.

I actually was very surprised, because at Comic-Con -- so, please imagine when I'm working a party there, you expect it to be the worst: A bunch of drunk nerds around attractive cosplay models, right?

Best experience I ever had.

Even I was surprised.

Anytime someone came up to me or whatever, they never looked at me like I was a piece of meat or whatever. And they always addressed me as my character, not as me. They were fully invested in this fantasy of getting to interact and drink with their favorite characters.

And I think in cosplay there's an unspoken social contract that you do, that you have, where the cosplayer gets the fantasy of being the character and the person interacting with them gets the fantasy of meeting the character. It's not very explicit. It's not something specifically stated, but everything from saying, "Oh, hey, there goes Bowser," to, "Oh, hey, there goes someone in a Bowser costume." Most people will say, "Hey, there goes Bowser." Or, "I want to get a picture with Bowser."

It's something you don't even think about. Really. It just happens, this suspension of disbelief that just happens just for that little bit. And they came out very clearly in these times where I'm working these parties. Especially at Comic-Con.

So why do you think the games stuff tends, why is it lagging behind in terms of treatment of others?

I think it's because it's so new and you have a lot of messages from all sides. And people are picking the easiest ones. The ones that validate not having to think as much or be as considerate. You have -- back in, like, maybe the late '90s and early 2000's and stuff like that, you were starting to see more sexy videogame-women characters, starting to see that a little bit more.

And that compared to, I guess, maybe the late-2000's, early 2010's rise of cosplayers and especially attractive female cosplayers, you have this idea that it's supposed to be sexy. That female involvement is supposed to be sexy. I think that's what all the highlight reels show. As opposed to -- and so they think, "Oh, because social media or publicized stuff or the kinds of character designs or promotional materials show these kinds of images," it's not a matter of, "Because I see it, I believe it," it's, "Because it's easier to believe this and what I'm seeing is reinforcing it."

And I think it comes maybe from a place of lack of experience enough to make it obvious.

Lack of experience?

Lack of experience with females, with treating people well. A lot of times, people will see these cosplayers and that fantasy of not seeing them as a person but seeing them as a character, it gets into this murky territory of when you post up a picture of your costume and they make a comment about how they want to bang you or whatever, are they talking about it because they like the character or are they talking about you as the model and the cosplayer?

It hits these murky waters.

I don't know, is one of those really better?

It depends.

[Laughs.]

It genuinely depends on what the point is and why you're dressing up.

True. True. True.

I think, also, it's easier to deal with in an interpersonal -- in a non-Internet -- situation. Like, if someone had been telling me the things that they were telling me online that they were telling me at those parties, I would probably be upset because I wouldn't have had the context to be able to tell that they're seeing me as a character and not me as the person behind the mask.

When it's the mask -- and again, this is different for every individual. You're playing a role. You know that if you were just wearing your normal, casual clothes they wouldn't be saying, "Raiden! You're the sexiest cyborg I've ever seen! Can you just, like, take a shot with me?"

Like, genuinely -- that's actually happened. Like, I get it. That's a fun experience to say, "I went to Comic-Con and I took shots with a cyborg." That's fun. That's a fun experience that you get to say that you had. When you're doing it, it's light-hearted, there's no malicious intent behind it. You're not -- you're using the cosplayer, but at that point it's the same thing as saying you're using a Disney face character.

Of course you are. You're using them to enhance the experience of the event.

The situation you're creating is meant to do that. You're in a situation where that's presented as okay, because these people have been hired to be there to give you drinks. Sort of kind of like a host club only not as terrible. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

Not as horrific and terrible. And you're also getting paid to be there.

So why did you decide to leave the Metal Gear community?

Because I was seeing -- it got to the point where it was so many people choosing to believe what they want to believe when there was basic evidence of the contrary. Going back to that whole wanting to believe in this escapist kind of mentality to the extent of trying to say that the creator of this series endorses it and in the face of any kind of overwhelming evidence, whether it's with interviews with contextual evidence or translations of this or that -- it just didn't matter.

The idea of wanting what you already believe to be true of instead of looking to find the truth was so strong. I couldn't do it. I was railing -- I was beating my head against a wall. I was trying to move a rock that wouldn't budge. I was trying, you know?

Yeah.

And it was frustrating. It was a waste of time. It was draining. It was just causing so many unnecessary conflicts and anger and heartaches, this thing that I care about. So many people were not getting it.

And it was ridiculously frustrating that I couldn't -- I just had to stop railing against something that wouldn't -- not that it wouldn't change, but that would refuse to look at things in any other way. And at the end of the day, I realized that I had to take care of myself. I had to walk away saying, "You know what? I'm not going to fight anymore."

And in a way, it's kind of fitting that this character who I liked was preferring to walk away.

I was going to say.

You think I should have learned it sooner. [Laughs.]

Sometimes you can be so close to something that it's hard to see it.

Yeah. I just wanted other people to see what I saw and I do. And generally, I love people. I'm a very positive, very idealistic person and I just thought if I explain it in the right way, if I show the right evidence, that these people will see what I see and it'll be okay and I'll fix everything. And that's not how people work. [Laughs.]

Do you think --

Well, not all people, at least. [Laughs.]

I'm with you. We were talking before we started a little bit about transparency in game companies and this, that, and the other. Do you think there would be less bullshit like this if game companies were a little bit more willing to let the people involved with their products like, you were saying, not just be marketing tools?

No. I don't think it would go away at all. Actually.

[Laughs.]

No. This would still be a problem even if, like, let's use the current example.

Even if Konami for God only knows, like, let's say that in a miracle of events, someone gets a genie and are granted a wish and their wish is, "I wish Konami would tell me what's the deal with Kojima." And so now they have to say in this magical fantasy land, in this thing that would never happen, let's say it happened. It wouldn't change shit. It wouldn't change shit!

Because just knowing why something isn’t enough -- they're always gonna want something else. First they're gonna wanna know what the deal is with the falling out. Why did Konami "fire" Kojima? I have my own thoughts on the matter and I think Kojima fucking left.

And they say, "Okay, it's because reasons XYZ that we fired Kojima." And then it becomes, "Well, you shouldn't have done that because," or "You're terrible because," or, "You could have done this instead and this because," or, "You could have kept given us more Metal Gear games and we get what we want because."

What point does it serve? That's not the issue.

The issue I think is already there within these entitled fans. These fans are already so entitled that they think creators should bend to the will of the consumer. It's not just in videogames.

I mean, this is going to be a weird connection, but look at One Direction.

Okay.

They were a band that got popular because of their social-media presence.

So, fans basically can now guilt trip One Direction into staying after concerts or staying to sign things for hours and being late to all their meetings because they can say, "We made you what you are." And that's a real thing. That is a real thing that has happened.

And that's ridiculous, right? That such blatant kind of fan entitlement of, "We made you popular, so now you have to give us all the things we want because we can giveth and we can taketh away because we are almighty consumers and we control the flow of the gaming industry with our wallets." [Laughs.]

In gaming, you know, it's not as very clear as that One Direction example, but there is still a little bit of this mindset of creators should bend to the will of the people giving to the money. And that's backwards! That's ass backwards! Heck no. No.

If we're talking about in creative environments. If we're talking about, like, making products, like with Apple or other tech things, then sure, that's a good thing. But in terms of things with creative input and artistic design and direction, that’s even worked its way into the fandom level and Fox and I saw it when we were still on Tumblr and things. Instead of creating your own content of, like, a fan fiction, or a painting, or a comic, or a this, or a that, you had people saying "Someone should make a this. Someone should make a that. You should make this. You should make that."

And it's just worked it down to this level where -- I would do it too! I did, too! And I didn't even realize that it was lazy and entitled.

Have you met Kojima?

Yeah. I've met Kojima a few times.

Have you talked with him about any of this sort of stuff? In what capacity were you meeting him?

Not really enough time. The longest conversation I ever had with him was actually the second time I met him, when I was working at the Art of the Videogame exhibit. I told him my story of why Metal Gear and why it was so important to me. He gave me his business card after I did. It was pretty cool.

What was his reaction other than giving you his card?

He shook my hand. And he said thank you for telling him. You know, his translator was saying what I was saying because even when I was much better at Japanese, I would have no way of telling my particularly personal story -- I would not know how to translate the details. [Laughs.]

But after that, he recognized me! At all future events, he recognizes me. He's seen my cosplay, retweeted it a few times. He's seen me with Fox, he sat next to us at the Metal Gear 25th anniversary party. But for all of that, I'm just a fan. I'm not someone who's going to sit down and have a long in-depth conversation with him. I’m just not high up on that priority list.

And I'm okay with that. Absolutely! Like I said, he has his agenda, the things he wants to do. And that's awesome. That's chill. I have no desire to take up this guy's time. Of course I would love to, but I also have enough respect for this dude that I would never want to take away his time just to ask personal questions, you know?

I do. I understand very well.
And you were saying before we started, too, that you're just happy to see that he is going to be free to do other stuff now.

Oh my God. He worked on Metal Gear for so much longer than he should have and than he wanted to -- which is the same thing as he should have. And just all those extra years of effort of wanting his messages to get through to his players and helping his staff. It's so generous. It's so generous. And I have so much respect for him taking of himself for other people. People who weren't even getting his messages. He was trying so hard. And the fact that he's also free of trying to break through this wall. [Laughs.] That he can now do what he wants to do in the way he wants to do it. Like, that's it.

Really, and the fact that he got himself into the situation where he was so trapped? It's sad in that he was in it for -- God, like, decades. Twenty-five years! Any creator who wants to do different kinds of things? That's a creative hell to be stuck in the same kinds of things. And then you have fans who are so focused on the timelines and the lore and I'm like -- that’s not the point. That was never the point.

Do you think there's something more the media or the industry itself could combat the toxicity or the entitlement around videogames?

I think bringing it up more maybe. I don't know if it would combat it, but it would certainly make it more on the spotlight. I mean, after people would -- people for a time would rail against the idea, but I think as you get it in the public eye's long enough, people will eventually stop, calm down, and start to address it like any other big catastrophe thing. When people think of -- oh God, there was that one game?

It was, like, World Without Oil or something. And there were people when they were first asked to think about a world without oil, the first stuff people started writing were all these big, terrible doomsday scenarios. And after they all got that out of their systems, then they would actually start focusing on, "What can we do? Now that this is a reality, how do we cope with it? How do we fix it? How do we live with it?

What do you think are the toxic things in games that people should look at before we can start to move on?

Entitlement.

[Laughs.]

Absolutely. I think that people should -- if you have an idea to create something you should, you know, be able to have the means, the support, whatever, to create it. But once you create and you want to go do something else, you should be able to go do something else. And if you have this idea to be made, you should be encouraged and supported to do it yourself, not encouraged through seeing other people to try to ask someone else to do it.

And so having more resources for doing it yourself, more support for doing it yourself, this kind of atmosphere for that is I think the way to go about it. Maybe that's a very rosy outlook on it.

So, okay. I’ve been wanting to ask this for a while, now. Like, there does seem to be a lot of anger in the world around entertainment. They might be isolated incidents, and it’s probably not fair to connect these, but -- the shootings in movie theaters, people making death and bomb and rape threats over the Internet over videogames. You mentioned entitlement as being important to talk about, but are people actually upset over the mediums themselves or is there something else at play here?

People aren’t upset about the mediums, or the individual medias in question. It’s like what I was saying about why the Metal Gear fandom turned on itself -- it’s the ideology that these stories and characters represent. If someone attacks these guys’ favourite game or whatever, it’s being interpreted as an attack on their values, their memories with the game, the things they hold dear. They see it as an attack on them, not the media. These people don’t see a line where the media ends and they themselves begin.

Leaving the Metal Gear community behind -- what does that actually mean? What are you leaving behind?

A lot of people.

I used to be an admin on the biggest Metal Gear Facebook fan page. I left that. [Laughs.] Adminning there was a mistake. [Laughs.] Oh God.

How many people were involved with that?

There was me. Maybe a handful of other administrators maybe. Eightish or so, all of us in total? And there was well over 10,000 people from all over the world when though it was an English page.

Interestingly enough, most of the other admins and stuff? Most of them are in Germany. I guess there's a big community presence there. They were cool people.

Does the toxicity of the community bleed into your enjoyment of videogames?

Well, it's certainly gotten me a lot less excited for the new Metal Gear game. I'm still curious. I'm still gonna play it. But I gotta tell you, I have a lot of friends who are so hype-excited. "Oh man. One month more. One month more." And I'm like: [Pause.] "K."

You can use the shruggy emoticon for that because that sums up my feelings. That's how I feel about the new Metal Gear game.

[Laughs.]

I'm like, "Yeah, but, Kojima doing other stuff, though." [Laughs.] That's exciting. Like, ‘not Metal Gear’? Oh my God.

Do you think he was actually trying to quit all these years?

Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.

That second one -- and I know we've talked about this before -- but he said he was trying to end it and it seems like, okay, well, that's a good way to end it. You know how we originally met. Do you really get the feeling that he has --

Yup.

-- been trapped by this thing, Metal Gear?

Yes I do. I feel like between Konami and I guess business-minded Kojima versus creative-minded Kojima being at odds with each other -- because, you know, the Japanese mindset of what it's like to be a part of a company is a very powerful thing. We don't really have that here in the U.S.

Yeah. Yeah.

So it's very easy for an American fan to see Kojima still making Metal Gear games or getting himself involved with Peace Walker or making MGSV and saying, "No, he actually really does want to make these games, guys. He just always says he's done. But he actually still wants to come back to it." Because they're not taking into account these other factors that go into it like Konami not having a lot of money and Kojima still being an employee of the company and company loyalty and the loyalties to the staff and there's a lot of other things at play rather than "Kojima wants to do it."

I guess your timing is okay in the sense that there probably will not be many more Metal Gear games after next month.

I think Konami's going to try to put out more Metal Gear games. There won't be anymore Hideo Kojima Metal Gear games, though.

Yeah, well, there aren't going to be anymore.

Yeah. I'm like, "I don't think that's going to happen, y'all."

His name's not even on the next one.

Right.

Has it spread into you losing interest in other types of games? Or you just feel like you don't want to be around them anymore?

You know, it really hasn't.

I know a lot of people have been feeling that way, but for me I feel like now that I'm done with that, I'm playing a lot more indie titles and I'm going back to Nintendo.

Like, I was raised a Nintendo babby. I had an N64, I had a Super Nintendo, all that, growing up. I only started doing other stuff with other systems once I started, I guess, getting into middle school and high school, I got a PlayStation 2 to play DDR and Kingdom Hearts and doing that whole thing.

Yeah.

But I feel happy that I can go back now. Now that this is done, my interests are starting to shift towards, generally, I guess, back to where they used to be because I feel like I was at a much happier place when I played these kinds of games. Or when I played games as a solitary experience.

Yeah.

Instead of a community-based one.

This is a quick question about community that I meant to ask a while ago: In the subculture of cosplayers, are they supportive when you get that chance to get a professional gig or is there a lot of jealousy?

It happens so infrequently that I really couldn't say. It's such an infrequent thing.

I think there are a couple of websites that call for cosplayers at this anime-company booth for this convention, and I'm pretty sure those aren't paid either. They just do those like contests. They do them like contests because it, again, you get to represent the company instead of the company looking for some professional work done by a fan or whatever or someone who happens to be a fan who knows how to do the thing well.

Before, we were talking about something similar with Nintendo Power and other outlets. I'm not really sure what the question is here, but before we started we were talking about how there was more celebration of fans doing cool stuff around games now we were saying it feels more like sites are telling you, "Hey, buy this product to be a better fan."

Right. Yeah. Yeah.

I don't know what the shift was. I don't know where that change started to happen.

Is it just the industry got bigger?

Maybe a little bit of that. Maybe somewhere along the way there was an intellectual-property scare where it shifted from, "When we celebrate fans doing these things, well, maybe they're also infringing on our copyright?" Maybe there's a little bit of that there, too?

Like, you were talking about the people who made that Star Fox musical and you have web series like There Will be Brawl, which is great. Which is so great. To this day it's my favorite web series of all time, There Will be Brawl.

I don't know -- [Sighs.]

I don't know what happened there. I don't know if they're seen as a threat because they take these characters and interpret them in ways that the company isn't giving an okay on, like, isn't giving a stamp of approval on. I'm just not sure.

Yeah. Well, what about drama? You were saying that was something else -- like, how has this gone from something that used to bring us together at the high-school table to --

Elevating?

[Laughs.] Yeah. That's a very diplomatic way of putting it. Yeah.

I think when -- maybe the more serious the game is the more serious a lot of players will take it?

Maybe?

Maybe. I don't know.

We were saying there's not a lot of this in the Nintendo arena. Right?

Right. I haven't seen a ton of Nintendo drama. I was talking about Splatoon. I haven't seen -- compare Splatoon to the traditional first-person shooters that it could be compared to. All the people talking about esports this, esports that. You've got people shit-talking each other on the headsets. You've got people talking about these specific strategies for these specific maps and talking about the very deep metagames.

I mean, I'm sure that that kind of analytical stuff is also true in Splatoon. That's how it is in any kind of competitive game. But the taking themselves so seriously that anything short of doing so is laughable and makes you worth being made fun of or something.

I wonder if Nintendo has been able to deal with that well because since Splatoon hit this memetic kind of level with, like, the squid-kid stuff so that now there's this level of not-taking-it-too-too seriously that allows it to still be fun? Maybe it's taking off the voice chat or not including it? That was one of the smartest choices they made because it prevents a potential hostility and keeps everything light and fun?

I mean, competition is real. But, yeah, it sucks when you lose in Splatoon, but you're not gonna go angry and post about it online about how much you hate this and that and you hate paint rollers so bad. "Paint roller people can go to hell!"

You know, I don't hear any of that.

Yeah.

I mean, when you play you're like, "Oh great, everyone has a paint roller." You're not going and creating angry rants online about how you hate people who play paint rollers and everyone who does this can suck your dad's nuts or something. [Laughs.] I don't know!

[Laughs.] Why do you think there is so much of that elsewhere? Like, that's not a thing that's inherently -- is that just part of videogames? Is it?

I think it might be. I do think that some games -- it goes back to, even with a lot of what I was saying with Metal Gear fans: they take their escapism very seriously. [Laughs.] I think the same goes for other kinds of games that present itself very seriously. That because this game is presented as this very serious, sometimes somber, sometimes edgy thing that the fans will continue on with the mindset that the game is providing them and will emulate it in the same way in their discussions about it.

Sometimes in fandom you have subversion of that. Like, with me and my friends who still like Metal Gear, we take it down a peg. We talk about how So And So is a trash baby, they're all terrible people doing terrible things. The female characters are the only people with their heads screwed on right.

We say it jokingly, but at least with that last thing, there's definitely some truth to it. [Laughs.]

But I think those kinds of -- being able to joke about otherwise serious titles is something that you can easier do when you're not in a community because the community at whole wants to have a similar tone to the source material. So when you're with your friends, you don't have the tone of the game, you have the tone of when you're with your friends.

I was going to ask what you think was the main couple of things that your time in the Metal Gear community taught you, but I suspect that may be the biggest one.

What I learned in Metal Gear community is? [Laughs.]

What did I learn?

You can learn more than one thing. Or it can be something not to do. Don't feel like it's a question that requires a simple statement because you may even still be processing it.

Yeah, I learned not to be in fandom communities anymore, let me tell you. [Laughs.]

I was going to ask if you'd get involved with another one, yeah.

Nope. Never again.

I'll talk about things I like. If it's somebody I trust, I'll still have conversations about Metal Gear with them. I don't want to interact with a community of people who like it.

My friends -- in a way I feel like I can do it with them because I already trust them. I know what their opinions are. I know what they’ve got to say about things. I know what their thoughts might be. I don't have to worry about whether or not they'll interpret something on a certain level or how they'll see this or that or whether or not they'll judge me for interpreting a this or a that or whatever.

Yeah.

When I make jokes, they'll get it. When I make jokes, they won’t come down on me for attacking their character of choice or whatever.

I think I've learned to have friends, not fandom.

Yeah.

Yeah. [Sighs.]

I think at this point I would rather either play games and let the experience of the gameplay affect me as my own personal experience or within a group of people who I trust. Like a book club. I'd rather have a book club.

[Laughs.] This will be my last question, but you were saying that despite all this you still have a positive view of the game industry versus the game-player culture.

Yes.

I think the two -- both game-player culture and game-maker culture, I think the two of those together make up gamer culture. A lot of people I think use "gamer culture" just to refer to the consumer side of it, and I think you can't really do that given how many creators also play games.

Yes.

I think that that distinction is not only misleading but also untrue, generally. Because there are some people who will take the games that they played and use that and either be inspired or take lessons from and use it to apply to their own games that they make. And you'll get people who will play it and instead of using it to inspire their own creations of other games, it'll inspire their creations of cosplay or discussions with other fans, or sometimes it’ll just be telling other people that they should do that, that maybe they should do a costume of this or a fan fiction of that or an art of this.

It can go either way, but both of these are relating to the same videogames. They're all parts of the whole.

I think the reason why I like creator culture and why I want to be there is because I'm actually doing something. I'm putting my money where my mouth is. If I feel and I care so much about the lessons that I've learned from games that I played, I can't not do anything with them. You know?

How much do I really care if I don't do anything with these things that I say I care about?

Yeah. Sorry, as you know, I finally beat Metal Gear Solid 4 just before E3 and I'm flashing back on that now. I started it years ago and my save --

A lot of people have very strong opinions in both ways relating to MGS4. [Laughs.] I'm glad you're done.

No, no. Yeah, I went back and found my save had gotten messed up and I blew through it in two weeks and I thought when I started it a couple years ago that the game felt like a comment on the game industry itself.

Yeah! Yeah! You're not the only person who's come to that conclusion about it.

That came out in 2008 and then I played it again and, yeah, it really does feel like that. It's linear. It's super-depressing. It takes control away from you. I don't know. Sorry. That's just where my head went.

No, no. For sure. That's one of the big interpretations of how some people interpret MGS4, as a commentary on the games industry and how Kojima is Old Snake and the SOP system is people and a more American-style kind of gaming, and the rise of that and how Kojima is like a dinosaur in the face of that.

[Laughs.]

[Laughs.] A lot of people will look at MGS4 nowadays and say, "You know, that game was not as good as I thought it was when it first came out." Because they were caught up in the hype of, "Oh my God, I get all this Metal Gear stuff." It's basically ‘fan service: the game’.

But I will always respect the hell out of MGS4 for at the same time being the fan-service game -- it's ridiculous fan service. But at the same time, it's also the biggest fuck you to the fans. It's a huge fuck you.

The fact that this game can do both at the same time is why I respect it. That it can do both so well.

I've never met him, but I've heard it said from some who have that he loves America, but hates Americans. And I've also heard it said that he hates gamers. What do you think he really feels?

I think -- I don't think he hates gamers. Because of how I choose to define the word "gamer," of course.

I think he loves people. I think he loves people.

Yeah.

[Pause.] And I think that, um -- I think he's frustrated.

How do you feel about that same group of people?

[Pause.] I think I feel much the same.

Yeah. Are you okay? Are you crying?

I cry at everything, so -- [Laughs.] Don't worry.

I don't want to make you cry.

No, no, no, no. Don't worry. I'm a very emotional person.

But I don't want you to feel like I'm poking at you to make it worse.

No, no, no. You're not.

Okay, good. Because I definitely heard it in your voice before I said anything and --

You're not poking. It's just kind of an emotional connection to make.

I get the feeling that whatever new game that Kojima makes, I do think he's always going to have those messages in there. I think he wants -- he cares about our generation because it's the generation that his kids are in.

Yeah.

And he saw the effects of the previous generation on him.

And I think it's a matter of an awareness. He can't not care.

I think that the frustration isn't that he hates any people. I think it's a frustration that they're just not seeing what he's trying to teach. It's almost a refusal, like a dig in your heels refusal, and that's frustrating.

It's frustrating to anyone, you know?

But I don't think he hates them, because if he hated them he wouldn't try.

He would stop.

When you look out at it, though: This is what people are choosing to hate each other over. Videogames.

I think that so many of us have allowed videogames to impact our lives in so many different ways, helping us here, teaching us there. I think that when we let a media of any kind -- whether it's a book or a this or a that -- affect us, we're gonna be invested in it. I think because videogames are so new, there's more people who have these similar kinds of feelings that might conflict with each other. I guess it also happens a little bit with TV because TV's been getting better and better shows and more depth and stuff in there.

But I think even then, I think that's even more creator and fan separated than it is from videogames because, I mean, the biggest thing I can think of is that stuff with Fox when they canceled Firefly or whatever?

Yeah. [Laughs.]

And that was a big huge drama and everyone to this day is very angry about it and being like, "You should bring it back! You should do this! You should do that!" I don't know too much about that because that's not my thing.

Even then, they weren't fighting with each other.

Maybe in the Breaking Bad community, there was that stuff with --

Skyler?

Yeah, yeah. With the wife. I didn't watch it.

Some people hated her. They hated her.

From what I know, she was not doing anything worth hating. She's kinda like the Rosemary of Breaking Bad. That's how she's been presented to me.

You know she wrote an op-ed reacting to that, right?

Oh, that's right! I think I read that somewhere about the actress writing a reaction about how everyone hates her character, yeah.

Again, though, it's: Stop getting in the way of our fantasy.

Right. Right. Like, I wish I could give more context to that. That I could bring that back home, but I didn't watch Breaking Bad. I watch Better Call Saul, though. That's been pretty good.

[Laughs.]

But yeah, I think that's why so many people hated and still hate Rose is because the whole point of her character was to come in and be all like, "Hey, so this fantasy thing that you're doing? You should probably focus on the real world now. You should probably not focus on this fantasy thing, so how about some reality? It's kind of important? You should kind of do that -- that whole "real" thing instead of this Snake-fantasy thing? Thanks."

What do you think videogames have achieved or accomplished?

Sometimes I wonder if we can take a wider look at videogames and see a microcosm of our own history and culture playing out a second time at a rapid pace. That sounds really grand, I guess, but I honestly see games in a -- perhaps unrealistically -- grand way.

I mean, when was the last time that we as a culture created a wholly new medium of storytelling and art? That’s crazy, but in a good way. We’ve created worlds and jumpstarted the imagination of generations of kids and adults. We’ve told stories both well-crafted and terrible. We’ve brought people together on the couch, and together across our countries and beyond. But we’ve isolated just as many people as we’ve brought together, at the very least.

There are people who spend their lives in an attempt to teach people goodness through their craft, and people just in it to tell a story whether it be fun or not. And there are some people who are just in it for money. Some people have radical or questionable messages they want to share, sometimes they’re hurtful. But that’s all things you’ll find outside of gaming, too. There are monsters everywhere.

But videogames have done what no other artform has been able to do -- they can take us to other realities, and let us explore them. In other forms, you are a bystander; here you are a participant. And because you are participating, you bear a responsibility. In other art forms, the viewer/reader/watcher is a bystander, and has no responsibility to speak of; they’re reacting to the characters and world that bear the responsibility. But in gaming, there is the simulation of action. You’re doing something. You’re in control. Videogames are the only art form where you take responsibility for your actions and reactions. And I think that’s something that not every gamer has realized, whether it be player or creator, but that’s where we should be headed.

When we realize our virtual responsibility, I hope that the next step is responsibility outside of the virtual world.

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