Two Savants Craft Personally Driven Games

The best video games are built on the backbone of solid gameplay. Great interactive experiences don’t need an enthralling narrative, but some game directors certainly don’t think that way.

Game designers, directors and writers are usually not the same people. It takes a very different set of skills to write an engaging story with literary merit than it takes to program and conceptualize what would be fun in a gameplay setting.

How these two vastly different worlds meld together can be crucial, and that helps explain why the games of Hideo Kojima and Yoko Taro are most often highly critically acclaimed.

Kojima is most famous for creating, directing, writing and designing the Metal Gear Solid series, which took off on the original PlayStation with “Metal Gear Solid” released in 1998.

Gamers were still getting used to the ideas of voice acting, cinematic camera angles and narratives that would require more thought than “I have to beat the bad guy.”

Certainly, there is a lot of that in the Metal Gear Solid games, but for two decades, these titles challenged the player to think about the moral and sociopolitical ramifications of the games’ stories at large.

As stealth games, the player usually controls Snake, a covert operative sent on the most dangerous missions throughout a fictional reflection of our own world history.

Characters are over-the-top yet somehow relatable, and the games are also famous for having tons of plot twists that bend both the mind and the heart.

Taro is a recent example of a game director and writer who also played a serious role in designing one of the most critically acclaimed games in recent memory: NieR: Automata.

This game makes the player take control of an android that works defending other machines from other robotic threats.

Most games that feature robots are action romps, much like this one is, but often feature little story meat added to the run-and-gun gameplay.

Instead, Taro’s masterwork is bizarrely literary at times, constantly to the point of surprise.

The androids work as a mirror for human life, and themes of planetary perversion, destruction, loss, depression and more permeate a game about characters that aren’t programmed to feel human emotion.

Video games can obviously challenge the tactile, visual and auditory senses, but there are also many games out there that challenge the mind and moral compass.

Feeling for characters you control is a heck of a way to get immersed in another world’s story.

Follow Eric Zavinski at twitter.com/EZavinski