Imagine, for a second, that you work for the US branch of Konami. It’s a cool job — you get to handle marketing, social media, or maybe business relations for a big company that publishes some cool games. Until suddenly you find yourself entangled in one of the worst PR disasters in video game history. And it’s totally out of your control.
Last week during the 2015 Game Awards, host Geoff Keighley spoke up about Metal Gear Solid designer Hideo Kojima, saying that Konami had barred their most famous creator from accepting an award for his most recent game, Metal Gear Solid V. “It’s disappointing and it’s inconceivable to me that an artist like Hideo would not be allowed to come here and celebrate with his peers and his fellow teammates,” Keighley said.
The news came after months and months of rumours involving Kojima and the company he helped build. In March, Konami removed Kojima’s name from their website and the MGSV box art. Reports emerged that Konami treats its development staff like prisoners, and that Kojima would be leaving the company as soon as his contract expired later this year. Konami also cancelled Kojima’s other project, Silent Hills, and even pulled the playable demo PT from the PlayStation Store. It’s been a non-stop barrage of bad news.
So when the world found out that Kojima couldn’t even go to an awards show, people went nuts. Hashtags like “#FuckKonami” popped up all over Twitter. Other big-name developers spoke out in support of Kojima. When Konami tweeted about Metal Gear Solid V‘s awards later that night, the response was all rage, and the vitriol continues today. No matter what Konami says on Twitter, they’re swarmed by people who are angry about how they have treated their star developer.
None of this rage is unwarranted. There’s little to like about Konami these days. We may still not have the full picture of what happened between Kojima and the company that once employed him, but everything we’ve seen so far paints a nasty picture of the once-lauded company, and they have lost any and all good will they have ever had. Put frankly, Konami sucks.
Yet. Yet! The people who run Konami’s Twitter account are not the people who installed security cameras at Kojima Productions to monitor developers’ activities. They’re not the people who decided to ostracize a beloved game designer and ban him from attending an awards show that would have celebrated his work. In fact, many of the people at Konami might very well be hearing this news at the same time as the rest of us. Japanese companies are not known for their communication skills.
Konami is based in Tokyo, Japan, but they have still got an office in Los Angeles, where employees handle all sorts of American publishing, distribution, and, yes, social media. There are some good people there — without them, we would have never gotten Suikoden II on the PlayStation Network — and I can’t help but sympathise when I see them have to be the face of Konami’s PR disasters. Morale must be low enough over there as it is.
Just imagine it: You have this cool job at Konami, helping keep the US gears moving for a major publisher of beloved video games. Suddenly, because of decisions made thousands of kilometres away, everyone on the internet hates you. You can’t even do your job — tweeting! — without being exposed to non-stop vitriol because of the horrible things your company has done. It’s gotta be emotionally exhausting, if not straight-up psychologically damaging.
What I hope is that Konami’s Japan braintrust is getting the message, that they’re seeing what they’re doing not just to Kojima and crew but to their poor employees outside of Japan, who have to bear the brunt of this nonsense. It’s a bummer all around.