How to innovate like Hideo Kojima

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The Metal Gear Series has redefined spy and action games by combining complex plots with movie like presentation. One of the big reasons buying a PS3 makes sense is because it’s the only gaming platform where Metal Gear can be played.

Like all innovators before him, Kojima came up with the Metal Gear concept through creative combination, by bringing past elements together in a new and useful way.

Combining different elements leads to innovation

Here are a few lessons we can learn from Hideo Kojima on how strategic innovation happens:

A flash of insight leads to an idea

So Kojima improvised. One of his first thoughts was to have players control a commando who would sneak out of a POW camp, but all the running and hiding seemed cowardly. His next thought: What about having a commando go the opposite way and infiltrate enemy territory? “It would still be a hide-and-seek game, but I would create tension by adding a story to go with it,” recalls Kojima.

An original idea is a combination of other ideas

Released in 1987, the game, Metal Gear, was an original: a combat game without much combat. Kojima became a star. Metal Gear and its sequels created a whole genre of so-called stealth games. Over the years, Kojima has redefined the conventional wisdom by designing games with complex storylines that rival movies, tackling issues such as nuclear war and nanotechnology.

Strategic innovation happens because the combinations are new and useful

“Nobody has successfully managed to imitate Kojima’s unique combination of storytelling and stealth-action game play,” says Jonty Barnes, director of production at Kirkland (Wash.)-based Bunjie, creator of the Halo games.

Constant experimentation to keep innovating

Kojima adopted filmmaking techniques for his games as console technology advanced.

Key Takeaway:

As in an interview for Wired Magazine:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel guilty because they really didn’t do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

And this is exactly what Kojima did, as Hirokazu Hamamura says:

“He sees games as the crystallization of ideas, not just about creating moving images.”

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