By Harold Goldberg
In its way, it was a mere moment, but it was also a dream come true. The New York Videogame Critics Circle was able to bring the students we mentor from two Bronx schools to the Tribeca Talks panel with legendary game maker Hideo Kojima, Norman Reedus and Geoff Keighley.
Geoff was kind enough to procure 10 tickets for us. When it turned out that we needed more tickets than we originally envisioned due to high demand, Tribeca was kind enough to come through with more for our nonprofit organization. But there was one more thing we wanted to do.
I know from experience how much of a difference it makes for kids with dreams of game development and games journalism to meet their heroes. For instance, when former Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aime came to mentor and speak to students at the DreamYard Prep School, they hung on his every word. The same went for Shawn Layden, who called in for a question and answer session about his pathways to success.
So I asked Sony if the students could meet the mind behind Death Stranding and the Metal Gear series – and have a photo taken as well.
But Kojima was on a tight schedule. Basically, I was told, he was going to fly in from Japan for the panel with Geoff, take in another panel, and fly back out to Tokyo. He wasn’t doing interviews with the press, either. The meeting looked like it might not happen at all.
It was a chilly, gray day in Lower Manhattan but as we gathered and waited in line, I texted a Sony representative for an update on the potential meeting. Students had made their way inside the Stella Artois theater to sit down. It was then that I got the OK. We asked everyone to leave their seats and meet in the theater’s lobby area. To the dismay of some of the security there, we were all whisked backstage and told to stand behind a red velvet rope on the red carpet with the Tribeca Film Festival logo in the background. It seemed proper and right: these students are our stars.
Soon, there were some gasps and then a scream. Kojima was among us. He shook some hands, stood in the middle of the group, smiled generously, embraced two students during the photo taking session and then quietly made his way back to the green room. In a few minutes, he was onstage with Geoff to deafening applause.
But the moment had a lasting effect. The week following, when Tom’s Guide’s Sherri Smith and I traveled up to the Bronx to advise the students on the narrative-rich, social justice game projects they are making as they vie for New York Videogame Critics Circle scholarships, we talked about what we had learned from the great game maker’s talk, everything from picking yourself up and coming back when you’re counted out to his advice about how to break into the world of games.
In the end, Hideo Kojima likely saw this meet and greet as a small gesture. But to the students, it was a moment (captured so well by photographer Samantha Okazaki) that will be remembered for some time to come, that time we met Hideo Kojima.
Author/journalist Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards.