First ever Tribeca Video Games Festival shines spotlight on gaming innovation

The Tribeca Film Festival this weekend held its first video games festival.

About 1,000 gaming enthusiasts showed up in a downtown Manhattan soundstage turned conference center to hear keynote conversations with internationally recognized video game designers.

The biggest draw was Japan’s Hideo Kojima, legendary creator of "Metal Gear" and "Silent Hill." He told the crowd through an interpreter that his childhood was marked by the mandatory viewing of films: his parents refused to let him go to bed until he had screened several a day.


By his teen years, Kojima said he was binging on films like “Taxi Driver,” watching them seven times each: once for character development, once for camera angles, a different creative focus each time.

Kojima said his film directing aspirations were frustrated by the cost of movie production – and why he initially switched to game creation.

One of his landmark contributions to the craft has been designing games using big name actors like Kiefer Sutherland, instead of 3D models. Kojima said that actors bring their own interpretation to a role, thereby adding an extra layer of creativity and realism.

His acrimonious split after 30 years with game company Konami was not addressed – and nor was the company’s reported legal wrangling that barred him from accepting prominent gaming industry awards.

A hoped for sneak preview of his new game, “Death Stranding,” did not materialize, but Kojima revealed upcoming open world action video game  for the PlayStation 4 will have a plot and also characters.

Ken Levine, writer and director of BioShock, a first-person shooter video game series, then took the stage with action movie director Doug Limon for a compare-and-contrast session.


Levine told the crowd that glamour and the absence of it is the biggest difference between game creation and moviemaking. At the end of film production, there is a star-studded preview party. After a game is created, Levine claims that all he has to look forward to are online detractors making fun of his work.

Limon countered that screening a film with an unhappy star is no picnic. Angelina Jolie, he said, was so unhappy with footage from a scene of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” that Limon claims she burst into tears while sitting next to him.

Fans that showed up, like Michael Swayner of Brooklyn, New York, say it’s time that gaming got more respect as an art form. He said because everyone who plays video games is part of the creation process: that, in itself can be a game changer.