In November 2014, Hideo Kojima tweeted that he had finished playing a game called Framed, and that it was his favorite game of that year. “Played ‘FRAMED’ by L[o]veshack. High sense of gameplay, graphic, & sound. My best game in this year without any doubt,” Kojima wrote.
Soon after, the studio that created Framed, Loveshack Entertainment, found out about Kojima’s announcement. Understandably, the whole studio was ecstatic, but the news hit Loveshack’s co-founder Joshua Boggs pretty hard. It meant a lot to him for Kojima to have picked out a game he worked on as one he had enjoyed and admired.
Wind forward to January 7th 2015, Kojima is in the thick of crunching on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, when he tweets that he had been moved to tears by a letter that Boggs had sent him. “Received emotional email from Joshua, game designer in Australia. Though we stand in the different place, his mail made me almost cry as I feel not in secure during this crunch time of development. What I’ve been doing for long time, continue doing proved not wrong. Someone is supporting, okay let’s wipe away tears and do my best,” Kojima wrote.
Boggs tweeted back saying “Thank you for helping me finally feel proud and find that sense of satisfaction that I’ve been searching so long for <3.”
As it’s rare to see this side of creating games – where emotions, ambition, and fears all come to a head – Siliconera reached out to Boggs to find out about the background to this interaction he and Kojima had. Below, Boggs talks about how it was Kojima who had inspired him to create games in the first place, what it felt like having Kojima pick out Framed as his favorite game of 2014, and also some of the harder times he has had to go through in creating games: doubting himself, finding satisfaction in what he does, and seeking validation for his life choices.
First off, could you introduce yourself, explain what it is that you do, and detail what games you’ve worked on over the years?
Joshua Boggs, creative lead: Sure thing! I’m Joshua Boggs, co-founder of Loveshack and the creative lead on Framed which I do much of the programming and design on. Prior to this I’ve worked at Electronic Arts, Firemint, and done some freelance work around as well. I’ve worked on Spy Mouse, Real Racing franchise, and a whole bunch of other stuff you’ve probably never heard of :). I love to experiment and find ways we can make games and interactive pieces that pull at the seams of our medium.
Why did you want to design video games in the first place? What was the spark that got you going?
Since a very young age I’ve been drawn to video games. It wasn’t till I reached adolescence though when I really started to consider it as an actual career. Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid was the turning point for me. I reached a phase in a pivotal time during adolescence where I spent a lot of my time fantasising about spending my life creating games that others would love as much as I loved Metal Gear Solid.
I remember the exact moment quite vividly: I had found a special features section on one of the Metal Gear games, and saw how they had created the game I loved so much, and watched Kojima design levels with pieces of Lego. At that exact moment a switch flipped inside of me, and I realised that I could actually make games as a legitimate career. The rest is history. Everything I’ve done since then has been leading to making games.
I moved overseas and worked literally every other moment I wasn’t studying so that I could afford the tuition fees. I was one of the only people to actually be hired during the GFC in 2009. Years later, I left my comfortable job to pursue what I’ve been dreaming of since I was young. Everything has been leading to the creative freedom to be in a position to create the games I’ve always wanted to make… and Kojima was the catalyst in that.
Regarding your latest game, Framed, where did the idea for that come from? Could you also briefly explain how it works?
Framed is a noir puzzle game where you rearrange panels of a comic book to change the outcome of each scene in the story. The game presents you with a sequence of comic panels, and the player’s goal is to rearrange them in a way that allows the story to progress. It’s an idea that came about by thinking deeply about sequences and what would happen if you changed the order of events.
Did you take any inspiration from Kojima’s work when designing Framed? He seemed to recognize similarities in it to his own designs himself.
I guess there are similarities in both the filmic nature MGS and Framed. There’s also a sense magical realism in Framed which often manifests in Kojima’s work. Given how influential MGS was to me growing up, there very likely are things that I’m not even aware of which seep into what I work on.
And how did it feel when Kojima picked it out as one of his favourite games of 2014? What did that mean to you?
It’s a bit embarrassing, but I literally cried. If you were to look at accolades and awards, Framed is most likely one of the most acclaimed games pre-release that’s ever been around.
What I guess you and many (even those close to me) don’t know, is that I’ve been depressed for a long time, and it got worse during development. Top that off with the extreme highs of awards and lows of being targeted by a hate mob, and you have what has probably been both the best and worst year of my life. It didn’t take long at all for the awards and accolades to lose meaning, and suddenly what I was searching so long for lost its meaning; I was left with a realisation that the work and goals I had devoted myself to weren’t as fulfilling as I always imagined they would be.
It’s difficult to talk about this sort of thing because you can very quickly be labelled as someone who whining about success. The problem is success always seems greater, larger, and more important from the outside, but when you’re there in the moment and it’s what you’ve convinced yourself you’ve wanted for so long, you start to feel empty and question what the point of it all was and why you’ve devoted so much time to it. It loses meaning and therefore you start to lose your sense of purpose.
Kojima’s comment was the first time I truly felt proud about what I had made. My professional career has come full circle. To receive validation and acknowledgement from someone who you’ve not only always held in esteem, but whose work literally started your path down this medium is something that I can’t even begin to describe. This is just the beginning, and suddenly, I’m excited about what the future will hold again.
Some time after that, you sent Kojima an email that, so he says, brought him to tears. Why did you send this email? Do you know, or could you speculate, what it was about your email that made him cry?
I feel that we’re likely very similar people. I don’t want to go into what the email actually contained because it was quite private and is something only we will share, but I imagine he has felt what I have, only likely much more intensely. I wanted to send him an email to really say just how much Framed being his GOTY meant to me. It always would’ve meant a lot, but at this point in time in my life and the success we’ve received and how it didn’t really fulfil any deeper sense of satisfaction; it was exactly what I needed.
Framed has been a financial and critical success, butnothing will compare to what his validation and acknowledgement means. The feeling of not being satisfied or proud of any of your achievements is something which pervades many ‘successful’ creative personalities, and completely encompasses my feelings, and likely Kojima-san’s too. Perhaps receiving the appreciation from someone who was heavily influenced by his work and literally set their career into motion is something which has helped to give his previous work more personal meaning.
You said in a tweet to Kojima that he’s helped you to feel proud and find a sense of satisfaction. What did you mean by this? And how did he bring this about?
The standards I hold myself to are incredibly harsh and unrealistic. I’m never satisfied, no matter what I achieve. I project those unrealistic expectations onto my colleagues and unfairly pressure them. I’m very good at convincing others to the point where it’s a problem if I’m acting on a whim. Most of my relationships have been damaged. I’m selfish. I honestly feel bad for anyone who has had to work with me or be emotionally close to me. I can be a real fucking jerk. I have more ideas to bring to reality than time on this Earth. How do I decide what to devote my time to?
How do I know the time I spent was worth it? I sometimes think of myself on my deathbed, and what I would be proud of while I’m on it.. I use that as a scale to judge what I should or should not pursue. But when you lose that sense of purpose to what you’ve devoted yourself to, you suddenly find yourself questioning why you are spending so much of your limited time on one project, and you convince yourself that it isn’t going to achieve what others expect it to be. You resign yourself to satisfying others, and then get stuck in an endless cycle of trying to please everyone. I feel empty most of the time.
All those insecurities stem from a need to be validated and acknowledged by those I truly respect and admire. To me, Kojima playing and loving Framed is something I could’ve only dreamed of. His public validation has been something which has finally given me a sense of pride and satisfaction. It’s given me an inner strength that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.
Do you think you’ll be able to meet Kojima in person one day? Would you want to? What would you say or do?
I would love to! We’ll be at GDC showing off Framed in the IGF this year. I think I’ll just make a trip out of it and swing by Japan. It’s something I have to do. I don’t even know what I would do though.. I would probably get emotional and just give him a hug and make things culturally awkward for everyone involved. I would love to just have a nice beer, play some games, and have a chat with him. I want to get to know the real human being behind the name. I’dlove to collaborate with him on something too obviously – even if it was never released – but I’m not holding my breath.. he’s a busy man :)
Lastly, what’s next for you and Loveshack?
We’re working on some new platforms and content for Framed, along with some exciting new ideas. We’ve got an internal mantra which is basically: if the game easily fits into a genre, its not a Loveshack game.