Hundreds of gamers thronged the thoroughfare outside Geekay Games’ outlet at Mirdiff City Centre on Friday afternoon for a chance to meet and greet legendary game designer Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear series.
The sheer number of fans far exceeded Geekay and distributor Pluto Games’ estimates. Before the event, they’d expected 300-500 people would turn up.
But by 4.30pm the numbers were at 700 and rising. Pluto Games manager Paul Johnson told me the numbers could reach 1,000 before the end of the event.
It all bemused the regular mall-goers out for their Friday shopping. One woman, squeezing through the crowds in front of Geekay, asked, “Who’s in there?”
“Hideo Kojima,” a game fan told her. “Who?” “He made these games,” the gamer told her, holding up a collection of Metal Gear games he hoped to get signed by the great man himself. She shrugged and moved on.
But if the general public didn’t care, the gamers were passionate. One young man cheered so loudly after collecting his autograph that a ripple of chuckles ran through the crowd still waiting.
Kojima is regularly ranked among the top 10 game designers in the world. IGN’s list of the 100 greatest game-makers places him at number 6.
His most famous character, Solid Snake, is – depending on which poll you pick – considered the top video game character ever created (though in one poll he ties with Pikachu).
Near the end of the line, 26-year-old Salman Shaikh clutched copies of the Metal Gear HD Collection and Metal Gear Solid 4 he hoped to get signed. He’d be disappointed – the unexpected numbers had Pluto and Geekay staff limiting the signatures to one item per person, in order to keep the line moving quickly and make sure as many people as possible got to greet the legend.
Kojima himself seemed tireless as he smiled, nodded and greeted gamer after gamer, signing and signing and signing. Those who hadn’t brought one of their prized games were given a portrait of Kojima, which he signed for them on the spot.
Shaheen Al Marar, a hardcore gamer who runs face-to-face tournaments under the label Falcon Arena, managed to get his limited edition, Metal Gear Solid 4-branded PlayStation 3 autographed.
Saeed Jaman, 16, and his friend Ahmad Mohammad, 13, grinned as they clutched their signed portraits.
The signed goodies weren’t all one-way traffic. Konami Europe’s new president, Shanji Hirano, discretely watching events from the wings, laughed as he was pressed into service to pack the gifts gamers gave to Kojima. He did a good job of it, too.
Among the items was a six-minute speed sketch of Kojima by local artist Saeed Arjumand, who’d drawn it while waiting for his turn to shake hands with the star.