Over the past few years, Hideo Kojima’s Twitter accounts have been tweeting in Japanese, his native language, and English, his second language.
While it’s unclear whether or not Kojima is doing the English tweeting himself, he’s not a native speaker. There are mistakes in his English tweets, and for a non-native speaker, that happens. No biggie! The effort is appreciated. There’s nothing wrong with small mistakes, but it’s problematic when mistranslations lead to confusion or inadvertently tick people off.
In the past month, there are have been two poorly translated English tweets that haven’t been a good look for Kojima. It’s unclear if Kojima himself has been tweeting in English or delegating that responsibility to staff. This September 13th tweet, for example, rubbed some the wrong way, especially the part about him becoming “independent.”
On 2015/12/16 I became independent. No office, just a tiny room, no staff, no machines nothing. All I had was this KJP logo, notepad & pen and my own PC. I started to work on the concept while recruiting staffs, finding office & game engine. Had dream and connection that's all.???? pic.twitter.com/tf6TNStiVI
— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) September 13, 2019
Even the official ToeJam & Earl account had this to say:
you really pulled yourself up by your bootstraps
— ???????? (@toejamandearl) September 13, 2019
But the original Japanese tweet was different.
— 小島秀夫 (@Kojima_Hideo) September 12, 2019
Kojima doesn’t write that he became independent. Instead, the original tweet was more matter of fact. “The company was established on December 16, 2015,” it reads. He goes to write that he didn’t have a proper office, but a small temporary one. “There was no staff, no office, no equipment, nothing. I only had a Kojima Productions logo, a notepad and a pen, and my own computer. While coming up with the project plan, I recruited staff and looked for an office and a game engine. But I wasn’t at zero, because the only things I did have were a dream and connections.” Kojima didn’t say he was going independent, but rather, setting up the company. He acknowledged that he has connections. Of course, he does, he’s Hideo Kojima!
In other Japanese tweets, he has referred to Kojima Productions as “the newly established, reborn Kojima Productions” (新しく立ち上げた新生コジマプロダクション) and Death Stranding as “the first work I’ve made since going independent” (独立して初めての作品).
The verb dokuritsu suru (独立する) means “to go independent” or “to strike out on one’s own.” It’s a neutral verb and doesn’t have the same nuance that the phrase “going indie” would in English. Kojima has struck out on his own, which has become easier in Japan’s corporate-controlled game industry over the past decade. In English, “indie” has certain connotations that are certainly hard to apply to one of the most famous game creators on Earth whose new game is bankrolled by Sony. But in Japan, no matter who you are, it still takes courage to leave the comfort of a big corporate job and start your own company.
(In a 2016 interview, Kojima said, “Originally I’d planned to fly a bit low key. I wanted to do an indie game, something on a smaller scale. But, well, my good friend [film director] Guillermo del Toro said, ‘No Hideo. You can’t do that, people want more and you have to give them a new big game.’” He’s been upfront about this. He’s been clear that he’s making a big game.)
A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME means the declaration of me doing concept, produce, original story, script, setting, game design, casting, dealing, directing, difficulty adjustments, promoting, visual design, editing, supervising the merch. pic.twitter.com/Th7f5S6vpU
— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) September 22, 2019
Kojima seems more interested in calling Death Stranding “A Hideo Kojima Game.” For a guy who claims that 70 per cent of his body is made of movies, this makes sense.” Every film director uses a similar slugline for their pictures, whether that’s “A Film By Quentin Tarantino”, “A Michael Mann Film”, “A Spike Lee Joint” or “John Carpenter’s Halloween.”
Yet, the above English language tweet makes it seem like Kojima is doing everything, precisely because that’s what the tweet says. The original Japanese tweet does not, however.
“A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME”とは、企画、プロデュース、原作、脚本、設定、ゲームデザイン、キャスティング、交渉等の川上から、演出、監督、難易度調整、プロモーション、ビジュアル、PV編集、グッズ監修までの川下までにも関わるという宣言。原案やゲームデザイン、プロデュースまでの作品にはつけない。 pic.twitter.com/0aJKoJSYT8
— 小島秀夫 (@Kojima_Hideo) September 22, 2019
The Japanese original tweet explains that “A Hideo Kojima Game” is a statement that he is “involved” (関わる or kakawaru) with all these different facets, not that he is doing them all himself. He is not discounting the work of others.
Instead, he’s explaining that the label “A Hideo Kojima Game” is essentially a seal of approval to show he’s taking part on multiple levels. He does not do this for games he merely conceives, designs and produces.
If you want to know what Kojima was actually trying to communicate in that tweet, here's my attempt at a de-mangled translation
(and for the record, I've been credited as the lead designer/writer/producer on a team project or two, but have never supported the idea of auteurism) pic.twitter.com/BM1CCdpiLw
— Naomi Clark [暗悪・直美] (@metasynthie) September 22, 2019
The problem is that most people are only reading his English language tweets, so it’s understandable as to why Kojima would come off poorly. It’s not their fault. Likewise, Kojima needs to be cut some slack for non-Japanese language tweets. Kojima’s account is sending out English tweets to connect with a larger audience, but due to mistranslations, unfortunately, he might end up alienating some of it.