Duelling Translations Of Hideo Kojima's Thoughts On Critics Cause Confusion

Whatever you think about Hideo Kojima’s latest fever dream—which imagines a world exactly like our own, except that Norman Reedus can’t walk good—you likely figured it was going to be divisive. Initial reviews lent credence to that idea; some critics adored Death Stranding despite its sharp corners and long, uneventful stretches. Others thought Kojima sacrificed fun in favour of nonsensical high-concept wankery. Over the weekend, Kojima voiced his own opinion about those reviews. Trouble is, nobody’s entirely sure what he meant.

The saga of Kojima’s comments on American Death Stranding reviews is nearly as labyrinthine as the saga of Death Stranding itself. It began with an interview with Italian site Tgcom24 over the weekend. English-speaking site Wccftech then wrote a piece based on the Italian transcription—though not the original Japanese recording—of Kojima’s quote. In it, the site posited that he had said Death Stranding wasn’t able to strand its way into U.S. audiences’ hearts because it’s not a first-person shooter. Instead, Wccftech said Kojima said, it’s something better.

“I must say that the game received rave reviews, especially in Europe and Japan,” said Kojima, according to Wccftech’s translation. “Here in the United States, however, we have had stronger criticisms. Perhaps it is a difficult game to understand for a certain type of critic and audience. Americans are great fans of first-person shooters and Death Stranding isn’t one, it flies higher.”

He went on to compare American audiences to those of other countries, saying (again according to Wccftech) that he always aims to create new things that garner discussion, but “Italians or the French have a different artistic sensibility that allows them to appreciate this kind of very original product, not only in video games but also in cinema.”

That “flies higher” bit, especially, is quite an audacious statement. Death Stranding is ambitious, sure, but more so than every entry in a genre that’s sprouted countless branches over the course of decades? Naturally, this created quite a fuss among fans—some of whom wound up disputing Wccftech’s translation. Major sites like IGN proceeded to weigh in with translations that put a different slant on Kojima’s assessment, removing his declaration that Death Stranding “flies higher.” Instead, according to IGN, Kojima merely stated that “Americans are some of the biggest first-person shooter fans, and Death Stranding isn’t that.” In other words, it’s unfamiliar—not necessarily better or worse.

Then Sony itself got in on the action, re-translating that last line as “in America there are a lot of FPS fans, maybe those fans are saying this is like a different game and are not rating it very high.” So more or less the same meaning as IGN’s, albeit with additional flavour and context. It’s unclear whether they accessed Kojima’s original Japanese or not.

Kotaku’s Natalie Degraffinried, who speaks Italian, also took a crack at translating the quote. Here’s what she came up with:

“I have to say that the game has received enthusiastic reviews, especially in Europe and Japan. Here in the United States, however, we’ve received stronger criticisms. Maybe it’s a difficult game to understand for a certain type of critic and the public. In America, there are many fans of first-person shooters, and a lot of them [wish] that Death Stranding [were] a different game; maybe for that [reason], they didn’t give higher scores.”

“I always look to create new things and [welcome] controversy and discussion, but it must be said that the Italians and the French have a diverse sensibility that allows them to appreciate this more original genre of product, [not only] in video games but also in film.”

No matter how you slice it, it seems Kojima made some pretty broad generalisations. Translation, however, is a tricky art, and it often leaves room for interpretation. This is an important thing to keep in mind not only when reading quotes from Kojima—who has found himself in situations like this before—but anybody who isn’t speaking the language their words will ultimately be printed in. We’ll provide an update if we can get our hands on the original Japanese quote.


Comments

    It's a legitimate generalisation in context though, with more mixed reviews and criticisms originating from the US.

    It's not a negative or a comment on all Americans but the larger audiences do tend to favour certain genres and it's no secret that foreign films and games dont always perform well or even get released there for that reason.

      This comment sums it up so well. There is absolutely no prejudice behind his comments IMHO. Just a statement based on facts and proven trends.

    Broad, sure, but I don't think they're entirely based on speculation either. We all know what the major film studios in, for example, France, Germany and Italy produce are much closer to the indie films of America than to the big studio system counterparts, and there's similar trends in games too.

    That's not to say there isn't an audience there, but for whatever reason America (and I dare say Australia too) seems to more strongly identify with mainstream, predictable output than the typically stranger, less commercial stuff that other countries seem to enjoy a whole lot more. That is absolutely a generalisation, but hardly a controversial one in my eyes.

    IGN’s reviewer is an Australian (for context).
    I LOVE the game but I think he’s talking out of his arse a bit when it comes to why it wasn’t received unanimously well.
    If you make a game deliberately slow and (dare I say it) boring, then own it. Plenty of non-1st person shooters review well abroad.
    Not every game has to be ‘entertaining’ in the broad sense.

    I couldn't care less how it's been translated, it just comes across that Kojima has once again made a game that's more about his "statements and art" than being an actual video game. Instead of doing it through a fun action/stealth game like Metal Gear Solid, he's doing it with a walking simulator.

    I'm almost thinking Konami did the right thing by dropping him before he got his hands on Silent Hill.

      One could even argue Konami was keeping Kojima on a leash and making sure he actually made fun games. Now that he's off the leash, we can see that he just wants to make boring interactive movies.

    At the end of the day just enjoy whatever you want to and leave the rest to the birds. Constantly making the comparisons to "arthouse" films is similar to comparing genres. Not everyone's going to like hip-hop or country or heavy metal etc.

    If you've ever had that one friend that exclusively watches films like that or listens to one specific genre for example, most of the themes and topics they talk about can be lost on a large percentage of people. But again, that all leads back to my opening statement.

    Give new things a try and if you don't like it, there will always be new movies, games, tv shows to immerse yourself in.

    Last edited 14/11/19 7:34 pm

    I actually prefer walking simulators to what the later Metal Gear games became. Peace Walker was the first I just gave up on completely, and I’d much rather play Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture or Gone Home.

    So... different strokes for different folks?

    Nope the guy has a point. There is a reason why American culture is perhaps one of the safest most uninteresting ones around. Where as places like Europe, UK and even Australia (because so much of our culture and history comes from the Commonwealth until recent generations are far more open, interesting and welcoming of different ideas.

    I think of the hate around this game is not unlike what surrounds things like David Lynch's Twin Peaks (especially the new one). The thing is a work of art, it is humbling to see people like that who break free of studio constraints and offer us something completely unique, and something that refuses to give a F what the general public thinks. But as a work of art it means that while so much of it is simply extraordinary, it means other parts are boring, seemingly self indulgent and confusing. Not unlike Death Stranding. While some people are willing to go on a ride that may not totally agree, so much of the public arent. And instead of just accepting its just not their thing, they get lost in their feeling of inadequacy, so they blame the artist and then all those who do get it, are all up themselves.

    That last sentence sums up some of American culture. It is very much the reason why, until only recently, tv and movies are always so tame, safe and disposable in their culture. For every David Lynch they have given us, they have given us hundreds or thousands routine directors

    I love Death Stranding. It is simply one of the best things I have ever played (and I am not even a fan of Kojima) BUT that doesnt not mean I like all of it. I can understand those who dont get it, what i dont get are those review bombing it, or those who cant see the amount of overwhelming positives in it, in spite of it just not being the type of thing they like. EG I hate the film Thin Red Line but that doesnt mean I think it or the director is crap, it is literally just something I dont like, but I can appreciate the work that went into it and how it is worthy of the reviews it got. I think some gamers these days have a hard time seeing the difference.

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