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Kojima: Better Technology Widens Cultural Gap

Hideo Kojima is a perfectionist. We all know that. But he also thinks that better technology highlights cultural gaps, which is an interesting position.

In speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Kojima spoke about how technology increases the expression of culture in video games:

"We are able to put in more cultural differences from each country, racial differences. So we're facing a similar situation to that which faced Charlie Chaplin. He didn't need words to express himself in his movies but suddenly he had to include words in order to stay relevant. With this increased capability of expression through games, I think it's a matter of learning how to use it."

Kojima went on to talk about game settings: in the past, there really wasn't a cultural barrier because the older technology meant we couldn't really tell where we were. Is this Tokyo or Chicago? Tough to tell. But we can always tell now and Kojima said due to this advancement, "games have to become more Hollywood." But doesn't that new technology also mean Kojima and other developers can create exactly what they want these days?

Well, not quite.

"First of all, I've never created something that completely satisfies me. I don't think that, even as technology continues to improve, I will ever be able to create something that completely satisfies me.

Creating something is about turning impossible things into possible things, things you want to be able to do. If it gets to the point were I'm able to create anything I want, I'll probably stop making videogames."

Gotta love this guy. But if he's right, it means the better technology really has highlighted the cultural gap, which is why the Japanese gaming industry is flailing right now. So what can be done to combat it?

Tags: hideo kojima, gaming, japanese games, gaming culture

9/5/2011 8:37:58 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (43 posts)

Oyashiro
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 9:33:00 PM
Reply

Sometimes I wish I was a woman just so I could bare his children.

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kokoro
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 9:50:18 PM

It's a real shame that many talented people don't pass their awesome genes on.

Last edited by kokoro on 9/5/2011 9:55:20 PM

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Killa Tequilla
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 10:43:41 PM

Sometimes I wish I was his children. Also stop him from making the MGS collection multiplat while im at it.

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FM23
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 1:28:02 AM

Wow...thats weird brodi!

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shadowpal2
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 10:18:21 AM

Pretty sure that was a decision from the guys at top in Konami.

Actually I remember reading an article saying that his kid stated that "METAL GEAR IS A S**TY GAME"

But his kid liked it a lot better when Peace Walker for the PSP came out.

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ZenChichiri
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 9:37:59 PM
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Kojima always has it right. I like that he thinks that there isn't a limit to strive towards, as perfection is impossible to attain. He keeps himself unsatisfied with his work to always strive towards a more perfect gaming package. This is why we get such great games from him. What a guy.

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godsman
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 10:05:32 PM
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That is how a developer/publisher should think. Not let's pay to get exclusivity so the game sells less but more publicity for us.

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StubbornScorpio
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 10:32:06 PM
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"Games have to become more Hollywood?" Surely he doesn't mean more shallow characterization, heavy CGI focus, and bastardization of former goodness....

All joking aside, this man is a genius, a true progressive thinker. The enterprise of technology grows faster than people can seem to get a grasp of.

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Clamedeus
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 10:47:16 PM

Yeah, every time when I see him in a video he always looks like he has something on his mind and thinking about something.

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StubbornScorpio
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 10:59:43 PM

I know right? I mean just look at the picture on this page! He's a modern day Aristotle, and just as diverse-minded.

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Clamedeus
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 1:09:09 AM

Agreed.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 10:46:25 PM
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If he's right then a pox on everybody. If people don't want to play a game because it isn't a lame Hollywood style production then gaming is in trouble. If people don't play Yakuza because it's in Tokyo then those people are ignorant.

Games should bring people together with their awesomeness, not force them to conform (into shooters) like they are lately.

I think a bigger problem is cost of production, which means devs have to appeal to more people. A good Japanese game with the sales it got in previous generations was good enough, now without blockbuster sales it won't be considered a success.

I say use the increased ability for expression to create new worlds instead of ones we are already in.

And why doesn't Kojima make RPGs?

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FM23
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 1:29:13 AM

I think people don't play Yakuza because they don't know what the heck it is

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Highlander
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 10:03:13 AM

Agreed Worlds, if we blend everything together and spread it out with a butter knife, it might be easier to consume, but it removes the distinctiveness of the cultures, and destroys them in the process. Diversity is not about forcing conformity, it's about celebrating difference, embracing it and understanding it.

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FatherSun
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 10:58:25 PM
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I share his sentiments. In my own travels in creativity it seems that my mind, my very ideas have far surpassed my abilities. It would be mindboggling to expess it.

That step Charlie took from silent to words.. The gaming industry is in the process of taking it. And so are we...

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, September 05, 2011 @ 11:37:42 PM

we must study and work hard at our tasks so that our abilities and ideas may meet and give fruit.

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ZenChichiri
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 2:24:22 AM

An apple every time I get a good idea? I'm on board.

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Clamedeus
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 2:28:04 AM

Damn Zen, you are making me hungry. :/ Lol I haven't had an apple in a long time. When I'm at a store I'll have to pick one up. Craving one.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 9:44:33 AM

who craves an apple?

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Clamedeus
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 10:33:35 AM

You are looking at someone who is. :p

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ZenChichiri
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 6:49:26 PM

Just wait for a good idea to pop in my head and you can have an apple.

Just give me one sec...errrkkk...I think it's coming soon....

"Westernizing the Final Fantasy series."

Oh wait that's a terrible idea! You'll have to wait for the apple...

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JackDillinger89
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 12:19:31 AM
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Hollywood is garbage. Last somewhat good movie i paid to see was transformers dotm. Dont know when ill be back as most movies are a joke theres no real acting just morons jumping around in fromt of a cgi green screen thats no acting, Now movies like goodfellas that was acting. Im so eagerly excited to know what kojima next big project will be.

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Beamboom
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 2:22:46 AM

LOL - Last good movie you saw was *Transformers*? Is even *possible* to get more Hollywood cgi non-acting trashy than those movies?! :D


Last edited by Beamboom on 9/6/2011 2:24:57 AM

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Beamboom
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 5:00:48 AM

... not that have anything against the Transformers movies, by the way. But then I am someone who don't mind a fair dose of brainless Hollywood cgi showcases now and then.


Last edited by Beamboom on 9/6/2011 5:03:28 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 9:45:10 AM

I have something against the transformers movies.

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Beamboom
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 2:18:01 AM
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"Is this Tokyo or Chicago" - if the japanese games had the quality of GTAIV, would any gamer really care? Am I the only one who would love to see a RDR style game with an exotic far east, ninja style setting? I can't be.

The japanese developers are lagging behind. Only the hardcore fans are able to see past that fact. That's why they sell less.
That is the simple, harsh reality and the sooner they realize this, the better it is both for them and their fans.


Last edited by Beamboom on 9/6/2011 2:21:32 AM

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Beamboom
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 6:34:07 AM

I'm not particularly fond of GTAIV myself :D However there's no denying it's technical qualities.

What I try to say is that does it really matter for average Joe if the setting is located in Chicago or Tokyo? That's what mr Kojima claims, and I just don't buy that.

But it does matter to average Joe if the Tokyo themed game looks, feels and plays like a former-gen game while the Chicago themed game looks and feels more like next-gen game. Now *that* matters.

What I try to say is that if a Japanese game that display Japanese culture set in a Japanese location was of the same quality as RDR - not a carbon copy but on the same objective technical level - then I say it *will* sell.

Or to put it the other way around: I seriously doubt that WKC would be rated that much higher had the setting been a western savannah and the characters dressed in western outfits while talking with southern accents.
That's just not where the problem lies.

Last edited by Beamboom on 9/6/2011 6:44:12 AM

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Highlander
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 10:10:08 AM

Who would care? I would bloody well care. Tokyo isn't LA and I should damn well be able to tell the difference in a game, and the game should not mask the difference in any way.

Japanese developers do not, and are not lagging behind, but with the frequency that particular accusation it thrown around, they really must wonder what they have done to earn such disrespect. Such comments stem from chauvinistic western gamers, developers and reviewers who somehow feel that John Carmack is the second coming. It's a sentiment that's often been applied to console gaming as a whole, and JRPGs in particular. but it's frequently expressed through such developers bemoaning the console hardware's lack of sophistication.

PC devs with a problem, should pack up their bags and go back to supporting PCs with video cards that cost as much as PS3. They're not needed in this market, nor is their 'influence'.

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Beamboom
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 11:22:37 AM

But that's what I am saying, Highlander... I don't think the difference should be masked either - if I understand Kojima here he's sayind that this difference were better masked before and that is why Japanese games were better received before. I do not believe that is the source of the problem at all.

Quite the contrary, what I think is that I doubt many gamers would have anything against a Tokyo setting, and most would actually prefer to clearly tell the difference between Tokyo and Chicago. That's the entire point!

There's even gamers talking about how awesome it would be if the next GTA indeed was located in Tokyo! Not that that's essentially my point here, but there's no sign that any major share of the gamers have anything against a Tokyo setting or japanese culture *at all* - quite the contrary!

So there is *no* reason to mask that difference, I believe Kojima is straight out *wrong* in assuming this has anything to do with their current crisis.
The problem is not that we now all of a sudden can spot the cultural or visual differences. That's simply not it - not as far as I can tell!

Last edited by Beamboom on 9/6/2011 11:31:01 AM

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___________
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 3:22:16 AM
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absolutely it does, but that is not why japanese developers are down the sh*tter.
jap developers are down the sh*tter because they got greedy!
the millions of fans were not enough they had to get more.
that means changing there games to cater to western audiences.
that means changing to western developers, thus totally destroying any aesthetics the game could of had.
ninja theroy in charge of what was such a strongly typical japanese game is the biggest insult and injustice since the beginning of the industry!
worse then M$ buying out rare and putting them on kinect!
yes even worse then $ony taking there most talented studio and putting them on crappy eyepet and kids games!
thats why there down the sh*tter, the hundreds of millions of dollars they were making of their games was not enough they wanted more,more,more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
as the saying goes, you dont realize what you have, how good you have it, till you loose it!
as ive said a billion times if i want pizza im not going to go to a chinese eatery.
if i want chinese im not going to go to a pizza parlour.
so why are western developers making my eastern games?
have you ever tried a asian made pizza?
it tastes terrible!!!!!!!!!

i think the other problem is the games that are truly eastern are a little too so.
theres no happy medium, its either 0 or 11.
catherine, shadows of the damned, lollypop chainsaw, vanquish, bayonetta, mad world, dark souls, for examples.
you either have western games, or you have totally eastern games with a totally different style and twist.
i think there just too far the opposite, we dont have the happy medium we use to have.
we use to have a eastern take on a western game, RPGs for example gameplay wise were the same but artistic, story wise were very different.
there the happy medium, same game different style, different artistic flair.
now though its either totally banzai, or none at all.
thats just a little too extreme, a little too niche.
we need that happy medium back!



Last edited by ___________ on 9/6/2011 3:27:24 AM

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 4:02:47 AM
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I swear that I remember reading those comments months ago... And no bloody wonder, I reported them two months ago:
http://www.velocitygamer.com/pt/Kojima-Speaks-Somewhat-Frighteningly/blog.htm

What's going on here then, eh?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 9:47:00 AM

seemed familiar

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Highlander
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 10:11:37 AM

I don't know what's going on, ubt every time I read someone saying something like "Gee what too you so long" or "I reported this months ago here <insert web address>"; I wonder whether that person has really considered that they are promoting their own website at the cost of this one.

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 1:08:33 PM

Certainly not what I meant to do, Highlander. It just seemed a bit odd when these comments first came to light two months ago. It shan't happen again.

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Douchebaguette
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 6:52:21 AM
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The way to combat it is to cater heavily alone to the Japanese crowd [bringing out confidence to influence their methods onto the rest of the world like they've always done it], however this is where established developers seemed to have malfunctioned by entering unknown territory in order to cater to NA & EU. Changes in cultural appearances due to technological advances seems to have scared or demotivated them, and like you said: caused them to flail miserably.

"Scott Pilgrim has gains the power of self respect" was more effective than "SP gains the power of love."

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Twistedfloyd
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 8:25:30 AM
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Hideo is still to this day, the man. It is necessary to adapt, but Hideo even though he's adopted standard third person shooting controls and and a user controlled camera still did so many unique things in MGS4 and PW that still solidifies him as a unique and incredible designer that can take standards and make them his own in his unique universe.

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Vitron
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 9:07:11 AM
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Such a sound argument! what you expect from the master.

Unlike those EA vs Activision arguments

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 9:50:58 AM
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Here's my argument, if RDR and LA Noire can do as well as they did I think a top quality game set in the far east can do as well. There are not a ton of "old-west" western fans anymore and there are not a ton of 1940s America fans but those games pulled it off for being great in their own right. Those games may have had cultures closer to home but they are still quite different from what is generally on people's wish lists.

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Beamboom
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 11:19:40 AM

Eeeeexactly.

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Highlander
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 10:01:14 AM
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Well, As an example of what he's saying, consider the story lines of major classic JRPG series. Many of those stories are quite fundamentally Japanese in content and execution. You can't localize that out of them, but you can destroy them through localization. To me that is a part of what he's saying. If you have a great game that is very Japanese but you twist it into a pretzel shaped thing trying to localize it and make it easy to understand in the west, you will ruin it. Instead, I prefer to have such games simply translated for western consumers so that we get a chance to experience that cultural difference, the 'gap' Kojima speaks of. Understanding what that gap is, and exploring it is what helps bridge the gap. Simply disguising the gap through localization widens it because it does not foster understanding.

In other words, leave the culture gaps in place and help us understand them instead of trying to erase them.

Last edited by Highlander on 9/6/2011 10:01:24 AM

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Beamboom
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 11:55:16 AM

I agree!
And while I do not know the story lines of major classic JRPG series, I highly doubt this is the problem at all, and I know that at least I have no quarrels in getting to know such story lines.

The way I see it, the "problem" (if you want to call it that) is purely of a technical kind. I hate to use wkc as example again and again, but since it's the most J of the RPGs I've played I'm more or less forced to:
I found the story in WKC to be... Well, lets call it "different". Perhaps a bit exotic, or strange. But in a good way. I did not mind much. And the characters; cute. Charming. Maybe a bit childish, to be honest. I mean, a teenage boy becoming a huge knight? But sure, it was all right, I had no real problems with it.
I mean, after all I've spent *months* as youth playing a yellow pizza shaped chubby escaping ghosts while eating cookies, so who am I to complain.

My problems were mainly with the game mechanics. Most of the issues were minor details, but there were *many* of them. Practically *everything* had some sort of annoyance attached to them. And all those minor issues built up to be a quite large issue in total.
I'd probably rate WKC around 70-74% somewhere. And that is purely because of all those minor *technical* annoyances. Had those annoyances not been there, keep the artwork and story as they are, I'd easily rate it at least 80, possibly even higher. After all I *love* mmorpgs and conceptually this was pretty darn close!

So it's *not* the cultural differences, it's the technical differences, in my humble opinion. And from that perspective I don't think there is anything wrong with the Japanese culture at all. And that makes it even more saddening to see Kojima think the way he does. Cause he is wrong!

Last edited by Beamboom on 9/6/2011 12:07:51 PM

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Beamboom
Thursday, September 08, 2011 @ 2:33:35 AM

I'm not sure I fully understand you, luisliu, but from what I gather it's not a direct comment on the topic here, but more a general observation regarding the preferences of gamers across the globe being focused on violence/terror/battle?
If so then that's true of course. But that's the same in every media. Books: Fiction/thrillers. Movies: Action and drama. Music: Songs about love. TV: Sitcoms and reality shows. That pretty much sums up the mass market no matter where they live.

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clockwyzebkny
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 5:35:08 PM
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The man's not just a genius and a perfectionist but the thing about him is that he always thinks OUTSIDE THE BOX.
Thimk about MGS for the PS. It was so groundbreaking inso many ways. Especially that fight with Psycho Mantis *head explodes reminiscing*

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