Hideo Kojima games are always like a cerebral rubik’s cube. The plot, pacing, dialogue, and gameplay all tend to present this fun, if not elusive puzzle that you’ll likely keep thinking about even after you’re done playing. One would expect his new Spotify-exclusive podcast, Brain Structure, to also be as clever and engaging, especially given the name. But after listening to the premiere episode “Dive into the Brain of Hideo Kojima,” I found myself thinking more about the strange production choices, and the unfortunately messy English version. It’s a shame, because the podcast was supposed to be about learning cool trivia and history about critically acclaimed Kojima games.
Known for games that manage to straddle the line between mega AAA hits and quirky, avant garde experiments, Hideo Kojima is widely regarded as the auteur of auteurs in the game industry. Last month, the legendary Japanese game developer announced that an English and Japanese version of his new podcast would be distributed exclusively on Spotify. Titled Brain Structure, each episode would explore the history and his own thoughts on his most classic works.
The very first episode of his new podcast dramatically opens with shrill voice that asks: “Where does Hideo Kojima get his ideas?” It’s all set to the chill sounds of SILENT POETS, so I rolled my eyes a bit.
Unfortunately, like some of the many concluding parts of Death Stranding that just refused to get on with it, there was too much preamble. It took over two minutes to get to the meat of the episode, where it starts getting weird. This is when a robotic voice of an AI-like character named Brains shows up to ask Kojima permission to explain what the podcast is about before asking him why he’s doing this in the first place.
The biggest issue with the English version is that you can hear Hideo Kojima speaking Japanese under his slightly more-than-monotone English translator—who at least on one occasion repeated the same phrase twice, and not for dramatic effect. This kind of translation works well for bite-sized interviews or a speech at an awards ceremony. But on a 25ish minute podcast, it’s painfully distracting.
It sucks because the content is what I’d love to listen to. Kojima reflects on his decisions when making the very first Metal Gear for the MSX. He talks about how the unique gameplay elements put him at odds with other folks in the industry who often saw his eccentric ideas as too risky or just plain unfun. There’s a fun bit about the evolution of Solid Snake as a character. I love trivia like this! It makes me want to play these games for the millionth time again. But the problem is that I struggle to pay attention to or even remember what’s said because, well, literally two people are talking at once in two different languages for an extended period of time. Sure, Kojima’s voice is a bit lower in volume, but I still struggled to get through this. And 25 minutes is a rather short podcast!
Brain Structure should be a fun time and you know, I’m just enough of a fan of these games to check in for the next episodes, but at some point either they’re gonna have to change the format or I’ll have to learn Japanese. And I’ll probably lose because I suck at learning new languages.
Either way, I’ll be sure to head out for a coffee break during the podcasts “TGA The Geoff’s Answer” segment with “MC” Geoff Keighley reading off gaming news headlines at the end.