Yoko Taro: Things I’d like to tell my followers who are thinking of suicide.
This is my translation of Yoko Taro’s original post here: https://fusetter.com/tw/GwBRX#all . In light of the news this week of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain taking their own lives, I thought this was especially timely.
Disclaimer: I am not a native speaker of Japanese, all mistakes in translation are my own. My intent is not to literally translate everything, but to communicate in natural sounding English what I feel is the intent.
This is a serious topic, so I’m writing this while being sober.
For a while now, every so often through Twitter DMs or the like, I’d get messages like “I was depressed and thinking of dying, but I feel like I’ve been saved after playing your games”, or “I’ve always thought myself as kind of strange and not really fitting in, but now I feel like somebody understands me”. This isn’t exactly my intent while I’m making games, but, well, though it might just have been a coincidence, I’m happy to have helped in some way.
While staring at my Twitter timeline late in to the night, I do often see streams of messages saying things like “I want to die” or “Living is just suffering”. I don’t know if the people who are writing these messages are just messing around, or if they’re actually suffering, but I do get the feeling that among my fans there’s a large percentage of people with low self esteem.
Of course, I myself suffer from low self-esteem issues, so it might just be a case of like-minded people summoning each other.
Hills Life | My “infinite negativity” is the source of creation — Yoko Taro (Game Director) http://bit.ly/2JrUgh7
Anyway, when I see these tweets saying things like “I want to die”, I’m reminded of something that happened more than twenty years ago.
I was on a training program for new hires for the game company, Namco. Part of the program involved us staying over at a facility somewhere.
Man, I remember it being pretty fun. It was like a bunch of youngsters doing dumb stuff together. Since there were a bunch of girls who were also doing the stay-over, I was pretty excited.
For the stay over, we shared rooms. Guys would share rooms with guys. After a particularly rowdy night, I was settling down to bed. A room mate came up to me with a really dark expression on his face, muttering things like “I don’t know what I’m living for”, and “I’m in pain”, and “I want to die”.
I really didn’t know what to say. Sure, we were batch-mates in the sense that we were both new hires, but I’d only known him for a few days. It wasn’t like we were that close, and I was just a young kid of 22 or so.
Even so, I at least had the knowledge to understand that saying something as irresponsible as “You can do it!” to someone who was really suffering was not a good idea. And so, since I didn’t know what else to say, I replied with “I really don’t know what to do in situations like this. I don’t know what I should say. But, if you’re really suffering, I think you should get some professional help.” He had come to me with a serious problem, and so I tried my best to be careful with the words I used.
That night passed without further incident. In the morning it looked like he had cheered up. And yet, about 2–3 months after the training program, I heard that he had committed suicide.
It’s not like I was overwhelmed with grief at his passing. In those days, new hires were hired together in large batches, and we never met again after the training program. We really weren’t that close. I had honestly done what I could, to the best of my abilities, so I didn’t really feel guilty either.
In any case, I’ve always highly valued personal freedom. Back then, I didn’t really understand to what extent one should get in the way of somebody who really wants to kill themselves. I honestly still don’t. Since everybody suffers in their own way, I can’t fundamentally disagree with anyone who honestly thinks “I would be better off dead”.
Still, I often thought about it afterwards. What was the right thing to say back then?
Even when I think about it now, if someone were to say to me “I want to die”, or “Living is just suffering”, there’s no way I would be able to show them how to solve their problems. After all, my Twitter followers are almost strangers to me. I’m not really close to them at all.
And yet, seeing these almost-strangers write things like “I want to die” and “Living is just suffering”, my heart begins to ache. “Is it really alright to just leave them alone?” I wonder. At the very least, the fact that they follow me on Twitter means that they know about me. Yes, we’re not exactly close, but it’s not like we have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
I still think the best thing to do is to seek professional help. And yet, instead of saying something like that, an answer that is appropriate for strangers, if I were to be asked the same question now I’d like to answer in my own way, with my own words:
“I would be sad if you were to pass away”.
Maybe those were the words that were really needed on that night more than twenty years ago.
I can’t even remember his name anymore, so there’s certainly some amount of hypocrisy about me writing about his death on Twitter now. And yet, since I do have over 100 thousand followers, I hope this can be helpful to at least one person. That this time around it might not be too late.
That’s what I think, anyway.