eremy Blaustein is another guy with a really cool job. He’s been working on translation and localization of video games and TV shows for many years now. He’s originally from New York, but he is now living in Japan. Silent Hill fans may be aware of his work on parts 2, 3 and 4 of the series. He was also involved in other aspects, such as contributing to the story, casting voice actors, and directing the motion capture. He worked on Metal Gear Solid, Fatal Frame, and Shadow Hearts. In addition to video game work, he’s been involved with the localization of TV shows like Pokémon (the show and the movies), Animaniacs, and The Adventures of Batman and Robin.
He was working in the International Business Dept. at Konami, and, because he was the only foreign employee, he ended up helping out in other areas, like translation and discussions on what Western audiences would or would not like. He worked no some things like Tiny Tunes, Biker Mice from Mars, and then his first job as director was for Snatcher. He later went back home to America, doing translation work so he could make his own hours and have more time to spend at home with his daughter. I talked to him about translation and his work on the Silent Hill series.
Silent Hill 2
“Sexual abuse and incest is not a subject that had been broached in video games to that point.”
Blaustein worked closely with the Japanese team on Silent Hill 2 from the very beginning, talking to them about what might be scary to Americans. Since the developers didn’t really speak any English, he was the one who helped out with making the story appealing to Western audiences, also casting and working with the voice actors (he did the motion capture for James on the hotel stairs himself, because Guy Cihi was sick or injured that day). The motion capture was done first and videotaped, and then that was used to match up to the voice recordings, which were done later. The actors were hired in Japan, and mostly amateurs.
“SH2 is all about the monstrous sides of people.”
The themes and symbolism of the characters and plot of Silent Hill 2 has been discussed at great length over the years by fans. Clearly, there are a lot of themes involving sex and death in Silent Hill 2, and there are a lot of visual quotes from various films, the most obvious being Jacob’s Ladder (the hospitals and many monsters in the games) and Blue Velvet (the scene where Kyle McLachlan’s character is hiding in a closet, watching a disturbing sex scene involving Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rosselini’s characters). The latter is very similar to a scene in Silent Hill 2, where James walks into an apartment and witnesses the Red Pyramid Thing/Pyramid Head sexually molesting some mannequin monsters. (Blaustein says the sexual aspect of this scene is “indisputable,” noting that the whole game is about the “monstrous sides of people.”) James ducks into a closet to hide. Likewise, the character Angela also has a past involving sexual abuse. “The fact that she was sexually abused was openly discussed among us, so there really IS no debate as far as the team’s intention goes.”
Though he’s worked on many games, including Silent Hill 3 and 4, he says the games he’s most proud of being involved with are Silent Hill 2, the Shadow Hearts series, and Metal Gear Solid. “Owaku wrote the greatest game scenario ever.” He says that the reason for Silent Hill 3 going back to the themes of the original was in response to criticisms of part 2 being “too psychological.” He says that the Japanese prefer to keep things in the shadows, rather than explaining away everything. “I thought Silent Hill 3 was far too literal and tried too hard to explain things that were never meant to have such an internal logic because they were not all thought out that far.” He feels the second installment was superior in every way to the third, except perhaps the gameplay.
“I was also the FAT enemy [motion capture for the Andrew DeSalvo enemy in Silent Hill 4: The Room] and almost broke the back of my skull being overzealous in going down to a shotgun blast.”
He can’t give out specifics of projects he’s working on at the moment, but he has moved his family to Japan and has his own translation/localization company, Zpang. He says, “I think the internet has lowered people’s concept of the importance of words in general,” since now everyone downloads things for free, uses internet translation software, can read free fan translations, and everyone has access to so much information for free online. He loves games, but hates the current trend of lookalike war games that mainly involve shouting insults over headsets. You can read more about him at his company’s website, Zpang.com, and in this article.