stefanie joosten

stefanie joosten

My full name is Stefanie Joosten, and I'm 28 years old. I'm born and raised in the Netherlands, but right now I'm based in Japan in Tokyo.

Well, I got involved in Metal Gear Solid V a couple of years ago. It started with going to an audition for -- it was an unannounced game. It was all completely secret. So, I was not sure what I was getting myself into at that moment. [Laughs.] But it was an audition for the motion capture of a new videogame. So, I did the audition and I got the part. And that's where I started working in motion capture, and then I got to hear everything. Of course, that it was the new Metal Gear Solid game. It was quite a long road, yeah. I think I'd been working on it for about three years in total.

Yeah.

It was spread out -- I wasn't constantly working on it. It was divided into several periods of working on it for a couple of weeks with breaks. It continued on like that.

Did you get a sense while you working on it about how your being cast that way directly by KJP -- how that was different than for people who have been hired to work on videogames by proxy? Like, David Hayter was not involved, but I believe on other games in the series when he was, he was hired not directly by Konami Japan. Whereas, you were chosen by Japan. Have you gotten a sense of how that is different, coming into their orbit and working with them and that onboarding?

I think it's mostly a technical issue of them wanting to do the motion capture in Japan, because I knew Hideo Kojima wanted to direct all of the motion capture by himself. I think it was more convenient for him to find actors who were based in Japan to start working on the mocap.

I think he talked about how with this particular project it was a much more strenuous process, to the tune of needing 30,000 reference pictures. What's actually involved with all that work that you were doing?

Hmm. Well, it's -- I think he was talking about the 3D scanning process, which is totally separate from the motion capture, again, because not all the motion capture actors got 3D captured. So, actually, it wasn't really a time-consuming thing. They did do the 3D capture on me, so they captured my appearance so Quiet would look like me. Yeah. But it was just one day of doing it and it was done, right? It was very different from motion capture.

And you did a lot of military training for the game as well, right?

[Laughs.] Yeah.

What was involved with that?

Well, I knew for the other motion-capture actors, they were kind of looking for guys who had some military experience. But for the female parts, it was harder. Well, it was almost impossible for them to find people who had that experience. I didn't have any experience in the military field, of course. So, it started with general training that all the actors participated in. It was just like a general idea of what it evolves to be, infiltrating and working as a team as well. So that wasn't really directly related to the part of Quiet, but that was just a general thing.

And then I got some individual training sessions as well, just to focus on my character and what she needed to know and her way of handling weapons of her specialty. So, yeah, I did a couple of sessions for that as well. [Laughs.] I got a replica of a sniper rifle to take home with me so I could practice on my own as well. [Laughs.] I thought that was pretty funny.

While you were doing that training, was there stuff you found you had a knack for that you wouldn't have expected?

I think -- well, I was able to pick it up quite quickly and get a sense of it, I guess. Well, what they told me was -- it wasn't meant as a sexist thing, but they said in general most women have a really hard time to have the right posture and stuff while handling weapons. They were really happy with the way I was doing it. So, I was really glad to be doing an okay job, I guess.

Can you talk a little about -- I don't know if you feel like you're a celebrity, but can you talk about what it means for people to think you're a celebrity in the internet age?

[Laughs.] It's very strange. I don't really feel like a celebrity. [Pause.] It's still quite a surreal idea, to have -- well, to have a really big following on social media now.

Yeah.

Yeah. It's very surreal because I'm not like a mainstream celebrity, so I don't feel like I'm a celebrity in that sense.

Do you feel like people who are "bigger" names are able to crossover that way from videogames to become "regular" celebrities? Or does it feel like if you're a celebrity in videogames you're just a celebrity in videogames and on certain parts of the internet and can’t move anywhere else?

I do feel like it has given me a little bit of opportunities to broaden my field of work, as well, because I'm actually working on two film projects right now. I've always wanted to work on film, as well. So, well, I got approached by people who were interested in me because I was in the game, so, in that sense there's more intertwining between the industries. I feel like it'll happen more and more since in videogames they're using big-name actors as well. So, I feel like in the future there will be less of a gap between them.

Were you given a primer or told what to watch out for or what to expect on social media before it was announced that you were going to be working on this game and before you gained such a big following? Were you told by people in Konami or anyone in the game industry what to expect?

Mmm, not too much, no. I did have -- I don't know. It was hard for me to imagine, but since I was a gamer myself I kind of knew how you get sucked into the world of the game that you're playing. Like, when I thought of that feeling -- when I was younger and I had that feeling playing games, I was very curious about how people would feel about having a real mouth -- well, a real person being in a game. [Laughs.] I was mostly just curious how people would think of that. Yeah, I was maybe like a little bit worried if people would hate it or -- yeah, I just wasn't sure because it was quite new in a major videogame.

Did you feel like people's comments in the videogame world made about you and your performance and appearance -- how did those comments or "typical" comments in the fashion and modeling world compare?

I think it's hard to compare since they are so different. [Pause.] I'm not sure what you mean exactly, just comments in general or do you mean how people in the fashion world reacted to you being in a game?

Well, not so much that, although I'm curious to hear about that as well. I mean more the types of ways people in the fashion world discuss the appearance of someone doing a job, how does that compare to people's comments in the videogame world about your appearance and performance in that game? Do those two worlds talk about or fixate on the same things at all?

I think it's hard to compare them because it's two completely different worlds. But I think, especially in recent years, there has been a lot of discussion in the gaming world, which is really unique for the gaming scene, I think. A lot of people are talking about the influence games have on people and especially younger people who grew up playing them. There's also a lot of discussion about games having a sexist portrayal of women.

I think discussion in the gaming world tends to be a bit more -- well, people are really passionate about their opinions in the gaming world, I think. Yeah. It's hard to compare the two. In the fashion world, it's kind of flat. People don't have as much of a strong opinion. People just accept it for how it is.

That's what I've heard from other interviews I've done with people in the fashion world. They say it's more understood that taste is open to interpretation and it's up to the individual. But for people who don't follow videogames that closely, how is that different? I mean, do you feel like the fashion world is slightly more "evolved" in terms of understanding people can have differences of opinion?

I think it's really hard to compare. I feel like when it comes to gaming, though, a lot of people tend to have really strong opinions without really having a deeper understanding on the subject. Even people who don't play games themselves will have all these opinions before even playing a game. That's quite different, I think.

When you were doing press for Metal Gear, what did you notice when you were interviewed by game blogs or game sites about the types of things they tended to asked you or the sorts of things they never asked you that maybe you wanted to talk about?

It's hard to think of. Well, of course the thing a lot of people tend to ask me about was how I think of the way Quiet was portrayed and it relates to what I was just talking about. Like, people having real strong opinions. That has been the focus in a lot of interviews, I think.

Your appearance in the game? Along what sort of lines?

Well, just -- I guess people are hoping to have some sort of discussion to connect it to how people might think negatively about a woman showing a lot of skin in a videogame and how that has made its influences on the gaming scene in general. That tends to the subject a lot, I think. Well, it is quite the obvious subject that people will talk about since I think it's also in these games to stir these kinds of discussions. So, in that sense, it's what the creators want, I think. [Laughs.] I don't know.

Well, does the fashion world care about how much skin is being shown? Is that something people still discuss or is it not even really brought up?

It's not so much brought up, but since I have mostly experience in the Japanese fashion industry, it's a different world again. I haven't really experienced that too much since in Japan they tend to be a bit more traditional. So, yeah. It's not really a field I have a lot of experience in. I can't really judge about it.

Insert

Sure. I think, in general, if you're playing a character who has no words, that's hard enough in a theatrical portrayal or in a movie. It's one fewer tool at your disposal. What were the challenges for you in that with this, under layers of being digitized and portraying a character who is mute?

Well, it was really difficult, of course. But since they did take a bit of time to -- well, a lot of people think I just had my appearance scanned and that was it. A lot of people don't really know about the motion capture process or they think that's all digitally animated or something. But you really go through the whole story. Even if I'm playing a character that doesn't speak, it still feels like you're there and you're experiencing everything. The whole story. So, in that sense, it didn't really feel too different from having a regular speaking role.

What do you look for in a movie role versus a videogame role? Are they different things? Would you take another role that had no dialog?

I welcome all new challenges I could possibly take on in videogame or movie roles. I feel like acting in a movie and videogame are becoming close to being almost the same experience. Yes, when it comes to acting in a videogame, you need a lot of imagination since you mostly work on green screen sets. But the essence of acting is the same.

As you mentioned in videogames, there's a lot of passionate dialog in the fanbase. Do you wish there was something that was more widely discussed or talked about in the videogame world to help make it be a better space?

[Pause.] I think -- one thing I notice about the gaming world is that still among gamers there's a sense of that there's no diversity. There's so many people that play videogames right now, but then there's the casual gamers and the really enthusiastic professional gamers. [Laughs.] But people tend to be really judgmental and say, like, "Oh, you're just a casual gamer."

Yeah.

I think that's an interesting subject. It's really noticeable in the gaming world, how people have very harsh opinions about, like, "No, you don't deserve to be a gamer because you're just a casual gamer." Especially, I think there's still a lot of sexism when it comes to male gamers who just have this view that female women can't be "true" gamers, like they're just doing it for attention or something. Sometimes people will say strange things like that. I think that's really strange. I don't know. I happen to notice those kinds of opinions a lot. Yeah. [Laughs.] I hope things like that get better in the future because I think there's so many genres of gaming and it's getting more and more widespread. Yeah.

When you did start working with Konami, did you ever ask about or did you have conversations about why the audience seems to be that way? Did you learn anything about maybe the way -- if it's just Konami or other game companies, too -- they view the part of the audience that behaves like that?

I don't know. I don't think they really focus on that. It's not really an issue for them.

But it's an issue for the people they make games with. Or can be.

Yeah, but they're more focused on making the games. They appreciate both the people who casually play it and the people who dive really deep into it. Of course, I think they hope people dive really deep into the game and get to see all of the content and get to see the story. I think especially for those who are making the game, that's the most -- I don't know -- grateful feeling, for them to have someone really appreciate the story and go very deep into it.

You said it's hard to compare, but even if it's just the Japanese fashion world, do you feel there are things in that world you wish people would also talk more about, whether it's a workforce issue or something else?

Well, when it comes to the fashion industry, I think it's a world that could definitely use more diversity. Especially when it comes to the models as well, because it's a very tough world. It's all about -- well, youth and beauty and being skinny. So, that can be really tough to be in that world when you don't get judged on your personality but just on your appearance.

Can you tell me more about that? I mean, do you feel there's more sexism in videogames compared to modeling?

[Pause.] It's hard to look at it from a sexism point of view. I think there's always sexism in all parts of society.

Right. Those are just reflections of it.

Yeah.

France passed a law recently about how much a model can weigh and I know people are upset about things like Photoshop overly manipulating images. I mean, do you feel the sexism in games and in modeling is similar in some way?

[Pause.] Well, they're both -- like, the photos you see in the fashion industry and the characters you get to see in gaming, they're both views of a world. Most of the time, I think games are the ideal view. It's a fantasy world people get to see. And something people want to see. In that sense, it's quite similar that something is created that people want to see and that might be -- most of the time those views tend to be male-oriented.

Yeah.

So in that sense, there's always that sense of sexism maybe. [Pause.] Although, when it comes to videogames and women in videogames, I personally haven't always experienced it as being sexist because when I saw female protagonists -- like, when I was young I played Tomb Raider. The first ones. I actually thought it really empowering to have a female protagonist who -- she was like my hero. [Laughs.] I remember looking at it and being like, "Wow, she's awesome. I want to be like her." So, yeah.

I'm sure you remember a lot of the criticisms, though, about those early Tomb Raider games, too, though, right? Can you tell me a bit more about finding Lara Croft to be empowering in light of that?

Like The Quiet, Lara has been criticized for being objectified in her portrayal. Is there something you feel you see that others don't?

Lara Croft was the first female protagonist I ever saw in a videogame. All I saw was a strong independent woman. Media tends to focus on the outside and looks of videogame characters, while they don't seem to realize that those characters have a backstory and personality that can be experienced as empowering to the audience.

It's just very surreal being in a videogame. It's really hard to put into words. Well, yeah, it's just so surreal because I never imagined it would be something that would become possible to be in a game. So, mostly, I was just overwhelmed by it happening to me. [Laughs.] It still felt like a dream come true. Yeah, I was just really overwhelmed.

How did you cope with being overwhelmed? Did any of the criticisms detract from the positive aspects of it?

No. No.

What did you make of the implosion and falling out that happened with Konami and Hideo Kojima? What do you think people don't understand about what happened? What do you not understand yourself about what happened?

I'm sorry, unfortunately I can't comment on these affairs.

That’s okay. I’m sure you understand why I have to ask.

Insert

We've talked a bit about perceptions in the East and the West with your work. Metal Gear is a story about the military. I'm curious if you've noticed when it comes to Eastern stories about the military and Western stories about the military, what sorts of differences or commonalities have you picked up on?

[Pause.]

It doesn't have to just be in videogames. It can also extend to movies and a TV show. Just anything in entertainment.

I think if anything in Japan it's idealized a lot. I think people tend to like hearing stories about heroic heroes in war, or the heroic aspects of soldiers. So that might -- still, well, when it comes to Metal Gear, Hideo Kojima really portrays the horrors of war as well. So, he's not just idealizing it. So, I think that sense it's unique.

You think these Eastern stories idealize the military more than the West?

They might. [Pause.] Yeah, I'm not specialized enough in how it's been portrayed, but I feel like in the West people are showing the ugly side a bit more, maybe. It really depends on -- there's a lot of diversity, I think.

Can you talk a little bit about otaku culture, and if and how you may have noticed it's different from nerd culture in the West today? Do they seem similar to you? Do they seem completely different? What comes to mind?

When I think of otaku culture, especially the current otaku culture, it's pretty different. In the last years in Japan the trends have been to follow -- I don't know if you've heard of AKB48? These girl groups are extremely popular and there's, like, these really cute girls. I think mostly the people who follow that are the current otaku culture.

Nerd culture is really, really diverse, I think. I think there's still -- especially in the last few years, it has really, really grown almost to being mainstream in the West.

Yes, I would agree.

Like, a lot of people identify themselves as being nerds. [Laughs.] That's been a really interesting development, I think.

In Japan, people still feel shameful of otaku culture. So, people who are otaku, they won't be as proud as westerners would be. [Laughs.]

Why do you think that is?

I think it has to do with it going mainstream. I think in the past it may have been harder for people to come out as being a nerd.
You're probably of the age, then, if you grew up with Tomb Raider that you can remember being embarrassed to admit you played videogames, but --

Yes. Definitely. It was definitely an experience I had myself. It was not cool at all. [Laughs.] I do remember being embarrassed. It's really refreshing to not feel like I should feel that embarrassment of it anymore.

When you were playing Tomb Raider, was that something you were doing by yourself?

It was mostly my brother. So, yeah, I got into videogames because of my brother.

Does he still play?

No. I grew to be more of a nerd than he did. For him, it was more of a temporary thing.

Growing up, did anyone hassle or tease you for being a girl who plays videogames?

Yes, I have definitely been teased. Growing up in a small town, it was considered very unusual for a girl to be interested in videogames and anime -- specifically Dragonball Z, which I was a big fan of. I remember especially girls in school used to laugh at me if I would talk about my hobbies. Once I got older luckily, I learned that there are plenty of girls like me in the world, and I feel like it is much more socially accepted to be interested in nerd culture now.

Why do you think nerd culture became more mainstream? In America, at least, the portrayal of people who played games historically and infamously was a guy in his mom's basement eating Cheetos. And now over the years it's become a guy in his apartment shouting on his headset.

Right, right.

How do you think that changed? Why do you think that changed?

Well, I think definitely the portrayal of nerds in the media has a large part in it. I think it's also because just the people who used to be nerds have come to be in positions that they're making movies and being able to express themselves to a really large audience. I think the whole nerd culture has also -- it's nerds growing up and expressing themselves and spreading a new awareness that they're normal people and it's perfectly fine. They're dehumanized in media anymore.

I don't know too much about otaku culture, but why hasn't it gone as mainstream in Japan as nerd culture has in America?

It's hard to say why. I think it needs time. It'll change over time.

How have you seen it change over time so far? Pretty much all I've known about it is there's snacking otaku and there's feasting otaku and it's more focused on the act of collecting. I've heard that otaku are more knowledgeable than American nerds, but like you said, they're not necessarily proud of it or shouting it at people the way people in the West are.

Well, it's strange because if you live in Japan and Tokyo especially, you seem the otaku culture all around you. The industry is huge but you don't really see the people. I think it has to do with Japanese people in general being a lot more introverted.

But then again, Japanese mainstream media has very little portrayal of otaku culture. So, it's people who are not in otaku culture don't understand the otaku culture. So, there's still a very harsh division between the non-otaku people and otaku.

I've heard as well, and maybe this is because the animation production over there has been commercially successful for much longer, but I feel like in Japan there's always a new game with an actor from a successful actor. There's this pipeline of actors that people in Japan are familiar with who appear in videogames. But in America, for example, like something the first trailer for something like a Metal Gear comes out, people might be, "Oh, that's Troy Baker." But he's not really known for or from much else. Do you feel like people in Japan are more passionate and knowledgeable about videogame actors?

I think it is, yeah. It is pretty -- the actors are not famous in a mainstream way as they are within the otaku scene of celebrities. They'll have these huge conventions and things like that. Tokyo Game Show. The actors will come onstage and it's full of all the fans getting together. So, yeah, they're really big for the otaku. Yeah, still, it's quite divided.

You mean in terms of awareness?

Yeah. There are mainstream actors who do stuff on TV and movies, but then there's the game and anime actors.

You may not like hearing questions like this because you're just focusing on your work right now, but your manager told me you were out of town working on some movies. Are there things that you're hoping to be working towards in your career specifically?

Well, yeah. I think I'm still lucky to not be "stuck" and completely typecast into being just a videogame actress. I think especially in the West, people are quite open to the idea of having those two worlds intertwine. So, yeah. I'm working on two film projects right now and it's definitely something I want to keep doing in the future. So, I don't want to separate myself from the gaming scene at all because that's really special to me, too.

Well, I mean you can branch out and do different things. Is it really that much of an either/or thing? Or do you have some sense that some people are already typecasting you?

It's hard to say why this typecasting happens. I'm not really sure, to be honest.

With the type of celebrity you are, how do see your relationship with your fans and your audience evolving with things like social media or streaming, which I know you've done.

It's very special. It's really cool to have an audience to be able to share your new steps in your career with. So, that's really something I'm grateful for.

What do you think videogames have accomplished?

That's a good question. [Laughs.] [Pause.] I think videogames have a really large potential to bring people together. I think more so than maybe films because they're interactive and sometimes their stories are just on a so much larger scale. It's really, really special to see how whole communities can form because of a videogame or a videogame franchise. I think that's really unique to videogames.

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