You've probably already seen this video doing the rounds on social media or other websites already today, but it might not be quite what you think.
The video, shot during a PlayStation Q&A panel at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, appears to show Shuhei Yoshida, president of Worldwide Studios for Sony Computer Entertainment, falling asleep while several of the speakers, including Quantic Dream's David Cage, are discussing the possibilities of interactive storytelling.
Having attended a Gamescom myself a couple of years back, I know how busy and exhausting it is -- and I wasn't even up on stage chairing a discussion or fiddling around with a next gen console's user interface. As such, I wouldn't blame Yoshida at all for attempting to catch a much-needed bit of shut-eye at any opportunity -- though I might not have done it while numerous cameras and the collective eyes of the games industry were on me.
Was he really sleeping, though? Yoshida remained characteristically jocular and enigmatic when prodded about the incident on Twitter, remarking lightheartedly that it was David Cage's voice that (supposedly) put him to sleep. However, some 14 hours later he retweeted a post from Twitter user @FretNotRobot, who provided an interesting link on Japanese business etiquette -- a tweet that Yoshida responded to with a simple but telling "thanks, exactly."
"When Japanese [people] close their eyes in meetings, are they sleeping?" asks the text found at the link, which comes from an international consultancy agency providing cross-cultural and pre-departure training for expatriates and employees involved in international business activities. "Actually, most of the time, they are not asleep," it explains. "Often, closed eyes mean they are listening intently, concentrating on what's being said."
This would certainly seem to be in keeping with around 0:54 into the video above; Yoshida appears to actually be listening, as he nods along with the speaker's words rather than remaining completely still. There are also a couple of occasions where he opens his eyes, then closes them again.
"The 'catnap look' is a way for a senior executive to demonstrate that he is not running the meeting," continues the link from the etiquette guide. "In Japan, senior people will often take a sideline role in order to give younger employees a chance at center stage."
Given that the subject under discussion was interactive storytelling, Yoshida may have felt it inappropriate to take "center stage" in the discussion, which may explain both his position at the side of the panel and his adoption of what the guide calls the "catnap look."
"Non-Japanese may find it rude," continues the guide, 'but since Japanese don't have the custom of maintaining eye contact with the person who is talking, closing one's eyes carries no connotation of rudeness for Japanese. Indeed, Japanese typically don't realize that non-Japanese may be offended."
I don't think anyone was particularly offended in this case, though the incident does go to show that although the growth of the Internet and social media may make the world feel a lot smaller than it once was, there are still lots of cultural differences many of us aren't aware of -- particularly when comparing East to West.
Was Yoshida really asleep? Only he knows that. At least we learned something new today as a result.
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