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The Real Reason Nier Director Yoko Taro Wears That Strange Mask

Yoko Taro, the director of the Nier series, loves hiding intricate secrets in his games, but it's possible that his biggest secret of all is his face. Fans primarily know the eccentric director from Nier: Automata, which was considered one of the best RPGs of 2017. Yoko rarely, if ever, appears in public without a mask. Modeled after Emil from the Nier franchise, the mask has become an iconic representation of Yoko himself, but why does he wear it? The answer may not be so simple. 

Yoko told Kotaku in an exclusive interview that he prefers to wear his Emil mask in public because it keeps the Nier games exciting to a certain audience of players. "Some people might lose that kind of expectation or excitement toward a game if they find out who's actually behind it," Yoko said. "So I try to eliminate that disappointment factor as much as possible." 

Yoko went on to explain that he does not consider himself handsome, and therefore does not want to show his face to everyone. Yoko credited his bleak outlook on himself as part of his general "rottenness," and elaborated that despite his success, "I still see myself as someone that hasn't succeeded in life. When I thought of that, I thought I might be broken in some way."

Conflicting answers

Despite Yoko's dark sense of humor (or perhaps because of it), fans have come to love the quirky director. Even so, Yoko doesn't see himself as particularly interesting or weird. In a 2014 talk, Yoko said, "To be honest, I think I am making normal games targeted towards normal people, but ultimately when I release those normal games, weird people find them to be weird games and enjoy them. Which probably means there's something wrong with me."

However, Yoko's answers aren't always consistent. In a 2018 interview with Polygon, Yoko described the mask as a compromise to fulfill a "verbal promise" with Nier: Automata's producer, Yosuke Saito. Yoko said that when he must appear at public events, he's "careful not to distract too much from the game. I feel that a developer should let their game speak for itself." While that answer doesn't quit match what he's told other outlets over the years, it does match his steadfast dedication to the Nier series.

Fans may never learn if there's one true reason for Yoko's secrecy, but the reasons he's provided will have to satisfy them for now. For his part, Yoko's too busy working on new projects to come up with a new public persona now.