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Working In Japanese Game Development: The Other Side Of The Rainbow
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Working In Japanese Game Development: The Other Side Of The Rainbow

August 20, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next

Company Property

One dubious aspect that foreigners may find difficult to cope with is the implicit sense that the company “owns” you once you’ve signed that contract. Job descriptions aren’t set in stone and the usual caveat of “plus whatever we ask of you” is added to most contracts. An employer will not think twice of lending you out to a friendly company to help out, setting you up for bug testing, asking you to move desks around or to do cleaning duties and likewise the Japanese staff don’t think twice about putting up with that.

The culture is very much “do what the company asks of you, do what you can for the company”. Putting your foot down and pointing out that your job as a coder or artist doesn’t require you to do heavy lifting won’t do you much good. These things sort of come with the territory. And though I am a quite vocal advocate of employee rights and “looking after yourself first and foremost” there isn’t really that much you can do about it if you’re put in the position of having to do certain tasks not outlined in your contract, other than quitting or threatening to quit. To a certain extent you’ll have to play along if your tenure in Japan is to last for any length of time.

Japanese contracts are usually very short and don’t cover much ground. They usually refer to a company rulebook which, by law, your employer must make you read. Some, but not all, companies will ask you to sign a non-disclose agreement but this is implied anyway. So even if you don’t sign one it is not carte blanche to shoot your mouth off to whomsoever you want about whatever you want.

Similarly there would be a clause claiming all work done by the employee belonging to the employer, though how far this stretches outside office hours isn’t clear to me. There seems to be a lot less hobby work or work on the side going on in Japan. With the long hours people simply don’t have the time or energy for it, I guess. If you do plan to do game-related work on the side, it is advisable to discuss it with your employer nonetheless.

Holiday days usually are not given until 6 or so months into your first contract. If you want to take time off before then, or if you’ve run out of spare holidays, you can either take a hit in the wages, where the company will simply dock you for the days missed, or work a few weekends or holidays to rack up a few “daikyuu”, compensatory holidays. In Japan there are no such things as sick days! If you wake up feeling dreadful, just do what the Japanese do and go to work anyway, infecting all your colleagues and co-commuters. Colds and flu in Japan can last for weeks as they get passed round the office. Not everyone is considerate enough to wear those facemasks you sometimes see.

Welcoming To Women?

Another problem Japan as a whole suffers from is gender inequality. At first this may seem surprising as you’ll find more women working in games than you’ll find in the West, by a fair margin, but the status they enjoy is a little depressing. Women are often still seen as part-timers. They work as full-time employees but the general consensus seems to be that they’ll end up marrying and quitting their jobs to become housewives and mothers. Why then should a company invest time, money and effort in helping them along with their careers?

This situation isn’t helped by the attitude so many Japanese women have which is exactly in line with what is expected of them. Many yearn to wed and quit working, making it so much harder for those women intent on building a career. Especially in more formal business situations women can still be looked down upon and generally treated like second class citizens; pretty citizens, but not real businessmen. That, you see, is a man’s job.

This gender inequality isn’t really visible in daily life in the game industry. Women form a significant part of the workforce and of course do their tasks as well as any man, a few even out-geeking some of them. Foreign women may have a bit of a hard time with it. Japanese men seem to be either obsessively excited by western women or mortally afraid of them. At least women aren’t a rarity in the industry here, so possibly foreign women won’t experience extra obstacles in joining it.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next

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