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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 6 of 6
 

And The Rest...

Other aspects of work follow the West’s example too closely for lengthy exposition. There is, for example, no dress code unless you’re on the business side of things, work floors are usually open plan with or without dividing cubicle walls, coffee and tea are provided and a microwave, fridge and kettle available for use. Most companies will have a vending machine for soft-drinks and bottled water, usually but not exclusively set to ever so slightly lower prices than the one outside on the street.

Companies usually organize a party, lavish or cheap, to celebrate the end of a project and employees seen to have worked a lot of overtime are not punished for being inefficient workers but given a few days off in lieu. You may or may not get a free copy of the game you’ve worked on. You will be roped into endless meetings scheduled to start just before you planned to leave the office and lasting a few hours longer than is necessary. And despite the strangely prevalent idea that the Japanese are somehow superior at making games you’ll find your colleagues will be a healthy mix of highly talented and inspiring developers and inexperienced or inefficient ones. You get the picture.

I am acutely alive to the fact I may have painted working in Japanese game development slightly more negative than is ultimately called for. Sure, working in Japan isn’t all rosy, but with the right mindset you can get some things out of it. As I never tire of saying, Japan is a pretty decent place to live and even with the low salaries in the game industry you can, if you’re a prudent spender, live comfortably enough. For the focused applicant there is a real chance to be working on those games you love and that possibly drove you to Japan in the first place.


And -- let’s be coy about this -- there are certain perks attached to working in the Japanese game business. Simply because there aren’t so many of us, yet it’s a dream for so many, a lot of people will live vicariously through you and hang on your every word. These kudos, of course, butter no parsnips and the novelty wears off quickly as you’re faced with the everyday realities of working here. Soon enough the idolatry will die completely as more and more foreigners move to Japan to help it bridge the already evident technological gap between here and the West -- with the West solidly ahead and gaining ground. I, for one, certainly hope so. Paradoxically what the Japanese industry really needs is more outside influence and foreign workers to keep it competitive.

And to hint at credit where it’s due, some companies are taking steps towards improving the quality of life for their employees. Some are actively trying to reduce crunch, some are even working on paid overtime schemes with an eye on avoiding it altogether. Some companies have realized the foreign markets dwarf the local one and have decided to focus on more global product development, bringing along with it better working attitudes, development practices and even wages.

In Conclusion

Like most things in Japan these changes are slow, but they are happening. I can not in good conscience name or shame any companies -- as one person’s hellish sweatshop is another’s employment paradise. Herein lies the true challenge of working in games development, in Japan or any other country. It’s up to you to find a place where you “fit”, where you are happy and content. Success in this task lies in luck, job hopping and focused job applications, all helped along with a growing network of contacts. And with this in mind it is absolutely possible to find a great place to work in Japan, somewhere that suits you personally, but with cultural chasms to bridge, a whole new language to learn and a tiresome process of immigration and the red tape that that brings with it one may feel it is all rather untenable.

I can only repeat: don’t give up! If this is something you feel you want to do, then there is nothing for it but to try. It’s not prohibitively difficult, it’s certainly not impossible.


Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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