Interactive Selection welcome new entertainment industry employers seeking key staff in 2014

Award winning Interactive SelectionAs the economic recovery continues, are you expanding your team in 2014? Hiring just one key role, quickly, can bring significant benefits.

Make use of an award winning global recruiter like Interactive Selection with 17 years of experience in the interactive entertainment sector across all territories to find that key member of your team speedily and with the minimum of fuss. Think of the role that will bring the most benefit to the company but is the most challenging to source. This is where we make our living. With no upfront fee, it is our job to respond successfully to your critical needs.

The strength of our offering in all formats of the entertainment space – online/ web browser, mobile games and apps, cross platform casual games, console, mmo, gambling, social gaming, transmedia, serious games, games publishing, monetisation – is reflected in Interactive Selection winning the Best Service Provider Award 2013 from UK game developer trade association, TIGA.

Our long term relationships with tens of thousands in our sector means that we can quickly deliver to you a selection of the most qualified applicants. Contact David Smith, MD today on david AT interactiveselection DOT com!

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If you are a member of LinkedIn, you can now get together with over 1100 others who share the same interests.

Please link through to http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=2810721 . Start a discussion, share news! Just join the group and start networking. Good luck.

Meet Giles Goddard and Dylan Cuthbert, 2 British expats making games in Kyoto, Japan

The Pixel Junk games have garnered runaway success on PlayStation’s downloadable service, but the Kyoto-based studio was founded by a pair of British expats, Giles Goddard and Dylan Cuthbert. Here is their story.

Interview with Interactive Selection placed Jaymin Kessler of Q-Games

Interactive Selection placed Jaymin Kessler at Q-Games in May 2008. Following on from our last post here at Games Jobs Japan we have another interview about the problems and benefits of working in Japan. Having previously worked at a number of North America companies, EA and Hypnotix, he made his move to Japan where he is now working at Q-Games with both programming and R&D responsibilities.

GJJ – Both professionally and personally, what struck you about Japan when you arrived?

JK - Before coming to Q, I had visited Japan roughly 10 or 11 times so I felt reasonably prepared.  Of course the issues you deal with as a resident are completely different than those you encounter as a tourist.  For example, when searching for a mansion (a kind of Japanese apartment), I came across an absolutely perfect place but the owner didn’t like foreigners and refused to rent to us (or that’s what was explained to us by our real estate agent). It’s really the only time in my 3 years that anyone has given me any trouble for being a foreigner. A few things did require having Japanese friends/contacts to do. For example, when renting a mansion you usually need to have a Japanese person be your guarantor, which makes sense because a Japanese resident is there forever while foreigners tend to just up and disappear to their home countries suddenly.

On the good side (in Kyoto), the food here is shockingly good and the cost of living is insanely low. The people are really incredibly friendly and go out of their way to be nice to each other. It’s quite different from my experiences in Tokyo. I also had no idea how safe Kyoto is. I routinely see kindergarten-age kids walking home from school completely alone with no adult supervision. The people here seem quite honest. Someone had dropped a 500 yen coin that I found, so I put it on top of a trunk box. I came back a week later and no one had taken it.

GJJ – Have there been any unanticipated conflicts or issues caused in the workplace through cultural differences?

JK – The only thing I can think of is that we had a Japanese member of the staff that used to sleep at his desk during the day. I was told that it’s semi-normal for some people at Japanese companies to sleep at their desks (a sign of how hard they work?) but it just seemed incredibly bothersome to me.

Also, I am sure that I unknowingly do rude things all the time, but my Japanese coworkers are quite forgiving and don’t tell me when I do. I could see things being much harder and problematic at a non-gaming company. Because Q-Games consists of a bunch of… eclectics… working at a gaming company where no one wears suits to work, there tends to be more joking around and things are far less formal than at other companies. Also, because we’re a small company, we’re all friends, which really helps a lot as well. I think that kind of environment lowers tension a little and makes most cultural misunderstandings kinda funny.

GJJ – What have been the benefit of working for a Japanese company and Japanese colleges?

JK – The main benefit of working at a Japanese company is that you get to live in Japan. The main benefit of working with Japanese coworkers is that they help you practice your Japanese. Also they are great at parties.

GJJ – Is there any advice you would offer to people wanting to work in Japan, or actually on their way to work in Japan?

JK – Keep in mind that Japanese skill is important but it alone won’t get you hired. It’s difficult and expensive to bring a foreigner to Japan, so the candidate’s skill level would have to justify the extra hassle. If you think you can get in on Japanese ability alone, there is an entire island of people who probably have you beat.

Once you do get here, the best thing you can do is not to try to forcibly continue your old lifestyle. A lot of people throw tantrums when they find that certain things they used to eat every day are more expensive here, or certain types of clothes are more expensive, or they can’t find product X at their local store, or the way their coworker’s work is so inefficient compared to western ways. Basically what it comes down to is that if you can’t go with the flow and adapt without complaining about how your old way of doing things was so superior, then you probably aren’t a good fit for Japan.

GJJ – Do you feel Q-Games are treated differently by Japanese partners?

JK – I can’t vouch for the other Q-Games teams, but Sony doesn’t treat us any differently because we’re so international. The head of the tech team speaks near perfect Japanese, so communication isn’t an issue. I’d actually say quite the opposite; often it feels like we are treated better because of the high skill level here.

GJJ – How is Q-Games different to other Japanese developers you have worked with?

JK – I have only worked with Sony, which is a giant multinational. The things that differ between Q and Sony echo the differences between any smaller and larger company.

Interactive Selection are always on the look out for experienced programming talent to work in Japan. Contact David Smith on david [at] interactiveselection.com for further details.

Interview with Brandon Sheffield, Writer, designer and Editor, Game Developer magazine

Brandon Sheffield has worked on a number of projects with Japanese companies. Though he never resided in Japan, his work has seen him involved in both roles as consultant and writer. He offers a different perspective to our previous interviews, partly in that the companies he worked a long side were far more traditional and in how his input was generally external to the process or mediated through a single member of the development team.

Below, Brandon talks about his time working on a Japanese FPS title. The game was a four-player co-op FPS, designed with the Western market. With this in mind, Brandon was hired to work along side the fifty person development staff to write and develop the story. Despite a promising start and being backed by a big developer, the title it was cancelled while still in Alpha, due to a lack of funds.

GJJ – How did you find working with Japanese developers differed from with their Western counterparts?

BS – Working with Japanese developers was pretty different, mostly because one of the big things they wanted to know from me is “will Western fans like this,” which obviously a Western studio wouldn’t be asking. I felt like the team was mandated to ask this from above though, and they could’ve done a fine job without asking, really. Though there were a few cases where they tried to keep some gameplay elements that would look pretty stilted in the U.S. market.

By and large my team didn’t differ too much from Western teams. Very dedicated, definitely trying to make the best game they could. I might say they were even more dedicated to their vision though. Even with a team of 50 people, they were more accepting of experimentation and trying new things than other teams I’ve worked with. But again I don’t think that’s because they were Japanese – it was just a good team.

GJJ – Did you discover any unexpected issues working with them?

BS - I’d say the biggest issue I didn’t expect was that people would agree with me even when they didn’t, really. Or if they didn’t totally get a concept I was thinking of (usually because I didn’t explain it well), they would just say, “ah, I see,” and move on, being just as confused as before. This came to a head when I realized they totally didn’t understand the story I was trying to tell in the game, and wrote up a potential new story that was easier to grasp. We worked this out, and the problem was ultimately fixed by bringing in another designer who was incredibly good at calling out things she didn’t understand. She forced me to explain every detail of what I was thinking about, and this helped both the team to understand me, and me to hone my ideas. Once we got past that rough spot, things really improved.

GJJ – What benefits do you think Western personnel and influence could bring to Japanese development studios?

BS - Western personnel and influence can help teams that are ready for it to have better process and development practices. But by and large the structure of Japanese game companies is not set up to support that. I really don’t think Western influence is necessary in Japanese studios. These companies could be figuring this stuff out for themselves, they just appear to refuse to do so. All you have to do is make good games, while learning from the best practices that are floating out there. While a lot of technological advances have come from the Western side, this could all be done from within Japan if they wanted. Hiring Western developers seems to be more of a crutch, or a way to placate management than anything.

In my case, I was hired because they wanted a story written in English, because they wanted to make an FPS, and so of course Western markets would be the target. They weren’t hiring me because I’m some genius who was going to teach them how to succeed. I was hired as part of a team that knew what it was doing, but who also wanted to bounce ideas off someone who lived and breathed that market. Makes total sense, in that case.

GJJ – Sorry, I was thinking more of if you feel that Japanese development could benefit from more cultural diversity, similar to that North America and Europe has always enjoyed with its more open boarders?

BS – I think any industry could benefit from cultural diversity. But that shouldn’t necessarily overwrite a country’s unique ideas and perspective, which seems to be happening sometimes. There’s a “me-too-ism” that is happening in Japan that chooses to follow western ideas rather than finding their own ideas that work better in the current game environment.

Currently Brandon is working on two projects, one for the Xbox Live Indie Games and the other for iOS/Android, with a third project coming up that will see him working on a PSN/XBLA title that is being co-developed by Japanese and European teams. If you are interested in learning more about Brandon and following his work visit his site, Insert Credit, where he regularly contributes.

Interview with Chief Artist of Q-Games, Yutaka Kurahashi

After a number of recent posts from foreigners working in Japan our latest interview has a slightly different face, that of Yutaka Kurahashi, Chief Artist at Q-Games. As a Japanese employee working along side foreigners in Japan he provides a good counter point to the discussion of issues to be tackled in a mixed work place, from basic communication to cultural misunderstandings. Kurahashi is also able to compare Q-Games to more traditional Japanese companies that he has worked at, shedding some light on to the changing face of business in his native country, and how he feels injecting new cultural ideas can be of benefit.

・How does working at Q-Games compare to more traditional Japanese companies?

About eight years have passed since I started working at Q-Games, but before that, I worked at a famous Japanese foodstuffs company. This rather large company had a well-established history, but at its core, it fit the mold of what is to be expected from a conservative Japanese company. As such, there was something very new and exciting about Q-Games. Having so many foreigners on staff made for a liberating work environment, but what was most impressive was seeing how everyone enjoyed working together. Of course, the industry I used to work in was completely different from the games industry. The day-to-day work was completely different from what I was used to, but it became quite clear to me Q-Games was a great place to have a job. That certainly doesn’t mean well-established, traditional companies like the place I used to work at are bad. For me personally, it gave me valuable experience and served as the basis of who I am today. However, if I had to compare the two, I’d to say there’s nothing better than working at a place like Q-Games for someone like me.

・What do you feel the mixed ethnicity of your co-workers brings to the company and your products?

For starters, we come up with ideas Japanese individuals wouldn’t be able to think of solely by ourselves. Because our cultures are so different, there are many instances I find myself opening my eyes to new ways of looking at things. I get to work on my English skills, it’s easy to keep up on news from abroad, and the atmosphere is so liberating. On the other hand, there are many different cultures and senses of value which may clash with Japanese sensibilities, and this may cause issues with how well everyone works together. However, I think being considerate of each other and maintaining an open line of communication is very important in resolving any issues which may result. I posit it’s precisely because our cultures are so different that Q-Games has become a working environment where we can all appreciate and respect each other.

・Japan is still very ethnocentric in the majority of businesses, do you feel the Q-Games model is likely to be adopted by other companies, gaming and otherwise, going forward?

I think Japanese companies have become increasingly international, but I think Q-Games is a particularly special case. For instance, our President is a foreigner who happens to be extremely knowledgeable about Japan. If our President were Japanese, I would find it difficult to believe Q-Games would be how it is today. Of course there are many instances of foreigners working at well-equipped corporations in Japan, but I think having close to half the staff being foreigners at a relatively small-scale company like Q-Games is particularly rare. Because the President is a foreigner himself, there’s not as much pressure associated with communication, and because there are so many foreigners who work here, Q-Games creates an environment which make it very hospitable for people interested in coming to Japan. If a Japanese national were to start a successful company abroad, surely Japanese people who want to work abroad would be drawn to a company like that!

・Do you find Q-Games are treated differently than other studios in Japan by publishers?

Yes, I think so. The games we’ve developed have always been of high quality, and I think the quality of our work has become highly regarded. Plus, with its mix of good Japanese and foreign qualities, Q-Games has become such a unique Japanese company. That’s why I think there’s been a lot of interest from publishers.

・What difficulties have you run into culturally working with foreign staff?

Of course communication issues happen, but I think the biggest difference is the way in which the foreign staff approaches work. It’s often said Japanese people work too much, but the “work” involved is done as a group. The biggest priority is working with everything as a team – not as an individual. “Cooperation” is a word often used in Japan. In order for everyone to work together in harmony, the group has to come before the individual, everyone has to respect each other, and sometimes an individual’s time has to be sacrificed due to work. That’s been the norm for many Japanese people for a long time. Of course, I’m not saying that way of thinking doesn’t exist abroad, but I believe that amongst most foreigners the individual is prioritized over the group. From a Japanese perspective, this might be viewed as being a very dry, business-like way of doing things. Japanese people have been instilled with an age-old collectivist mentality, and working in this manner – for good or for bad – is a part of the Japanese culture.

・Do you have any advice for non-Japanese wanting to work in the Japanese games industry?

First and foremost, you shouldn’t impose your own culture upon others. Since your culture may be very different from that of Japan, embracing these differences is the key to success. “When in Rome – or Japan in this case – do as the Romans do.” We have a very similar saying in Japanese. When foreigners first come to Japan, they have a tendency to impose their cultural mores and ways of thinking onto others. Or course, I’m not suggesting you abandon 100% of those values; it’s moving forward with an attitude of accepting the Japanese culture that’s important. At the same time, there are certainly many things we Japanese should adopt from foreign cultures. Other than that, enjoy your new life in Japan!

Interview with Ariel Angelotti of Kyoto Game Developer Q-Games

Q-Games is a Kyoto based game company that was founded in 2001 by Dylan Cuthbert. As a Japanese based company Q-Games is notable for being composed primarily of foreign employees – several of which have been introduced by Interactive Selection, with only 70% of staff being native to Japan. The remaining 30% are a diverse group, drawing talent from a number of countries to create the studio’s unique atmosphere that many feel contributes to the success of their acclaimed titles.

With so many of their employees not being native and with a variety of cultural backgrounds their experiences upon entering the Japanese culture differ wildly. This week we have an interview with Q-Games’s Assistant Producer, Ariel Angelotti, who tells us about working in Japan, some of the surprises those who choose to live there may face and how to prepare yourself if are considering it.

GJJ – Both professionally and personally, what struck you about Japan when you arrived there?

AA – I was a Japanese language and culture major in college, so I had studied customs, history, and politics extensively before landing on these shores the first time.  Armed with that knowledge, it might come as no surprise I more easily observed the subtle differences rather than the deep, profound differences between Japan and my native country, the United States.  Typically, a lot of what you hear about Japan (including some of the stereotypes) are true.  Streets, sidewalks and other public spaces are kept tidy, Japanese people tend to be much quieter than western people (unless they’re out drinking, of course), and the service is top notch.  What you don’t hear much about in textbooks, by word of mouth, or see represented in miscellaneous Japanese media are the smaller things. People tend to back into their parking spaces, you’ll get a wet cloth to wipe your hands with at the beginning of a meal even in not so fancy restaurants, carrying around a basket as opposed to pushing around a giant shopping cart in super markets is de rigueur, and milk containers are about 1/4 of the size of the good ol’ American gallon.  Uncovering why these subtle differences exist can offer insight into what makes living and working in Japan as a professional so different from what I’ve grown up with, and the detective work used to uncover why such differences exists is something I relish engaging in on a daily basis.

GJJ – Have there been any unanticipated conflicts or issues caused in the workplace through cultural differences?

AA - Working in such a culturally diverse and creative environment like Q-Games (we have roughly a 70/30 split between Japanese and “Other” staff members – and not all “Others” are English speakers), I think some issues revolving around cultural or language differences are to be expected. What’s surprising is the relative lack of issues that result from cultural differences. I feel that Dylan Cuthbert, Founder and President of Q-Games, is a quintessential part of making it such a positive environment to work in a reality when he hand picks applicants to hire. Not only are we foreigners at Q-Games open to absorbing and adopting Japanese customs and mannerisms, the Japanese staff tend to be very patient and accepting of us as we explore various facets of our personalities and grow.

GJJ – What have been the benefits of working in Japan and with Japanese colleges?

AA - You learn a lot about yourself when you move to a different country such as Japan. You may be the type to try your best at integrating into the Japanese way of life, in the office and out of the office, but some people may experience speed bumps along the way. Speed bumps included, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about myself over the three years I’ve been living in Japan. Among these life lessons, the importance of compromise has been tantamount to my ability to work and function in Japan successfully. Without a doubt, I can say being in Japan has been of the utmost importance to my personal and professional growth.

GJJ – Is there any advice you would offer to people wanting to work in Japan, or actually on their way to work in Japan?

AA - The most crucial piece of advice I could offer to anyone interested in living and working in Japan is to be open-minded and willing to make compromises. Not only will you gain personal insight into what makes you tick when you’re working, you’ll uncover hidden truths about Japan and your native country along your journey. This involves embracing the good, the bad, and everything in-between.

I’d also recommend starting your education in the Japanese language if you haven’t already. Studying the language helps you gain a unique understanding of Japanese culture beyond its obvious function of aiding your ability to communicate. Do whatever you can to immerse yourself in Japanese.

GJJ – Do you feel you are treated any differently by Japanese colleagues?

AA - You hear rumors of many Japanese companies segregating foreign staffers by grouping them together in one place and appointing a representative to give them a voice within the company. Q-Games does not follow this pattern in any way, shape, or form. Everyone here, from the people in charge of management to people who work in other teams, do a great job in making you feel like you’re a part of the Q-Games family.

GJJ – How is Q-Games different to other Japanese developers you have worked with?

AA - While I’ve never worked at another Japanese developer before, I’ve found some surprising differences between Q-Games and an American game developer I worked at a few years back. While Q-Games is continuing to grow, it still maintains a small developer, cross-disciplinary mentality. Members of our team aren’t locked into a set role every day of the week. My official title is “Assistant Producer,” but there’s a lot of give and take in the work I can take part in. One hour, I might be editing audio files for our official podcast, PixelJunk Radio. The next hour, I might be testing out the controls on our latest project and offering my creative input. Then, I might dive into the localization database and work on Japanese-English translations. Being able to diversify the content of my workload not only allows for a tremendous amount of growth in my work, it also adds variety to my daily tasks making work an enjoyable learning experience every day.

Games Jobs Japan: Nine Things To Remember About Japanese Business Culture

Japan is famous for being polite and ordered. This of course flows over into the work environment, and while foreign staff members are often allowed more leeway, it is still important to have a good idea of the difference in work culture.Any big company will have its own ethos, especially in a progressive industry like gaming where foreign influence is so strongly felt. Some traditions however are still worth keeping in mind, particularly the ones that focus on long hours, already an endemic problem in the industry.

Overtime is standard, and not always easily recognised.

Nearly all company employees work on average one to two hours’ overtime a day. While recent laws mean overtime must now be paid, it is still common for workers not to request it as they feel it is expected of them.

Don’t leave before your boss!

Some companies will see employees remaining in the office until the boss finishes, to the point they will fall sleep at their desk. This varies in its impact depending on the boss’s own commitment, but is common only in traditional companies.

Promote from the top.

Promotions are often based on seniority and as such will sometimes pass over the better-qualified individual. It is becoming less common as the ‘job for life’ culture slowly wanes, but still honorific ‘senpai’ is frequently used to denote respect to long serving peers.

A working family.

Japanese companies build a strong sense of community with drinking together a regular occurrence. Here too the hierarchy is key, with younger members tending seniors but often not having to pay as the big earners pick up the tab.

Just do it.

There is the idea that when asked to do something by a superior it should be done without question, or hesitation. Perhaps a fine work ethic but can cause problems, especially if you are the one in charge and hoping for feedback.

Stress.

Though as a foreigner you may not feel the pressures of Japanese work culture, remember colleagues will. With nearly ten thousand deaths from Karoshi (death from over-work) each year and a host of mental health problems, high-pressure work environments can become stressful by osmosis.

Holidays.

It can be hard to get holiday requests approved, especially in smaller companies during busy times. On the plus side the Japanese government, knowing the plight of employees, has instituted fifteen national holidays throughout the year. This includes three days that make up ‘Golden Week’ (May 3-5) that many companies extend to a full week off.

Bureaucracy.

Going hand in hand with the orderly society, paper work and bureaucracy are commonplace. This can sometimes even mean writing by hand.

Bonus.

If you feel a quoted salary may not be enough, consider looking at possible extras. It is not uncommon for a yearly wage to be almost doubled by twice-yearly bonuses. While these are taxable it does avoid it affecting the ‘city tax’ a single yearly amount paid to the local government based on earning.

Meet CyberConnect2 from Fukuoka Japan, developer of Narruto Shippuden - ultimate Ninja Storm 2

CyberConnect2 from Fukuoka, Japan is the developer of Narruto Shippuden – ultimate Ninja Storm 2. President and CEO Hiroshi Matsutama shows us around his studio. We get to meet Game Director, Yuki Nishikawa, and Lead Designer, Yokei Ishibashi who talk about making the art for the games. Watch the full video that follows:

Visas for Anime & Manga & Gaming Jobs in Japan

This video from the TheJapanChannelDcom just emphasises that it is still difficult to get visas at games comapnies in Japan. Your best bet is always to work with a specialist games agency like Interactive Selection with a track record of finding jobs for programmers and a few other specialist roles in Japan. There are a few opportunities but being able to speak some Japanese is important.