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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.

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