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.