Scoring a job in the Japanese Gaming Industry
Friday, November 16, 2018
The Japanese gaming industry is the stuff of legends. So how do you get in the door to one of the most coveted professions in Japan?
It’s a wonderful time for anyone who’s dream is to move to Japan and become a part of its highly influential gaming industry. Japan is more open to foreign immigration than ever before; as I mentioned in a previous article the number of foreign workers has doubled to 1.3 million in the past 5 years alone.
Of course, to get to where you want to be requires effort and perseverance. The video game industry remains an extremely popular and competitive one and, for most people, this isn’t something that happens overnight. But where opportunities arise, those who want it enough are sure to seize them. Here I will share some insight from people who took the steps to realise and then live their dreams.
Getting your foot in the door
If you don’t already have family ties in Japan, your main support network will be the company that employs you, and most importantly you will need them to sponsor your working visa. Unfortunately, there may well be someone eligible for the job you want who already has a visa and lives in Japan(unless you possess some ultra-rare and sought-after skill set, or a CV that literally drops jaws). Our most valuable asset to the Japanese, more often than not, is out being non-Japanese, and with a basic qualification to teach English (or your native tongue) it’s possible to seek employment from abroad. The experience of living in Japan alone is an invaluable one and you can save up some money at the same time.
You might want to dedicate all your time to video games, but if you are serious about moving to Japan the experience of working in any field there is invaluable. Remember, a mountain climber can’t simply climb upwards in a straight line until they reach the top. Yes, they want to make as much vertical progress as quickly as possible, but a secure and risk-free route will likely have some bends in it.
This remains true even after you have already moved to Japan. If you don’t already have the skills to design or develop a game, you will need to plan out a route that will help you get a foot in the door. You may want to look into marketing or translation jobs, as you should at least be able to speak decent Japanese, and both of these areas are extremely important to video game companies.
- Plan out how you will get to Japan and acquire your visa
- Look at your skill set and plan out a route that will take you into the industry
- Save money so you will be able to support yourself through internship
Asking the programmer If you’re a programmer who can communicate in native or adept English, you are bringing two skill sets to the table in Japan. Jordan Knight, a Canadian programmer working in Japan, emphasizes the importance of recognizing your own value. “There are lots of opportunities for programmers inJapan and knowledge of commonly used software such as Unity and Unreal can help you land a job working on some exciting projects.” Knight has worked as a programmer on the localized versions of titles like Stardew Valley and Shuffle, as well as Astro Boy: Edge of Time online card game.
If you like to tinker with your own personal projects, don’t be afraid to slap it on your resume, and be sure to get a certificate in Japanese proficiency to make sure your potential employers have no doubt they will be able to communicate with you.
Asking the Artist
Artists can sometimes a quiet bunch, preferring to let their dexterous hands do the talking, and our resident artist preferred to remain unnamed for this article. However, he cannot overstate the importance of being social and opportunistic. The gaming industry in Japan is full of wonderful people from all kinds of backgrounds. Go to events like BitSummmit in Kyoto, make friends with everyone and sell yourself – both your personality and your abilities. It’s no secret that Japan is full of talented and dedicated artists, so your best bet is to target modern companies with an international profile, rather than more strictly traditional Japanese companies.
Asking the Translator
Freelance translation is a great starting point for aspiring game translators, but for some it is also the end goal. Veterans like Andy Klim live and work in Japan without any obligation to set foot in an office, but this is possible thanks to years of honing his skills and proving his reliability to his clients with fast, high quality translation and punctual communication. Andy Klim has worked on the localization of games such as Fossil Fighters Frontier and Final Fantasy Legends. Working at a company as part of a game localization team is a more secure option and you will have more opportunities to meet and work alongside other teams specializing in game development, marketing and so on. If you have an N1 or N2 certificate for Japanese and have some basic experience in translation, whether that be an academic course in translation or working as a freelancer, it will be possible to secure work with a Japanese gaming company.
Getting a job in the Japanese gaming industry is far from unrealistic, the opportunities are there and on the rise. Like any other job, however, you’ll have to be prepared to put in the work, show off what you’re capable of… and never give up.
Register in Izanau if you are looking for awesome jobs in the Japanese video game industry.
About the Author
I have worked alongside game translators and developers as localization manager for Playism in Japan. Now I'm back in the UK with all this Brexit confusion, hunting for cool games and practising Bach fugues.