If you’ve read my staff profile, seen my Twitter, or read my article on FIRST LOVE MONSTER (Hatsukoi Monster), you’ll know that I used to work at a Japanese video game company. Specifically, a company that makes visual novels (some of an erotic nature).
In a twist of fate, an anime about game development in Japan titled NEW GAME! began airing only two months after I left the game company I had worked at as a translator for almost a year. Despite not much time having passed since my departure, I felt a sense of nostalgia watching the anime. Why? Because to my surprise, a lot of what is portrayed is very close to the actual experience of working in a game company in Japan.
Although I can’t go into many specifics of my experiences due to NDAs and all that fun jazz, I thought I could give a little bit of insight of what it’s like to work at a Japanese game company with NEW GAME! as a guide.
The Office Is Usually Pretty Small
When you see those videos of interviews with developers that take place at studios like Ubisoft, Nintendo of America, or even Square Enix, the image you’re given is that the studios are in big, fancy buildings with tons of rooms and space. While it’s true that the Sega and Bandai Namco buildings–the latter of which I work at now–are exactly that, the majority of smaller game companies are cramped into a few small rooms in a shared building. At the company I worked at, we had two small floors and one elevator, meaning if that elevator broke or was under maitenance, you had to climb the rickety stairs located outside of the building until you reached the top floor of the building. It’s a fun experience when the summer sun is shining without restraint or when rain is shooting down like bullets.
While we had two rooms for workers, all desks were open, meaning absolutely no privacy. But you want to talk no privacy? We didn’t have a meeting room, so one was squared off near the entrance, meaning you could overhear everything as you passed by. I had a few embarrassing experiences of tripping over something in front of the “meeting room” on my way home, surprising visitors who had come to talk business. Having an open-air meeting room isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just proof that smaller game companies have to adapt to the space they’re given, and in the case of the company I worked at, that wasn’t very much.
We Don’t Talk; We Message
In a Japanese game company, the normal expectation is that most of your communication will be made through instant messanger. At my company, an in-office messaging program was installed by default onto my computer. Despite there being over ten people on each floor, most of the day was surrounded in silence.
This became a problem considering that translation is a lot of discussion and creative choices. However, try and go up and talk to your coworkers about a certain issue and you usually won’t get much out of them, just like with design team member Hifumi in the anime. Because the majority of the people working in game development in Japan are introverted, most find it easier to text rather to talk. I talked so little with my coworkers about anything outside of work that when I changed workplaces, I was shocked when I was talked to about anime at my desk on my first day on the job.
Yes, You Get to Decorate Your Workspace
And with whatever you want! I put all the anime goods I wanted on my desk, even if it wasn’t related to my company:
The other employees did as well, with The iDOLM@STER being a popular decoration for workspaces. It’s easier to work at a desk for a long period of time if you have something fun to look at.
You Might Be Working in the Same Office as Your Long-Time Idol
Perhaps one of the biggest rewards of working at a game company is getting to meet amazing people. Though I had no idea when I applied for the job, I was in fact joining a company where many famous anime and game creators worked. Because of my job, I got to talk and get to know people who played major parts in anime and games that I loved, with some of those works being ones I got into before I even entered my teen years.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that I had been working in the same office with them the entire time! Well, I guess you can imagine it pretty clearly, because the protagonist of NEW GAME! Aoba had the exact same reaction when she met her beloved illustrator and new boss Because the industry isn’t that big of a place, there’s a chance you’ll be able to work with some pretty cool celebrities, even in the smaller companies.
NEW GAME! is streaming for free with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.
©Shotaro Tokuno,HOUBUNSHA/NEW GAME! Project