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CyberConnect2 Boss Talks 'Quality Of Life' For Japanese Developers

Talking to Gamasutra, CyberConnect2 president Hiroshi Matsuyama (.hack) has been discussing why stressing quality of life and instituting core hours at the Japanese developer has helped its focus and success.
Talking to Gamasutra, CyberConnect2 president Hiroshi Matsuyama (.hack) has been discussing why stressing quality of life and instituting core hours at the Japanese developer has helped its focus and success. The comments came as part of a longer interview with Gamasutra tracing the evolution of the Fukuoka, Japan-based independent developer. The studio started working on games such as Silent Bomber in a former incarnation, before creating the .hack RPG series and a number of titles in the Naruto series. As Matsuyama explains, it was the effects of poor quality of life on him which led him to be much stricter about core hours and working: "I experienced back when I was CyberConnect 1, for three years I basically lived at work. I paid rent on an apartment that was empty; that I never lived at... What I would do is, I would stick my head under the warm water spout, and wash my hair in the kitchenette, and strip down and take a towel and take a sponge bath. And since there's nobody there, I can completely just take it all off. But that's just how I lived, day after day! And I lost a lot of weight. Basically, I was able to take catnaps in a chair, right around when daybreak would start coming, and there's a little time to take a nap for a few hours, in a chair, at work -- and then work would start again. At the time, pulling all-nighters wasn't a big deal, because I was 26, but as the years and days progressed, I realized that the effectiveness of my work got lower, and lower, and lower. Which is to be expected: as you're pulling all-nighter after all-nighter after all-nighter, you're going to end up not being able to work very well. And so, literally, my heart and my body was in ruins. I had worked my heart and my body to ruins. And it's then that I realized, full well, that this is not healthy. And on top of that, my work is not efficient. And so I was forced to come to that realization because of my predicament." The CyberConnect2 president then explained why, when he headed the revitalized developer in making .hack, his attitude changed: "So, the first reason for why I have such a philosophy is that staying up late every night, pulling all-nighters, reduces the effectiveness of one's work. I've realized that all too well myself. The second reason is, these other nine people who have been working for Taito, when they started working at the company, they were working with the same rules that everyone else in the industry works: no one comes in in the morning. And so, I'm there, but no one else comes in in the morning. There would be people who'd come in midday, people who would come in mid afternoon, and other people who would not come in until evening. People were working at different hours; they would come and they would go at different hours, and all day long there would just be kind-of a sluggish, slackish pace of work with everybody, because they just kind-of worked whenever they wanted. And my thought was: why aren't people working when they're working? Why is there no rule? Why is there no direction? Why is there no establishment of 'outside hours are outside hours; work hours are work hours'? You work during work hours, and you're supposed to do your job. There was no guidance, no rule, no establishment that basically forced people to have to sit down and say, "OK, it's work time, so let's work, and really get down to it." And so I realized, this isn't right; this isn't good; it's not effective for a company to operate under these circumstances. There needs to be rules; there need to be guidelines on when people can be expected to show up at work, and when you're at work, do your work. So, do what you're there to do, and don't just drag it out all day and be sloppy or lazy with your work hours." In fact, Matsuyama commented that, at the time he was originally setting up this policy, there was use of a particular game that was symptomatic of the issues that lax hours exposed: "It also happened that the timing was really bad for that company, in that there was a super popular title that was popular worldwide, called Diablo, and people would just totally lose themselves in this game. They would roll into the office, you know, late morning, and they would play Diablo from morning to evening. Some of them would do some work, in the early part of the day when they came in, in the late morning, and then they would start lunch. So they'd be eating lunch while they're playing Diablo, during their break -- but then the lunch break would progress, and they would still keep playing, and then the end of the break would approach, but they would still keep playing, and it's like there's no end! ...I would go on meet and greets to other companies in Tokyo, and learn what they do, and just tour their office, meet people, and network with other people in the video game industry. Everyone was doing the exact same thing, everywhere I went. Except for Nintendo. Nintendo was the only one. But everybody else, what are they doing? They're playing Diablo. My office starts work at nine o'clock in the morning, and so other companies -- other deskwork and video game companies -- often start work at 10 o'clock. That's pretty normal, pretty standard practice. I start at nine. So recently there have been some cries from staff members in my company, you know, "Why don't you change the hours from nine? Nine is early! Change it to 10 o'clock, please!" And my response is, "Well, I hear Nintendo's hours are from 8:45. Maybe I should set you up with an interview with those guys..." And at that response, everybody just shuts up, and they back off of that -- but that's been a cry that I've heard from my office, and that's my response." The full interview with Matsuyama is now available on Gamasutra, including lots more details on the early history of his company, his views on quality of life, and lots more.

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