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Feature: 'Western Perspectives On Japanese Game Development'

In this latest Gamasutra feature, we examine the differences between game development practices Japanese and North America and Europe, with veterans such as Gregg Tavares (L
In this latest Gamasutra feature, we examine the differences between game development practices Japanese and North America and Europe, with veterans such as Gregg Tavares (LocoRoco) and Dylan Cuthbert (StarFox) chiming in on their experiences spent developing titles in Japan. In this excerpt, the pseudonymous JC Barnett comments on how he wound up working in Japan, as well as some common misconceptions among students concerning Japanese game development: “I don't think I chose to work here but rather to live here. Tokyo is easy to fall in love with if you're even slightly geeky. So my decision was mostly based on my desire to live in Tokyo. The work in Japan followed from necessity,” says Barnett. On modern college campuses it’s not uncommon to meet aspiring students who want to work in Japan. Interest in games and interest in Japan often go hand in hand. Many students seek to live in Japan one day. “Although experienced developers seem to be more realistic about it and are more influenced by the stories of long hours, the young ones, or those still wanting to break into the industry still seem incredibly keen. There is some idolatry involved, of course. Everybody thinks they'll be working closely with Mr. Miyamoto on the next Zelda or some other million-selling product,” says Barnett. Nevertheless, curiosity brings exchange students, English teachers, and game developers to Japan every year. Taveres says “I had started seriously studying Japanese around 1995-1996. When I was between jobs in late 1997, I thought to myself 'Hmm, I don’t have a girlfriend or wife or kids tying me down so if I really want to learn Japanese I should go to Japan.' So, I chose to go to Japan to learn Japanese. But I had no way of supporting myself so I needed a job in order to live there.“ While most foreign developers make a conscious choice to attempt to live in Japan, this is not always the case. Cuthbert did not set out to live in Japan. “I didn't actually know much about Japan when I first came over here. I had knocked up a 3d demo on the Game Boy for Argonaut Software, and then Nintendo saw it and flew us out to Kyoto two weeks later to show it to their engineers here. Kyoto and the Japanese people left a very good impression on me. So I pretty much decided I wanted to try working and living here from that first impression.” You can now read the complete feature, with more insights into the differences in game development practices and expectations among Japanese studios as compared to those in North America and Europe (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

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