Kenji Ono


1. Ono-sama, who are you? What is your profession, what are you doing for a living?

I am a video game journalist. I worked as publisher and editor of a small video game magazine for 6 years right after university graduation. In 2000, I quit the job and became a freelancer. I am usually interviewing developers, review games and cover major events in the world like the E3 or the Tokyo Game Show. In addition to that, I became the head of the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Japan in 2011. It was founded in 2002 and advanced to a nonprofit organization in 2012. It is a voluntary based organization and the mission is to contribute to the society via sharing knowledge and building a real community in the game industry. We are holding seminars every month etc.

2. Have you ever been studying abroad or have you ever done an internship abroad?


3. You are managing a Facebook group called Japanese game industry job hunting supporter's club and a website to support foreigners who are seeking internships or jobs in the Japanese Game Industry. Thank you very much for that! Why did you start this?

I knew many foreign students are burning with the passion to work in the Japanese game industry, since I met them at fairs and events in Japan as well as abroad. I also knew that many middle-sized and small studios want to hire foreign developers. I thought that we need to build up a community they can meet each other. It was the reason I started the community on Facebook and wiki. In addition, IGDA Japan offers a form of internship for the CEDEC and Tokyo Game Show. Every year, 18 students participate this program and about 50% is foreigners.
国内外のイベントやフェアを取材するうちに、多くの外国人学生が日本のゲーム業界で働きたいという情熱を抱いていることを知りました。同時に外国人を雇用したいと思っている中小のゲーム会社が多いことも知りました。そこで両者が出会えるコミュニティを作るべきだと思ったのです。これがFacebookのグループページとwikiを立ち上げた理由です。 また、IGDA日本は毎年CEDECと東京ゲームショウ向けに学生スカラーシップを募集しています。毎年18名の学生を選出しており、その半数は外国人学生です。

4. What is the JJSC doing? Could you introduce some other members?

JJSC is the group page I manage on Facebook. The purpose is to provide information for foreign students who want to work in the Japanese game industry. I like to share success stories and self-introductions there.


5. What are the benefits for the Japanese Game Industry, taking in young foreigners?

Many Japanese studios want to start developing for the international market, but most of the middle-sized or small studios do not have international developers, let alone many of them. Foreigners could be the bridges to the international market for those companies. In addition, the amount of game industry information in English is much larger than in Japanese. It is important for studios to hire foreigners to collect information and catch up with current technology.

6. Tell us about internships in the game development scene. Are there many? Are internships like in America already common in the Japanese game industry?

Internships are on the way to becoming common in Japanese game industry, too. But since the Japanese job hunting system is very unique and most of the companies, especially the big ones, interview only students who will soon graduate, internships are divided from job hunting. It is not common that students hunt a job via internships in Japan yet. But recently, some middle and small studios are hiring students and professionals in any season - if they are talented. In these companies, internships are already a tool of job hunting. Note: Most of the internships in Japan are unpaid.
インターンシップは日本のゲーム産業でも次第に一般的になりつつあります。しかし、日本の就職活動のシステムは非常に特殊で、特に大企業は年度内に卒業予定の学生だけを面接対象としており、インターンシップが就職活動と切り離されています(新卒一括採用)。インターンシップを経て就職につながる例は日本では一般的ではありません。しかし昨今、中小スタジオでは新卒と中途採用を区別せず、通年採用をとる例が増えています。こういったケースでは、もし学生に十分な力があれば、インターンシップが就職につながる例も珍しくありません。 注:日本ではインターンシップのほとんどが無給です。

7. Do internships in the Japanese game industry lead to full-time employment later? Do the companies take foreign interns because they want to test the young people out and later give them full-time work?

As I already answered in the previous question, there is no way to enter as full-time employee via an internship yet in the big companies. But in middle-sized or small studios, the cases are increasing!

8. Should all companies in all fields and industries in Japan take foreign employees?

I think it depends on the industry or company. My wife is an occupational therapist. Since clients are old and handicapped people, every therapists should understand the Japanese culture and have proper Japanese communication skills. That means that therapists should probably be Japanese. On the other hand, industries willing to export, like the game-, manga-, anime-, movie-, food-, music- or fashion industry, yes, they indeed should hire foreigners.

9. How important is Japanese language in the Japanese game industry?

It is very important. If Japanese want to work in the United States, they should speak English. I think foreigners should speak Japanese if they want to work in Japan.

10. Are there many foreign students who do or did study Japanese in Japan approaching you? Do they have better chances than those who graduated outside of Japan?

One American student who spoke Japanese approached me before. His parents were American but he was born and grew up in Japan. He could only speak Japanese but moved to America in junior high school and had to learn English. He wanted to go back to Japan and hunt a job in game industry. I met him at an event in America and gave some advice to him. He successfully applied for a job here and lives in Japan now. I also met some western students who want to hunt jobs in Japan, but I don’t know other cases. They usually just want to work in Japan but do not start to take any action, like learning Japanese or sending resumes …

11. Do you have success stories you could share with us? Somebody special you are remembering?

In addition no.10, I would like to share one case of a female 3DCG artist. She learned 3DCG at an American university and came to Japan to find a job in the game industry. She could not speak any Japanese at that time, but she looked for her dream job anyway and first became an English teacher at a junior high school. Having time to develop herself, she also kept on contacting the game developers’ community. One day, she participated in a IGDA Japan party we held and got a connection with the president in a studio. She was interviewed by him and landed a job! She lives in Tokyo and enjoys working there still.
10番の回答に加えまして、女性の3DCGアーティストの例を紹介します。彼女はアメリカの大学で3DCGを学び、ゲーム産業で職を得るために来日しました。彼女は当時、日本語をまったく話せませんでしたが、とにかく職を見つけるために、中学校の英語教師になりました。そして本業のかたわら、ゲーム産業へのコンタクトを続けました。ある日、彼女はIGDA日本のパーティに参加して、ゲームスタジオの経営者とコネクションを得ました。面接の結果、彼女はそのスタジオに就職できたのです! 彼女は東京に住み、仕事を満喫しています。

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