Ten days ago the Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported that Konami – the critically acclaimed video game publisher – has been treating its staff poorly, claiming that the employees are restricted from accessing the Internet at work. Staff are also not allowed their own email address and lunch breaks are strictly managed with time cards; a system that enforces workers to return to work on time, lest they be named and shamed. Furthermore, the approach to work verges on ignoring human rights as all employees are monitored via hidden cameras.

That does not sound like the kind of place I’d like to work (to my knowledge Gamespresso does not stalk on its editors in this way), but unfortunately Hiraoki Yura – director for the Kickstarter titled Project Phoenix – has stated that this kind of working environment is commonplace in video game studios in Japan.

In a recent interview with Gamespot, Yura pointed out that…

“Firstly, Japan doesn’t share information. That’s the first problem. For example, recently [the aforementioned] sharp review of what Konami does was revealed by the media. Things like hiding people’s emails, and changing them every year. But we all knew this, that’s been going on for ages in the company. Ever since emails were invented. Other companies may take measures so that people don’t leave, but not as much as Konami.

The point is, companies don’t want to share information, they don’t want to share engines, they don’t want to share stuff at CEDEC (Computer Entertainment Developers Conference), which is like the GDC of Japan, but really badly run. They just boast about what they’ve done, not the challenges they’ve overcome, the secrets they’ve learned. They don’t want to be overtaken by their competitors.

Japan still thinks of itself really as the only people who make video games, which is not true. Their rules only apply to Japanese people. So if they find out something, they don’t want to share it. It’s also because of company property, compliance, company protocol. They’re three very different things, but they all mean the same in the end. So you’re not allowed to show stuff, you’re not allowed to talk about stuff, and you keep whatever the company owns as company property. Therefore you don’t share it.”

What do you make of the whole fiasco? Should we accept that this is simply a part of Japanese culture, or does the nation need to realise that its approach to work is falling behind the times? Does the country need to embrace Western ethics and morals, because arguably by being stubborn about the whole situation Japan is only doing itself more harm than good.

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