- JP Kellams, a producer at Epic Games and former developer at Capcom and PlatinumGames, shared his frustrations with Western journalists fetishizing Japanese studios.
- He called it “absolutely infuriating” and talked about how Japanese devs have made meager wages for years.
- Kellams discussed how he would only return to the Japanese industry if he had an expatriate compensation package or if he ran a studio himself.
- While these are the woes of one man, it doesn’t come off as a big surprise from a country where the term “Karoshi” or “death by overworking” is a common phenomenon.
Former developer at Capcom and PlatinumGames, JP Kellams, recently shared his frustrations with the Western journalists fetishizing Japanese studios. This is a common occurrence, especially after every Tokyo Game Show event. Kellams said it is “absolutely infuriating” as the Japanese industry has a severe problem of poor working conditions. Not to mention, Japanese devs earn low wages for years without recognition.
After every Tokyo Game Show, all these western journalists run around fetishizing Japanese studios/developers like tourists with blinders on and it is absolutely infuriating.
Here’s some real talk: many Japanese devs make shockingly low wages and crunch for literally years.
— JP Kellams (@synaesthesiajp) October 1, 2023
In the thread, he stated that as soon as he made it out of Japan, he started working over 40 hours a week. For comparison, he had to work over 60 hours for 5 years on Scalebound, a game by PlatinumGames, sometimes even nearing 90 hours a week to meet expectations. Moreover, he now has no obligations to fill in for someone else’s work in case they are hospitalized with stress-related illnesses.
Japan does have some good things, like the food, people and beautiful places to visit, but these are still not even close to the awful labor practices that devs like Kellams claim to have endured. Now that he is working at Epic Games, he said that he would only return to Japan if he had an expatriate compensation package or was running a studio by himself.
One Twitter user replied to the thread by saying that journalists could be doing this intentionally, not to break the illusion of Japan being such a wonderful place and a heaven for video game lovers. Kellams agreed to this and pointed out the language barrier as another issue that could prevent critical reporting, and by some chance, if the word does get out, forums like 4chan are filled with upset fans.
The other issue is the language barrier prevents them from even attempting critical reporting, and even if by some minor miracle they do manage to get a tough question or article out there, they catch tons of BS from the 4chan crowd,” says JP Kellams.
Del Walker, senior character artist at Naughty Dogs, also commented on this situation by recalling an incident with a talented Japanese dev while working on Halo Wars 2 as a lead artist.
While this may come off as a surprise for many fans, Japan is notorious for the condition of its corporate world. It is a country where the term “Karoshi,” also known as “death from overworking,” is a common phenomenon. In 2022, there were 2,968 reported cases of suicide due to problems related to the working situation in Japan. Many activists even claim that these numbers are as high as 10,000 in reality.
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This topic still goes under the radar due to the language barrier between Japanese devs and Western journalists. And if devs like Kellams do make it out and share their story, it’s mostly considered as one person’s distress, and people find it hard to generalize this to the entire industry as this can break their fantasy of Japan being the perfect place for video gamers.
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