My name is Kai Nyame, and I participated in IGDA Japan’s 2019 TGS Scholarship. I am from California and am ethnically Japanese-American, Chinese-American and African-American. I have been making video games since I was in high school and my dream is to one day work at a Japanese game company as a designer or “Game Planner”. Currently, I am a third year attending the University of Southern California studying Game Development and minoring in Japanese Language and Culture.
For a week in September, I was given the amazing opportunity by IGDA Japan to come visit Japan for the 2019 Tokyo Game Show. I was assisted in transportation and logistics by Gameheads Oakland, of which I’m an alumn, and each step of the way IGDA Japan was there making sure I had all the information I need to make this trip- one I will remember for the rest of my life! I am so thankful to everyone who supported me and assisted me in preparing for this trip, as well as IGDA Japan for creating such a robust and engaging scholarship program! Additionally, since the scholarship program was run almost entirely in Japanese, it was a wonderful opportunity to practice my Japanese language communication skills. Thanks everyone!
Studio Tours and Professional Development
IGDA Japan facilitated one day of Professional Development for all of the TGS scholars. We were able to tour three different development studios in the Tokyo area, ask questions about company culture and hear about individual employee experiences. We visited GREE & PokeLabo, Platinum Egg and Amata. All three of the companies were very open and willing to answer our questions about the company and the work environment.
It was particularly exciting to get to talk to employees in our prospective fields (designers could talk to actual designers from the companies, engineers could talk to engineers, etc). The welcoming feeling of all of these meetings made me even more interested in applying to Japanese game development companies after I graduate! The companies also took time to explain their hiring processes which was quite helpful to the foreign scholars due to our lack of experience with those processes for Japanese companies.
We finished the Professional Development day with a very good meal with all of the scholarship recipients. We got to know each other, and it was a great way to meet other students and new-graduates that were passionate about game development. Everyone was quite talented, and it was really cool to learn about their projects. I met many scholars I look up to and hope to continue to talk with in the future!
Tokyo Game Show
The 2019 Tokyo Game Show lasted four days. The first two days were business days, and each scholar got a chance to demo their games to the industry experts, press and fellow developers during those days. We were given shifts at the IGDA Japan booth when we were allowed to showcase, which left us with plenty of time to explore the show floor and meet other developers. It was very exciting to meet developers on other games, and talk with them about the development process. Because the first two days were less crowded, we were able to more easily talk with other people showing games, and network with other developers interested in meeting new talent.
One area of the show floor that really stood out to me was the Game School Corner in Hall 2. I enjoyed talking to other students from Japanese institutions that teach game development. We had so much fun learning about the differences in curriculum at our respective schools. It was also very informational to learn about the breadth of Japanese schools that teach aspects of game development. If I had known about these schools before I applied to university in California, I may have tried to apply to the Japanese schools instead!
The last two days of TGS were public days, and were subsequently quite crowded. Scholars were allowed to showcase on the public days as well. This was an amazing opportunity for students trying to get user feedback. The play testing feedback was great for getting a better understanding of the public’s reaction toward our games, as well as get more feedback on what we could improve on in our games.
Throughout Tokyo Game Show, all of the scholars got the opportunity to attend mentor lunches. IGDA Japan matched each of the scholars with industry professionals in their field of study to chat with over a bento lunch. IGDA Japan was considerate enough to provide English-speaking mentors to the foreign scholars! I got to ask my mentors for advice on how to transition into a Japanese working environment. This was quite helpful for me, as it gave me an insider’s knowledge of what I can expect at a Japanese company as a foreigner.
There were so many aspects of Tokyo Game show that I enjoyed, but the final experience I will mention here is the localization event I attended after the first day of Tokyo Game Show. While not directly affiliated with Tokyo Game show, the localization event was another big highlight of mine. Organized by Ryosuke Nagao, the event was quite welcoming to me as a newcomer to the industry, and let me learn more about working at japanese companies. In addition to being such an open event, the localization party also whats quite open to foreigners as well. I heard at least 4 different languages being spoken at the event, and it was quite amazing to see such a global group of talent all in one place!
I had briefly visited Tokyo as a child, but this time, visiting Japan was a very special experience for me. I had a wonderful time walking around parks, and buying cute gifts for all of my friends back in California. I got to use Tokyo’s subway/train system, and the cool vending machines that can dispense drinks like milk tea or even hot coffee! I got to visit places like Akihabara’s Super Potato and Kinokuniya in Shinjuku. I brought back a textbook on Unity3D in Japanese that I can’t wait to read! I’m sure it will help with my design literacy and industry vocabulary for the next time that I visit. I had such a great time in Japan and would love to come back one day soon!