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Cut To Bits’ Masao Kobayashi About Getting Into The Games Industry

Getting into the games industry as a developer can be extremely daunting – more often than not, we don’t know where to start, and we can easily get overwhelmed with the options and possibilities before even the actual work begins. A lot of fresh graduates have this set idea – like they’ll go indie first, then work their way into breaking into the AAA companies – or go indie the whole time they decide to remain within games, or sometimes even the reverse of that. But is that what really happens to people when they get into games?

Today, I discuss the games industry – from the perspective of indie and AAA, with Masao Kobayashi. A Japanese indie game producer and studio manager currently based in Montreal, Masao was working in AAA for 13 years until he and his friends co-founded Studio Cut to Bits in 2019 to create a worker-first studio centred around kindness and effective game development. He hopes to be a part of a more inclusive and diverse games industry by leading through example by proving you can make great games without toxic cultures and poor labour practices but instead by sound management, kindness, and trust.

Also, he’s part of TGA’s Future Class 2022! So, let’s get into it.

Can you tell us about your journey getting into the AAA gaming sphere, and what roles you have played in it?

I went to university for political science so when it came to getting a job I leaned into my experience as a Japanese translator/interpreter. After working a few temp jobs I ended up working for Ubisoft in their third-party publishing department as a localization specialist.

After that one thing led to another and I worked there for 13 years where I worked in social media, marketing, production management and a few others. Now I am a co-founder and producer at Studio Cut to Bits working on our first game since 2019.

Are there any major takeaways you have from working in a AAA, and how has that influenced your work style now in an indie company?

Pretty much everything we do is an extension of what we did in AAA or a reaction to it. There are a lot of good things about AAA, especially from an operational standpoint. There is sometimes a ‘AAA BAD indie GOOD’ attitude but honestly, there are great things to learn from both sides.

We try to take what we learned and do this in the best way we can.

In your opinion, is it better to go from AAA to indie, or vice versa? Or are there equal pros and cons to both?

The best place to start in the games industry is whoever will hire you.

It’s a notoriously difficult industry to break into and I think you need to do the best you can. I host a round table that covers breaking into the industry from different standpoints at Work with Indies so I recommend joining their Discord.

That being said, I think AAA or a larger indie studio is generally a better place for most people to start. I think what you need most when you are a junior is someone that can help you teach you how to do what you do. That is harder in a smaller studio because the likelihood of someone who’s a senior that can teach you your trade is a lot lower.

I think being good at one thing (which is more of a AAA thing) makes it easier to find jobs down the line. Also having a big company in your resume generally makes getting the next job easier for most people.

Do you see Studio Cut to Bits eventually making the jump to AAA development in the future?

No, we have no desire to grow to a larger studio. AAA is great but honestly, I think indie is more fun.

What advice do you have for newcomers about to enter the games industry?

Looking at social media you can get the impression it’s a really negative place but there are a lot of great employers and a lot of great people who work in it. It can be very difficult to break in but try not to be too hard on yourself.

Also, make friends, and participate in game jams and other events. No one games alone[,] knowing people can only help you in your career.

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