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Right now at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center, Japan’s largest video game developer conference, the CEDEC (Computer Entertainment Developer’s Conference) is in full swing. In order to gain a clear understanding of the type of people who make the industry what it is, the event’s organizers also conducted a survey that covers just about everything from marital status to time spent tied to a desk each day. The results give us a sneaky peek at the demographics and professional lives of the people who bring us the games we love, so we couldn’t help but share.

The purpose of the questionnaire, answered by 473 attendees, is to provide those hoping to work in the industry with a clearer understanding of the backgrounds and career paths of its professionals.

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James Brown’s It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World may have been created as an anachronistically chauvinistic declaration of love, but the title works just as well for describing the game industry, as over 85 percent of the respondents were male, with an average age of 34.

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Gamers and technological professionals alike may have a stigma as unromantic, but 41 percent of the developers who attended are married. Three-quarters remain childless, though, with 12.5 percent having a single child and 11.4 percent with two rugrats. The miniscule group with three kids or more is in keeping with modern Japanese societal trends of families becoming smaller and smaller due to housing and education costs.


As for education, 39 percent of respondents are graduates of game-design or similar post-secondary technical schools. 36 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and another 11 percent a master’s as well. And as a harsh wake-up call to anyone looking to jump straight into the field, a paltry seven percent listed high school as their highest completed level of formal education.

The most common educational specialization was computer/electrical engineering, at 24 percent. Another 20 percent gave their specialization as art, music, or design, and another 12 percent as media or entertainment studies.

Playing straight into the stereotype, not one of the developers surveyed had an educational background in kinesiology. And despite Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima’s well-documented love of pharmaceuticals and pathogens, none of the respondents had been inspired to major in medical sciences, either.

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The recent rise of smart phones and tablets was reflected in 47 percent of respondents currently preparing titles for such mobile devices. Although dedicated game consoles like the PlayStation 3 accounted for the largest block with 54 percent of the survey participants currently working on projects for them, smart phone/tablet production edged above even the level for handheld video game systems like the Nintendo 3DS. As a cultural wrinkle, pachinko machines, which are utilizing increasingly sophisticated visuals and interfaces, get lumped in with video games at CEDEC, with 7 percent of the respondents involved in their creation.

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Tokyo is definitely the place to be if you want to work in the industry, with four-fifths of respondents working in the metropolis or its neighboring prefectures. Central Japan, including the cities of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, accounted for a scant 13 percent of workplaces. Hiroshima was one of the many prefectures without a single representative, so pardon us as we shed a tear for its now-defunct shoot ‘em up software house extraordinaire, Compile.

▼ Sigh…at least we’ll always have The Guardian Legend

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Respondents had an average of 11 years of industry experience, with most having been at the same company since seven years ago. Job changes tended to be infrequent, with 39 percent having never switched companies, and over 70 percent having done so less than three times over the course of their career. A quarter now work in organizations with between 100 and 299 employees, with another 20 percent in monolithic development companies with over 2,000 workers.

The average annual salary reported by lead programmers was 5,200,000 yen (US $52,000), while the top earners are producers at 10,120,000 yen a year. Somewhat surprisingly, the average for heads of sound and music development, 5,830,000, is above that of programmers on comparable rungs of the corporate ladder.

As you’d expect from a busy industry in a country that prides itself on working long and hard, the developers put in an average of 66 hours at their desks each week during crunch time for their projects, which means a lot of late nights and/or weekends at the office.

▼ But really, would you expect anything less in a nation where some people saw a need for pillows like this?

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Still, “too busy” was only second on their list of stress sources at 12 percent, topped by concerns about meeting performance targets at 15 percent. Proving that workers everywhere have pretty much the same gripes, four percent said they didn’t like their boss, and a similar number said they have a coworker they don’t get along with.

That said, by and large the respondents are happy with their work, with the 46 who characterize themselves as satisfied or very satisfied outnumbering the 26 percent who answered oppositely. When asked about why they chose and continue to work in the industry, only five percent listed a high salary as their primary motivation. 60 percent said they simply enjoy making games, with numerous others citing the opportunities their jobs present for them to be creative and express their individuality.

▼ On display: even more imagination than the shadiest salesman’s expense report

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Sources: Jin, Inside Games, CEDEC
Top image: Video Game Writers
Insert images: Design of Signage, Heavenly Red, Freepik, So-Mo,, Retro Game Guide, Time is Money, Gamerhub