Overtime working

When I was an animator, I often worked overtime. I needed to earn money. And I hoped that our small studio wouldn’t go out of business. Even though I didn’t have a lot of money, I considered the Japanese animation industry’s commission to be fair. It was possible to call off work that I didn’t want. No work, no money. But, I didn’t call off any work, because I needed to earn money to buy food.

When I tried to create an independent game, I wanted to polish/brush up my game for all time. I thought “this is my own game!”. I could stop working anytime and nobody forced me to work overtime, but I hoped I could work overtime. No success, no money. (Finally, no success…)

I have had been hired by “a project”. I heard that this kind of contract is standard in U.S, but it isn’t standard in Japan and was very interesting for me. The contract defined that my responsibility was very narrow and limited. So I wasn’t allowed to help with other projects. Also other project people were not allowed to ask me to do something for their project, even if the office went out of business by the failure of them. When the project ends, the contract ends. Basically, no overtime working. But, less responsibility, less exciting.

Today I’m working for a standard Japanese company. The hiring system of our company is “jobs-for-life rule” that is a Japanese legendary system. Even if I have no work, the company still pays me. No work, but money!? Instead of that, the contract defines that employees’ responsibility is very wide range and not limited within their specialty. Calling off work is a basically contract violation.

Sometimes I need to work overtime to help other projects, not my project. What would you think about that if you were me? It’s out of my responsibility? Or, it’s a part of the contract?

My past experiences answer it.

– Old self says “don’t call off any work!”
– It isn’t bad to help creating the game that I think “this is our own game”.
– More responsibility, more exciting.

But if I had a pretty girl friend, I would go home early.

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15 Responses to Overtime working

  1. Dan says:

    Hello, I enjoy your stories. Please keep it up and poste more often.

  2. AlexMcAin says:

    Hi:

    TRUE!!! everything you post it’s (sadly ) true, I agree with Dan please continue with this!!!. Anyways back to the topic, I prefer to get a pretty girlfriend XD, but more responsibility could be exciting if you are doing something you like, but if you are always running out of time and your boss it’s getting his breath in your neck(happens to me a lot ago) it’s annoying. Let me says something about you own game, at least for me I’m doing for knowledge, and if I get money..it’s welcome XD (indeed I’m doing a Japanese game creator tool =D for PS VITA) and about the time invested after several trials and errors u learn to control that.

    Cheers

  3. AlexMcAin says:

    Hi again:

    I just want to add that is very hard to be focus when you work for many hours even if you are happy. Time to time I need todo sports because even I commit to the proj times I need to distract, after to or 3 days. Did you agree?

    Cheers

    • minahito says:

      Yes, I agree. I don’t want to work overtime throughout a project :). Balance and average are important. I want to decide myself when I work hard or I go home early. If a project depends on employees’ overtime work, it’s really bad. I think everybody like to add values to their product, but dislike to correct failure that came from bad plan or bad decision.

      • AlexMcAin says:

        Yes. Another thing that something amazed me over time it’s how Game Industry fails to create a good project planning, I saw this often and often.

  4. Nuno Luciano says:

    Never to late, start a new game ^_^

  5. Graeme says:

    Overtime in the game industry in the US is a very complicated subject these days, but it’s certain that companies will make you do it. One aspect that I think is a culture difference is that you can say ‘no’ to your manager more easily. I could discuss all aspects of this for a very long time, but I would get far off topic. 🙂

    My personal opinion is that I should work overtime if I screw up, or if I believe in the project or company enough to want to work overtime. In the latter case if I have to say ‘no’ I will not feel apologetic because I have a life that I have to live in the other 16 hours of my day that I am not required to work. It’s hard to find a pretty girlfriend if you are always at work and you just work with men. 🙂

    I will be starting a job in Tokyo next month, so I am curious to see how the company’s expectations differ from my personal philosophy. My employment is not “regular employee” status, though, so my experience might be a lot different from your current situation.

  6. minahito says:

    Hi Graeme,

    My personal opinion is similar to your opinion. If I want to polish my game or help other person, I’ll work overtime. But, if evil producers think “I don’t need to plan a project carefully, because we can order employees to work overtime”, I want to say “No”.

    In general, Japanese people think that an office is a kind of community. Plus, management layers aren’t completely separated from employees. They’re one of employees. It makes my decision more difficult. It’s not easy to decide not to help co-workers (including manager, in Japan). In addition, I need to consider that another co-worker will have to work if I say “no”. Finally, my regular answer is “Ok, I agree to share overtime with my co-workers in office”.

    I have a friend who has been working for ten years in U.S. In first years of his U.S. life, he had struggled with the culture gap. He wasn’t allowed to ask people to work overtime to solve problems which he didn’t imagine at a planning phase. It’ was out of their contract. In Japan, co-workers had helped him. He needed to became good manager and finally became it.

    His opinion is that growing management skill in Japan is really difficult. In U.S, good management is MUST. But, in Japan, employees help failed management, as a friend or a co-worker. So managers or producers aren’t forced to grow management skill and planning skill, he think. He said “I don’t say which one is best. This is just culture gap”.

    I don’t want to make this practice regular. If producers depend on the practice, the positive effects of the practice will be lost completely. I believe we can combine good management with the practice.

    • Dan Huffman says:

      minahito, that is one of the best and most enlightening posts on cultural differences when working (and the reasons why!) that I have ever read. Great post!

    • Graeme says:

      I definitely agree with your last statement. Management that makes a habit of telling people to work overtime are just poor managers. I am willing to work overtime when my producer is honest about the reasons, but many of them in the past have not been. I find that when a manager will be honest with the team he will also not abuse overtime because he values the respect of the people he manages and does not want to lose that. Even if a manager schedules badly, if he comes to the team and says, “I apologize, but I screwed up and I can’t fix this without everyone’s help”, then he has my respect and I will work extra for him.

  7. AlexMcAin says:

    Totally agree with both of you. In the case if I screwed up yes it’s perfectly ok do overtime till the fix all the mess I made, but I still think management need not only grow but stop using what you pointed out, if we say “no” some else will be punish , and that’s make me furious, the producer and managers force our professionalism and friendship with the other mattes. They always, at least in all companies I worked good ones and not so, fill guilty if we don’t make extra hours. And if you say that I write it down the timeline of the project or simply discuss it to get an agree of the dates, ok I will be do anything to accomplish what I promise , but I never had that chance, and when have it, everything I said was not welcome for them (and sadly many of the times I was correct about timing-possible delays etc etc).

    It’s true that you can say ‘no’ easily on the game industry in Japan?

    Anyways of course depends in culture,company, and specially the people you work with, in my last company I had many excellent coworkers, no sorry friends how make the crunch time very very funny and easy. But still thinking that management need to understand be are the engine of their company and products. If we start to be tired anything start to go wrong.

    Cheers,

    • Graeme says:

      Alex, I have been in the exact situation as you. When you have a good group of people that you get along with you don’t mind staying overtime because it can be fun and light-hearted, even though it’s work. We would all go drinking after a hard milestone. You’ll feel guilty if you leave these people that you like all on their own. At the same time, the managers don’t want to hear that the project will take longer to do everything that they want, and when you start missing milestones and being asked to work late, all you can do is say, “I told you so.”, but that doesn’t help either.

      One thing that changes the dynamics of overtime is family. When developers are young and single it’s easy to ask for overtime. As for myself, and many others these days, I have a wife and child. None of my time is really my own anymore. When a company asks me to work overtime they are really asking my family to sacrifice their husband and dad for the sake of the company. Sometimes this will be okay, and sometimes it won’t.

  8. AlexMcAin says:

    @Graeme: (last paragraph) i just can write -> TRUE 100%. I don’t have children so, for a couple of years more I still have some time of my own, to travel and learn and understand how the age/family etc etc going to change my Game Industry career =), (because I still want to be a game programmer not a manager or producer or technical lead, like some friends said: put the hands in the oil/dusty engine XD).

    Cheers,

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