Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - meet Carol, Kanji and TaiAnother group of exceptional people at Square Enix share their thoughts on their careers, favorite games and what their Asian heritage means to them.
Today we continue to shine the spotlight on a few of the incredible individuals with Asian heritage at Square Enix - not just in the US, but around the world.
This week, we speak to three very talented people, each with different, but important, roles within the company. They tell us about breaking into the industry, the challenges they’ve faced along the way, the games that made them and more.
Kanji Tashiro, Senior Director, Sales Planning | Project Communications & Events | Merchandise
Hi Kanji. How did you find yourself working for Square Enix?
After college graduation, I started my career in the publication sales division at the Enix Tokyo office. Some of my responsibilities included creating forecasts for comics and strategy guides, and planning and operating publication booths at events.
Outside of the publication division I also handled producing several pieces of character merchandise within the toy & hobby division.
Shortly after Enix and Square merged to become Square Enix, I was relocated to the US office as a member of the video game sales team, connecting the American and Tokyo offices for sales planning and reporting. I also managed the launch of the merchandising business in the US.
Today, I oversee the US merchandising team and the team that supports events, as well as communications between the Japanese and Western inter-company groups. I also provide support for creating forecasts for new game titles.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your time at the company?
This is something that happened during my early days at ENIX Tokyo office: at an event that I’d planned myself, I made a mistake where we ended up with a massive amount of comic character merchandise left over afterwards.
Back then in Japan, ‘e-commerce’ wasn’t as widespread as it is now, but as a solution, I planned and launched a mail-order system that utilized our company’s comic book magazines.
As a result, we not only ended up selling out of that stock, but that system became a new business for years afterwards, where we sold new products at events but also by mail.
This taught me the importance of owning up to responsibility, but also keeping your spirits up in the face of failure - it’s what you do in order to get from that point to the next that really matters. I’m still grateful to my boss at the time who encouraged me to do that.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in the games industry too?
Show an interest beyond any areas in which you’re directly involved.
Learn about the processes that come before and after your involvement – as well as those happening in parallel – and demonstrate a drive to understand how those processes connect to what you’re doing or interested in doing.
Taking those steps help with decision-making because they give you a broader perspective, which are sure to come in handy whatever role you have.
What does your Asian heritage mean to you?
I think that at the root of Japanese culture is a flexible mindset that continuously updates itself into something new. Long-established traditions are cherished, but at the same time there is willingness to incorporate elements from brilliant cultures overseas.
For me, this is a mindset that I keep close throughout multiple facets of work. It’s important when supporting intercompany communications between Japan and the West, and when considering SQUARE ENIX as a company overall.
We are constantly moving forward through the collaboration of many diverse teams and through the new members who join us.
What’s your favorite game of all time?
What comes to mind now is NieR:Automata.
The game itself is great, but in addition to that, the title holds a special place in my heart because of how challenging it was to get the Western forecast approved at the time.
The company was not immediately confident about the idea of creating a new title, particularly since the first installment (NIER) wasn’t a success from a sales perspective. But I was sold on the ideas for Automata - keep what was working in the first installment (the unique story telling by Yoko-san and the beautiful music by Okabe-san) but strengthen gameplay by bringing in new talent like Akihiko Yoshida and PlatinumGames.
Eventually we were able to get the Western forecast approved, and the development team delivered more than what we had hoped for. When NieR:Automata ultimately ended up being the huge hit that it was, and even surpassed expectations, it was a very memorable, moving feeling.
As a result of NieR:Automata being such a big hit, we were able to release the updated version of the first instalment, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139..., so those memories are being stirred up now in particular.
Carol Dela, HR Business Partner, Square Enix
Hi Carol. How did you come to join the team at Square Enix?
I studied at Cal State Fullerton and joined the Square Enix team in 2010.
As a gamer and a new grad, I was super excited to land a role in the company who created games I enjoyed growing up (FINAL FANTASY VIII remains my favorite FINAL FANTASY title).
One thing I love is that the company does its best to support its employees’ passions and gave me the opportunity to transition from Accounting into Human Resources (HR).
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in this role?
From helping the company hire talented employees, to working with employees across all levels, my role in HR has challenged me to grow as a professional in so many ways.
As I’m sure many of us have had to do in the past year, figuring out how to change the way we work during the pandemic has been one of my most challenging projects to date. The HR team worked hard to make sure Square’s employees in the LA area have received the support and information they needed to maintain business operations as usual.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to work in this industry?
Embrace any and all opportunities - even if it scares you, and especially if it challenges you.
What does your Asian heritage mean to you?
I was born in the Philippines and moved to California when I was 8 years old. I’m proud of my Filipino-American heritage and upbringing as it’s given me a unique perspective on living in two different countries and growing up as an immigrant.
There is such a broad scope of Asian culture out there and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month is a great opportunity to learn about other Asian cultures and our impact.
Finally, what's your favorite game of all time?
Halo was my first foray into the world of first-person shooters, and I haven’t looked back since!
Filipinos are very family oriented, and playing Halo with my younger brother was the start of our bond over video games.
Halo co-op in Legendary mode = sibling harmony(!)
Tai Yasue, Game Director, Square Enix Japan
How did you get started at Square Enix?
While attending university in Japan, I got an introduction for a game design position, working on FINAL FANTASY IX in Hawaii. It conjured rosy images of beautiful beaches, sunsets and wearing an aloha shirt with colorful parrots - everything except for anything relating to work - so I jumped at the prospect.
Unfortunately for me, I was still a student and couldn't get a work visa so instead I ended up developing Vagrant Story in Japan. At that point in my life, it was one of the hardest things I ever did!
The funny thing is, when you work really hard on something, you sometimes end up enjoying the challenges. Because my co-workers really forced me to think about game design, I ended up loving the work and I've been hooked ever since.
What’s your proudest moment in your career so far?
Developing KINGDOM HEARTS III. Designing a wide variety of gameplay, working with different Disney studios to make sure the experience stays true to the original and directing a huge development team was exhilarating, enlightening and a little crazy. I loved every second of it!
Because of the scale of the game and the many technical challenges, we worked with a diverse group of talented people from all over the world. It was proof that amazing things happen when there's a culture of openness and respect for people of different backgrounds.
What advice would you give to someone looking to break into game development?
Take the leap and if you can't swim, tread water like the devil.
What does representing Square Enix in your country mean to you?
Quite frankly I don't feel like I'm representing anything but as a Japanese Canadian living in Japan, I get a kick out of correcting some of the bizarre misconceptions people have of life in Canada.
Just to be clear to everyone in Japan, just because I was raised in Canada, doesn't mean I had any unfortunate encounters with hungry grizzly bears and wolves! The only encounters I had with wildlife in the streets of Vancouver were with squirrels.
Cute, but not very dramatic.
Finally, what’s your favorite game of all time?
DRAGON QUEST III.
While growing up in Canada, Japanese games such as DRAGON QUEST III connected me to my Japanese heritage. Not only did I learn a lot of cool Japanese words from the games, they gave me a grasp of the subtle nuances of Japanese culture and distinct sense of fun in a way textbooks full of facts couldn't.
In an increasingly polarized world, games have the power to bind us through shared experiences. They're also a blast to play!
Enormous thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences of working in the games industry - and for their advice.
Join us on the Square Enix Blog next week for more spotlights, and if you’re interested in working with us (we’re all very nice - honest!), make sure you check our careers pages for current opportunities.