Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - meet Jacqueline, Larry, Alexander, Julie, Lisa and Warren

Six members of the Square Enix team weigh in on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, what their heritage means to them and their careers in the games industry
By Square Enix

It’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the contribution of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the games industry… and three US as a whole.

To mark the month, five members of the Square Enix have shared their thoughts on their heritage, their time in the industry, their favorite games and more.

Jacqueline Louie, Manager, CRM and Customer Loyalty

How did you start you career in the games industry?

I studied at USC with the dream of working at a Japanese video game company! After university, I started in various industries such as advertising and medical education software until I started in Lifecycle Marketing at Scopely, working on Marvel Strike Force!

I saw an open position here Square Enix and was so tremendously happy to have landed a role at my dream company, who made the games I played growing up. 

What does your heritage mean to you? 

It plays a big part in who I am today and the values that I carry with me.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time learning from my grandmother and parents who immigrated to America from Hong Kong in the 70s. They brought with them Chinese customs and influences that have shaped the way they’ve raised me.

I love that I inherited both Chinese culture from my family as well as American culture from my environment. I’ve been fortunate to have grown up in LA where there’s an abundance of Chinese culture around me, which has influenced my lifestyle. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the games industry?

Take time to understand what you want to do professionally and don’t be afraid to just apply. You never know until you try! 

Keep looking and applying for open positions at different video game companies - the timing may not always be perfect but never stop trying to improve yourself and build up experience in various other fields that could potentially transfer over to the video game industry. 

What’s your favorite game of all time? 

It would have to be a tie between MapleStory and Chocobo Racing.

I remember growing up with my cousins and playing MapleStory as my first MMORPG and making lots of new friends - a couple of whom I still talk to today! But the summertime memories of my cousin and I playing Chocobo Racing over and over again on our PlayStation 1 at my grandma’s house are unforgettable! 

Larry DuPreez, Manager, In-Game Support

How did you start you career in the games industry?

Almost 23 years ago, I worked with one of my current Square Enix coworkers at a clothing store in a local mall, and we used to have gaming nights at my place with a group of coworkers every Sunday. When I moved on to work at a local video game store, she was looking for a job, so I recommended her to my manager, and we ended up coworkers there too.

She ultimately moved to Square Enix, and when I found myself looking for a job in 2006, she recommended me to a company that recruits for SQUARE ENIX. I’ve been here ever since.

What does your heritage mean to you?

First and foremost, food has played a big role in my Asian heritage. Being of Filipino and Chinese descent, I’ve grown up around some of the best cuisine in the world and being able to share those cuisines with my friends from other cultures is great.

I know every Filipino person says this, but my mom made the absolute best chicken adobo, and no one else can tell me different. I was even asked by several people for her recipe throughout my life, so the proof is right there.

More importantly, though, a prevalent consideration in many Asian cultures is to make sure that the people that you care about are eating well, both literally and metaphorically. Whenever I saw my mom, the first thing she always asked me was “Did you eat?”, which I came to take as her general check-in question with me.

Making sure that the people that I consider family are doing well is a value that I hold closely.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the games industry?

There is an assortment of opportunities that stretch beyond development and production. Even if you start off on a path that may not seem to lead directly to games, the industry is constantly growing. So, keep honing your skills and stay vigilant for any job openings that may fall within your skill set.

What’s your favorite game of all time?

It is difficult to choose even a single series of games, but that’s at the top of the list is the NieR games - especially NieR:Automata.

It encompasses what makes video games so special, with a variety of gameplay styles seamlessly blended together and an intricately layered narrative that rewards people the more they play. Having some of the best 2D/3D/Shooter combat wrapped in a story about humanity and existence is right up my alley. The visuals, the character designs, and the soundtrack are also top notch.

Shout-out to the Life is Strange games, as well - Life is Strange: True Colors in particular. Above everything else, I look for games that have endearing characters that go on journeys that I can connect with on some level, and the LiS games have been able to deliver that.

Growing up as an introverted AAPI that studied music, I instantly connected with Alex Chen in Life is Strange: True Colors and following her as she tried to find a place in the world while solving the central mystery had me emotionally invested the entire time.

Alexander Sam, Customer Support Representative

How did you start you career in the games industry?

Since I was six years old, I was always glued to my computer. It was an old desktop made for casual internet browsing and work, but I constantly pushed it to the limit to run as many games as I could. Old browser games, various MMOs, first-person shooters– you name it, I played it, as long as my computer could keep up with the demands of those games.

If I wasn’t gaming on the PC, I was on my Gameboy Advance SP or Gameboy Color completing my PokeDex in Pokemon Emerald or Silver. Later down the line, I invested in a proper gaming PC, and carried on with my gaming habits – the only difference now was I didn’t have to worry about FPS lag!

With my interest in gaming at a high during school and college, I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it be nice to actually be able to work in gaming?”.

A few years later, I find myself at the start of my journey within the industry here at Square Enix. I came across my current position while I was seeking a job about a year ago, took a leap of faith and applied. The rest is history!

What does your heritage mean to you?

The warm, delicious homemade food I grew up eating, the culture that encompasses my day-to-day life, my physical appearance, my parent’s native language, and the warm embrace that I feel whenever I connect and share my culture with others - it’s everything to me and has shaped me into who I am.

While I had the privilege to be born and raised comfortably in the United States, my parents did not. During the early 80’s, my parents moved to the United States to escape a war-torn Cambodia in search of a better life with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

I’m extremely grateful and proud of them. Without the sacrifices they made, or their accomplishments, I wouldn’t be where I am, nor the person that I am today.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the games industry?

A good first step is to keep an eye out for any job listings that might appeal to you and don’t be afraid to express your passion for games!

What’s your favorite game of all time?

Tough question, but I’d have to say that my favorite game of all time is MapleStory - an old MMO that’s still available to play to this day.

It was one of the first games that I played and truly kick-started my MMO obsession as a kid. I have so many fond memories of playing the game; I made many friends, some that I still speak with to this day (10+ years or so later), which is one of the main reasons it holds a very special place in my heart.

Julie Wei, Legal Analyst

How did you start you career in the games industry?

I never thought I’d be in the games industry! I worked in attorney offices for more than 10 years, but always had a profound love for video games - especially Square Enix titles.

One day I saw there was an opening in the Legal department at Square Enix, and here I am today!

What does your heritage mean to you?

My Asian heritage means everything to me. It’s my connection to my ancestors.

Even though I was born and raised in the United States, I grew up in a Mandarin Chinese speaking household, so Chinese is actually my first language. I also studied Chinese dance extensively and have been doing it for almost 20 years now. I feel that being fluent in the language and learning the dances helped me better understand and maintain this connection to my heritage.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the games industry?

Perseverance - keep trying! It took me six years! I also believe you shouldn’t shun the temporary positions just because they’re temporary. They can help you get your first foot through the door and make a good impression on the company.

What’s your favorite game of all time?

Now that’s just unfair because there’s so many great games!

If I MUST narrow it down it’s between two games. I have a special love for FINAL FANTASY X because it was the game that brought me into the world of video games.

The second would be NieR:Automata for, as I like to call it, the soul destroying storyline. The game really made me contemplate about life and death, the soul, our relationships, and how everything is always the same cycle and to try to break free from it.

Lisa Kawashima, Marketing Manager

How did you start you career in the games industry?

I’ve always been a fan of KINGDOM HEARTS and DRAGON QUEST games growing up and it was my dream to work for Square Enix and in the games industry. I researched available job opportunities during college and sent many e-mails to industry people in hopes of finding a career path in gaming.

Luckily, I connected with some amazing people that gave me helpful professional advice and encouraged me to apply for a job at Square Enix. I remember being intimidated as an inexperienced new grad, but I’m so glad that I was able to muster up the courage and reach out.

What does your heritage mean to you?

I’m a 3rd generation Japanese American that was born in New York and my grandparents were the first in the family to immigrate to the US. Although Japanese education and media were not as readily available at the time, my grandparents imported books and personally taught my dad Japanese so he could retain the language and culture.

My family always told me that being fluent in Japanese will be a powerful skill to have in my future career, but I hated going to Japanese school on Saturdays every week while my other friends enjoyed their days off. Now that I’m an adult, I can’t thank my parents enough for raising me bilingual with both American and Japanese values. It’s led me to pursue a career where I get to tap into my biggest passion and utilize skills that I’ve been working on my entire life.

Living in America for the majority of my life and knowing how underrepresented Asian culture used to be, I’m glad to see so many people from various backgrounds appreciate Asian culture in recent years. It’s hard to believe that my 1st grade classmates didn’t even know what a JRPG or K-pop was. Fast forward to now, Asian culture is everywhere: Hot Topic sells FINAL FANTASY merch and BLACKPINK headlined at Coachella!

I love that we’re highlighting Asian heritage this month, but my hope is that diversity and inclusion continues to become the norm and we could simply celebrate different cultures in our daily lives.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the games industry?

Believe in yourself and keep trying! Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have the exact qualifications or education for a job. Applying for jobs and interviewing can be stressful, but it’s a valuable learning process to get you connected with people in the industry.

What’s your favorite game of all time?

KINGDOM HEARTS and FINAL FANTASY XIV will always have a special place in my heart.

Warren Perdon, Manager- Sales Analytics

How did you start you career in the games industry?

I found myself unemployed when my team was laid off by my previous employer. Since my old office was in El Segundo, I wanted to stay in the area because I liked the location. I knew Square Enix was close, but I never thought I had any transferrable skills to provide.

When I saw a job posting for a Business Analyst, I immediately brushed up my resume and put my hat in the ring. The job posting had language that was totally over my head, which made me think I should continue looking and move on, but I did get a call from HR for an initial interview.

I then got a call that very same day. Needless to say, I said yes and was thrilled to work with a company that provided me with countless hours of memories.

What does your heritage mean to you?

It means everything to me. Not only does it give me a unique perspective on life (not everyone has the opportunity to live as an Asian American), but it gives me a sense of community wherever I go.

My own Asian heritage is vibrant and I love sharing it with other people. My wife is a half Japanese and half Chinese American and sharing Filipino food with her has been a very interesting and fun experience. Also, exploring other Asian cultures and foods with her has been a definite journey - one we’re looking forward to sharing with our new daughter.

Throughout my life my parents taught me to be and be proud to be Filipino, but my experiences in school and work has given me the wonder of also being part of a larger Asian community. I always thought my culture was vibrant and full of life, but it’s a common story shared by many other Asian cultures. The thread of food that weaves through each is the biggest testament to that.

Each culture has its own signature in arts, entertainment, science, technology and more, but the spaces where these things meet is what fills me with wonder about being Asian. It’s the connectedness in shared experiences and similar stories that defines what being Asian (and especially Asian-American) means to me.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the games industry?

Having knowledge will take you far, but it’s not the only thing. I’ve interviewed enough people who worried about not knowing the industry or haven’t picked up a controller to play a video game. I’ve always told them that it’s not important. What’s important is what you can bring to your team - it’s your own personal knowledge and experience that will enrich others in the industry.

Buuuuuut, it’ll help if you’ve ever known the struggle of trying to beat a Weapon in FINAL FANTASY VII. Or the joys and pain of competitive racing on Rainbow Road.

What’s your favorite game of all time?

That’s not an easy question so let me break it down:

  • Favorite fighting game: Street Fighter II – being born in the 1700s there’s nothing like putting up a quarter and waiting your turn in an actual arcade

  • Favorite FINAL FANTASY game: FINAL FANTASY VII - it was fun getting everyone to level 99 in the early game and just breezing through. But then the pain of losing (SPOILER) before the end, after all the hard work to level them up.

  • Video game I’ve spent the most time playing: The Destiny franchise. It’s my vice. It’s my burden. It’s my joy. Not my favorite video game, but it’s my favorite ritual.  

Many thanks to Jacqueline, Larry, Alexander, Julie, Lisa and Warren for their time and insight.

If you’re interested in coming to work with us, be sure to check out our careers site for current opportunities: