Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - meet Kat, Masaaki and David

Three more Square Enix employees discuss their Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage, what their culture means to them, and their experiences of working in the games industry.
By Square Enix

We’re continuing to shine a spotlight on some of the people of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage that make Square Enix the amazing company it is.

Today, we hear from PR Manager Kat Prodromou, Masaaki Shimizu, who leads Square Enix’s growing book publishing division in the US, and David Lee, who you might recognise from the recent STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGINS and CHRONO CROSS streams!

They each share their thoughts on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, what people can learn from the their cultures and their time in the games industry so far.

Kat Prodromou - PR Manager

Kat Prodromou

How did you get started in the games industry?

I’ve always wanted to work in the video game industry, but being from the east coast, I struggled to land any local jobs that were in this field right out of college.

After getting my start in PR in the wine and spirits industry, I was fortunate to land a role at a PR agency called Golin, where I represented Nintendo for the early years of my career.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome as an Asian American or Pacific Islander?

Unfortunately, I have witnessed employers openly deprioritize the hiring of AAPI applicants for diversity and inclusion efforts. It was really disheartening to see at the time.

However, in recent years I have seen more contemporary employers put together more progressive policies that have placed an equal emphasis on AAPI individuals joining, thus leading to a more inclusive and a stronger work environment.

What advice do you have for people looking to enter the industry?

Landing your first role in the industry always seems like the hardest part, especially when the gaming industry is known for being very competitive. It’s important to remember that everyone’s career path looks a little different. Sometimes, it may feel like it’ll come down to good luck and timing.

That said, it’s good to think about the transferable skills from what you’re currently doing and how they can help to get you where you want to be in the industry. I feel that as long as you stay motivated and work hard, you will find the role that’s right for you in due time.

Also, kindness is a currency that is always in shortage! You never know when someone you meet might be able to help you in your career, so never take for granted the people that you encounter!

What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

To me, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportunity for us to celebrate our diverse backgrounds and an opportunity to break the mold of harmful stereotypes within the AAPI community.

While we have made progress towards turning a positive spotlight towards AAPI initiatives, the month remains a great time to inform, educate and inspire.

How can others support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community?

I’d like to bring awareness to the heightened xenophobia toward AAPI people since the start of the pandemic. I do not believe that we should be matching hate with more hatred, so instead it would be great to see others support AAPI-owned businesses, consume and amplify AAPI content or entertainment, and uplift AAPI individuals in their lives.

This goes towards the concept of people being able to educate themselves on AAPI cultures and experiences in order to help combat some of the world’s recent negativity toward this community.

Education and understanding of the cultures and current issues that AAPI face can go a long way towards building common ground.

Do you have a role model or has there been anyone who influenced you to get into gaming industry?

I’d be remiss to not name Tetsuya Nomura here! I loved his games growing up - especially the KINGDOM HEARTS franchise - and my love for these games lent itself to a desire to work in video games.

The release of his projects throughout the years was always a constant motivator to me to keep pushing toward my goals. I feel so fortunate to say I work for the company that inspired my career aspirations now.

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?

My heritage has shaped so many aspects of who I am today, from being a central part of my self-identity to the people I surround myself with.

I am half Taiwanese and half Cypriot which means I’ve had the benefit of being racially ambiguous most of the time. Thanks to this, I learned the value of compassion toward others from a young age and have actively tried to use my racial ambiguity as a way to be a voice for my community.

I am incredibly proud of the diverse backgrounds of my parents, which has taught me to be resilient and stay open minded as I have navigated my personal and professional lives. As an adult, I constantly strive to expose myself to other cultures or introduce those around me to something new.

Masaaki Shimizu - General Manager and Publisher, Book Publishing Division

Masaaki Shimizu

How did you get started in the gaming industry?

It wasn’t playing Famicom (the first-generation one with the rubber square A/B buttons on its controllers) during my childhood in the 80s that got me started working in the gaming industry, nor was it having as one of my early business clients during the launch of the PlayStation 2 in 2000.

However, I re-united with the company (after being a fan of their games in my youth) when I was launching an official manga distribution site called in 2010.

Square Enix was one of the few companies that I wasn’t able to convince to acquire the manga content on the site, despite many attempts to approach them over a couple of years.

However, due to a mix of unfortunate circumstances I had to liquidate - but it must have been a fate as I ended up being hired as a Biz Dev of Digital Publishing Division, Publication Business Unit, Square Enix (Japan) in 2013!

That’s how I started working in the manga / book publishing industry at the gaming company that I adored since I was a little kid.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome due to your Asian heritage?

I lived in Canada for two years from 1986 and I had an experience where few strangers made fun of me for being an Asian. This is something I had never thought about while I was in Japan, so it was a little bit shocking, but at the same time it made me aware of the divergence in the community. 

All in all, being 6th graders at that time, the difference of our color and race seemed to strengthen our curiosity to know more about each other - both me (a stranger from the Far East) and all the other Canadian classmates. That gave us the chance to get to learn more than what we could just observe from our appearance.

What was even more fortunate was that I made life-long friends in Canada who have broadened my perspective.

What advice do you have for people looking to enter the industry?

I think my case isn’t a typical route into the games industry but one thing I can share is the importance of getting to know people.

Making connections and building a network of people in the field of your interest before you’re really in need of their help is critical. 

I have been very lucky to meet great people even before we had the first plan for our publishing program here in the USA. Now I’m working closely with people that I’ve known each other for many years, and these great minds have become the driving force of our publishing program.

What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

For me there’s no day that passes without having to look at manga, anime or game-related content that originated from Japan, my country of origin.

I take it for granted and tend to forget these things, but we should appreciate AAPI Heritage Month more because it gives us the opportunities to rediscover our origin, as well as interact with people and cultures of different origins.

How can others support the AAPI community?

I think it’s always a good start to get to know and appreciate the things, entertainment and services of AAPI origin that are attached to or very close to your everyday life. I believe having those appreciation towards them and enjoying them from the bottom of your heart will naturally lead to support for the AAPI community.

Do you have a role model or has there been anyone who influenced you in your career?

It would be Seiji Horibuchi, who is the founder of the very first manga publisher in the USA, VIZ Communications (now VIZ Media, the largest manga publisher and IP management company in North America).

It was during the fall of 2006, right after I got back to Japan, after spending two years in LA in grad school, that I first read Seiji Horibuchi’s book (萌えるアメリカ) that just came out. It was about how he started VIZ Communications back in 1986 (36 years ago!) and spread the manga culture in North America as a pioneer.

His words and experiences really inspired me and strengthened my belief to introduce more manga outside of Japan. Since then, more than 15 years have passed and now I’m living the dream, launching and Square Enix’s publishing program in the USA.

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?

While I was living in Canada during my 6th grade, my art teacher gave me a chance to teach origami in front his art class.

Even though it was a challenge for a kid who barely spoke English, I couldn’t help but feel pleased after seeing my classmates enjoying playing with what we just folded, and I was proud and grateful to my culture that I was able to share it with my friends.

I think this experience set my goals to become a bridge that crosses borders and introduce Japanese culture with hopes that it could eventually make people happy.

David Lee - Senior Manager, Social Media

David Lee

How did you get started in the games industry?

Gaming has always been a huge passion of mine but I kind of fell into the gaming industry. I was extremely proactive with a live services game back in the day - both in-game and on their message boards/social media accounts. That landed me a QA job which turned into a Community role.

What advice do you have for people looking to enter the industry?

I think a lot of people will say this, but it takes good luck and timing to get your foot in the door. What helps after the fact is being passionate about the fields you’re currently in and the opportunities that are given to you.

Stay focused, work hard and remember it’s a small industry! Be kind.

What dies Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month means to you?

This month provides more people with visibility into different perspectives and will hopefully shape people’s perception of others within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community for the better.

How can others support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community?

Check out the local restaurants, coffee shops and businesses owned by the AAPI community with an open mind and heart.

Do you have a role model or has there been anyone who influenced you to get into gaming industry?

Reading Akira Toriyama works opened my eyes to different career opportunities as a child - I didn’t have to land myself in the lawyer/doctor route my parents heavily suggested.

From there, Nobuo Uematsu’s music and Hironobu Sakaguchi’s dedication really inspired my gaming career. Tetsuya Nomura is also a huge inspiration due to being an artist, producer and director on so many games I adore.

How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?

I was lucky enough in my early years to have grown up in LA county, which is extremely diverse. I got to experience multiple cultures but still have a grounding to my Korean background with my family and friends.

Move out of your comfort zone if you can - it can help you build out a better you.

Many thanks to Kat, Masaaki and David for their insights.

If their words inspired you to seek opportunities here at Square Enix, make sure you check out our careers pages. We’d love to hear from you.