Challenges of Game Localization
So, here I am with another post of my favourite subject: Game Localization (it feels so great when you find some time to write about something you like). Thanks to my experience as an English to Greek game localizer, in this post I will tell you a bit of the challenges that a localizer faces when localizing a game; not an exhaustive list, there are lots of other issues as well.
What is game localization?
Game localization is the process where a game is adapted to another language, for example English to Greek game localization means that a game will be adopted for the Greek market. As the video game industry continues to become more popular globally, the market for game localization will continue to increase. This presents new challenges for game creators because, if they want to compete globally, their game has to be localized. But it’s not as easy as translating the source text to a new language.
Because each culture has a different idea of entertainment and what is funny or inappropriate, and each culture or country uses different slang terms, game localizers have to be knowledgeable about the culture and the language of the target audience such that, in the end, it appears that this game was created for that target group in the first place. Game localization intends to provide the same sensation and game experience to all users, independently of region or culture (Stillman).
How hard can that be, right?
Challenges of game localization
So for a game to be localized successfully, it needs to feel like it was created for that audience. Here are a few of the challenges associated with making that happen.
Not being a gamer. If you have never played video games, then you’re not going to understand the creative aspect of a game. You’re not going to understand the nuances of the character or the spirit of gaming. This is going to make it hard to localize because you don’t have the foundation to build on.
Using the wrong slang words. Slang words used in America may be highly insulting in another country. In an English to Greek game localization, the localizer would want to understand exactly what the slang means here and how he can match it to the Greek language and Greek nuances.
Using unquotable quotes. Sometimes quotes cannot be translated word for word from one language to another. If the localizer tries to do that, it may come out a bit awkward. It is important to translate accurately. If that is not possible, then it is easier to find a similar quote that can be used, as long as the meaning stays the same.
Missing context. If a translator is localizing a game and the only source he has to work with is a list of phrases or words to translate, then he is missing the context. So, for example, something that is meant to be “restroom” ends up being translated as “a place to rest.” When lines are disconnected from the text, it can lead to literal word translation versus translating in context, and this can end up being confusing in the target language.
Jokes. Of course, this is a separate category, but many games are considered to be funny and include jokes, and translating jokes not only requires a humorous attitude and spirit but also to adjust them according to the different cultures and provide the same laughter that a native speaker would enjoy.
Localization enables businesses to establish themselves in new markets and enhance their opportunities (Stillman). Therefore, game localization should be tailored to the target audience’s language, culture and nuances so that it makes their gaming experience the best possible.
I hope you got a taste about how hard it is to translate games. If you ever need an English to Greek game localization, you know where to find me.