How a name initiated a street sweep, a discussion on gaming translation

Ever since the release of PokémonGo, it has successfully aroused the enthusiasm of gamers in a very short span of time. However, gamers in China,who have been starved of this phenomenon, can only listen to stories about people catching creatures in foreign countries, players who were caught venturing into a nuclear power station and tales of frustrated security guards, and have then expressed their resentment with unrestrained ridicule. If you ask how can PokemonGo be brought in to the mainland Chinese market, I do not know about the relevant technical programming, but localization of the game is a must.

With regards to the importance of localization, some people think: “Isn’t that just the translation of some background to the game and its conversations? How difficult can that be?”.  So let us talk about gaming translation and localization next, and what are the difficulties of this type of work.

A.    Complex translation process

Compared with normal plain text translation, the process of gaming localization and translation is much more complicated. Firstly, at the  preparatory stage, the translators need to have read through the game text and be familiar with the game’s contents and rules, whilst creating a glossary and style guide, to lay the foundations to restore the original style and tone of the game.

Secondly, they must create a project team to begin the translation work. The localization and translation of gaming is different to plain text translation, and includes UI interface localization and cultural localization as well as the plain text translation. The translated text should be simple and concise, smooth and sounding local, it should also remain in the style of the original text, to accurately convey the original essence of the game.

After the translation, we have to carry out editing and QA test processes, to ensure that the translation is simple and concise and uses terminology consistent with the original, so that the game will operate smoothly.

B. Gaming translation is extremely technically demanding

Apart from attention to the length of the UI interface translation, literal translation should be avoided as much as possible, translators should use the technique of interpretation, using combinations of texts that can be accepted and understood by local players to expressthe game’s instructions and descriptions.

The situation is much more complicated for translation of descriptive texts; the technical level of localization is much higher compared with normal plain text, and must take into consideration the question of variables in definition and display of the speech within the game script. In addition, when the meaning of the variables cannot be determined directly, the translator needs to interpret it by judgement in accordance with the sentence context.

Gaming translation is the most difficult when it comes to humor and puns. In order to make the target audience think that the development of the game is specifically for his or her market, the first thing to do is to analyze the culture and lifestyle of the target market, to determine the acceptance level of local players towards cross-cultural humor and puns. If the target audience generally are unable to accept that particular form of humor, interpretation techniques should be utilized, to transform it into humor and puns that the target players can understand.

C. The Difficulties of PR

Before the launch of the game, PR should anticipate the various questions that will arise when the game hits the target market, and plan aheadto create the solutions. Developers, localization teams, PR, etc. should scrutinize each and every detail of the game, to judge what of the content will offend any overseas players, and work on modifications. However, in order to save costs, developers will usually carry out localization based on a particular language, so there will be situations similar to the following: the differences between Belgian Dutch (Flemish) and Netherlands Dutch are like those between Mandarin in the Northeastern region and Beijing Mandarin; no matter if the game translator is  Dutch or  Belgian, it will be “unfair” to the other; or because Canada has many French speaking areas (e.g. Quebec), a lot of developers attempt to save time and money by using the same French to sell to both Canada and France; have they thought about the feelings of native Canadian English players?In Hong Kong because Pikachu, in Pokémon Go, is translated phonetically as Peek-A-Choo, it has created a huge stir with Hong Kong fans. Public Relations must be careful otherwise the audiences’ hearts will sink when they see the overlap of the languages.

Localization of a game is, as a matter of fact, transforming from one language to another or a few others, but with a prerequisite: localization of the game has to maintain the essence of the original game text, adhere to the original tone of the game whilst complying with local languages and cultural habits. It’s actually not difficult to do gaming translation, but what is difficult to achieve is to to not let local players feel that it has been translated.


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