On Localization

After reading Heather Chandler’s Game Localization Handbook I’ve come to realize that what I am suggesting is not impossible and despite the LocSIG response it is not particularly problematic. It is, however, an as yet unset standard especially in the US, but also in other smaller linguistic locales and by smaller companies. However, I also cannot emphasize enough that it is not economic suicide.

Essentially, the suggestion is to enable multilingual applications in an open way. Such multilingual versions are becoming more reasonable as the international market is further acknowledged. It is not unreasonably expensive from the large American/English based developers where i18n/L10n is a viable/necessary strategy. It simply requires an extra step of planning not only for L10n-friendliness, but integration. As the companies controlling releases Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft can control standards in certain ways. One way would be to require i18n as a standard. Such a standard would be beneficial for larger companies as it would entail the greater possibility of foreign releases even as gray market releases.

Further, if integrated in a patchable model gray market becomes less sensible as games can be sold as ‘language-bare,’ then localized assets can be purchased in micro payments. This allows the fanatics to get what they want and the companies to monitor things.

In the case of smaller companies it could be seen as problematic as they must also do more work, but as things become more international fan based L10n might happen more. An example of this is Basilisk Games’ ‘languages packs’ for Eschalon Book II. Such language packs are partial localizations (if that), but they might be extended to more full localizations by changing non-linguistic elements in the future. For postcolonial/minority languages forcing internationalization is a problem in that it forces less defensible positions. However, in order to force the dominant sides to be slightly more international the international standard must be made on all sides.

The trick is in asset integration. As long as there are infinite slots for languages with the nicely named schema there should be no problem. Additional languages simply extend the list in the same way that OS language integration has the installed options visible. Other, uninstalled languages are a grayed out option: neither out of sight, nor out of mind.

The available spread of Loc Kits would also allow further translations for political and/or alternate linguistic efforts.

The fact of play is universal, but different people get their jollies in different places. As I said a few months ago some people like masocore. Well, some people like Polish audio with German subtitles, or Korean audio and English subtitles, or English subtitles and no audio. Having the option is beneficial for making money in international markets. Who knows what people really want, what they’ll use if they have, and what is best?

And of course further important is the belief that there are long term benefits to players being acculturated to non-locales. That is not happening to some (US), but is to others. Such an imbalance has global/political ramifications beyond fun.

If global disculure is really supposed to bring us together it should be in a way that is not determined by businesses decided what becomes a locale and forever separating groups based on those locales. Industry determinations are not simply natural: they affect the groups as well.

A lot of this is discussed in Anthony Pym’s Moving Text, but it isn’t much of a thing in either other translation or localization writings. Something important is to discuss this sort of thing, especially before things are standardized.

Referenced Books:

  • Chandler, Heather Maxwell. The Game Localization Handbook. Hingham, Mass.: Charles River Media, 2005.
  • Pym, Anthony. The Moving Text: Localization, Translation, and Distribution. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 2004.

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