translation or localization

There’s very little work done on translation and language within gaming. What is mostly done is relegated to celebratory domestication work claiming how poor games sell when the “translation” doesn’t take the target culture into consideration. This of course leads to an understanding that language is negligible next to sale values; that the good translation hides behind the play; that translation is in fact simply localization.

Localization is taking a product and altering it to sell to a local audience. It is a business term that is intricately tied to economics and politics. On the economic, a good localization is one that sells well: change is good as long as it sells more. On the political, a good localization is one that is acceptable within an audience: censoring is a good thing. Within gaming, translation is a matter of localization and has always been so due to the commercial nature of games. In order to problematize such a combination one must either separate gaming from commercial endeavor (something constantly under attempt by serious games, art games, et cetera), or problematize the aspect of new media that focuses on variability to the detriment of difference.

Manovich’s variability claim argues that new media has no original. There’s no original, but then again, there’s also no secondary as all are parts of the same code and property. Thus, within a logic of variability changing the language of a game is a matter of localizing the new media text that otherwise does not change.

The problem with this understanding is that it takes out intention within the language itself. Games have intentions other than play, and an aspect of this intentionality is the language used within it. By focusing on pleasurable flow toward an audience and justifying this through an understanding of games as variable new media such intentionality of the original writer is unfortunately removed. In order to reinsert an idea of intention, if not an origin, it becomes necessary to focus on the concept of translation instead of localization.

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