Teaching My First Class (feedback wanted!)

Repetition and (New) Media: Remember, Replay, Remix

This class explores the phenomenon of repetition theoretically by placing it into a historical trajectory of media repetition from memory to film, video games, and Internet memes. Writings include response papers, and a drafted final paper. Syllabus upon request.

Part 1: What is Repetition?
Week 1 – Monday: Repetition Defined

  • in class 15 writing exercise: write a definition of repetition; give an example of repetition

Week 1 – Wednesday:

  • Sturken and Cartwright – Practices of Looking Chapter 5: Visual Technologies, Image Reproduction, and the Copy (xxx-xxx)

Week 2 – Monday: Re – mix, -run, -play, -produce, -present, etc

  • Benjamin – Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction

Week 2 – Wednesday:

  • Hall – Representation, Meaning and Language (15-64)

Week 3 – Monday: Adaptation (and Translation)

  • Venuti – Adaptation, Translation, Critique (Journal of Visual Culture – 25-43)

Week 3 – Wednesday:

  • Austen – Pride and Prejudice
  • Pride and Prejudice (2005 film)
  • Austen and Grahame-Smith – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Week 4 – Monday: Phenomenology – Can things ever be repeated?

  • ???Merleu-Ponty???
  • ???Henri Bergson???

Week 4 – Wednesday:

Week 5 – Monday: New Media or New Turns? – Are we in another change? / We are in another change

  • Manovich – Language of New Media – What Is New Media? (19-61)
    • question and critique in class

Week 5 – Wednesday:

Part 2: “Old” Media Repetition
Week 6 – Monday: Memory and Writing

  • Manguel – History of Reading – Book of Memory (55-65)
  • Landsberg – Prosthetic Memory (Introduction and Chapter 1) (1-45)

Week 6 – Wednesday: Painting and Art

  • Ni Zan imitation article
  • Who the #$& Is Jackson Pollack (film)

Week 7 – Monday: Television

  • Kompare – Rerun Nation (selections)

Week 7 – Wednesday:

Part 3: New Turns With Newer Media
Week 8 – Monday: Film

  • Klinger – Beyond the Metroplex – Remembrance of Films Past (91-134), and Once is Not Enough (135-190)

Week 8 – Wednesday:

  • Jenkins – Convergence Culture – Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? (135-173)

Week 9 – Monday: Music – Remix Culture

  • Cutler – “Plunderphonics” in Music, Electronic Media and Culture (87-114)
  • Harrison – Amen Break – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SaFTm2bcac

Week 9 – Wednesday:

  • Lessig – Remix (23-114)

Week 10 – Monday: Games – Replays and Replaying (in different spaces)

  • Home Playing
  • Speed Runs
  • Pro leagues
  • Cory Arcangel

Week 10 – Wednesday: Memes, they’re everywhere!

  • Know Your Meme – Repetition and Copyright
    • All Your Base – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/all-your-base-are-belong-to-us#.Tho2U-BUVMs
    • LOLCats – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/lolcats#.Tho1HeBUVMs
    • Keyboard Cat – Play Him Off – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/keyboard-cat#.Tho38OBUVMs
    • Downfall/Hitler – take down notices – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/downfall-hitler-reacts#.Tho59-BUVMs
    • Philosoraptor – CC License – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/philosoraptor#.ThpAvuBUVMs
    • Over 9000 – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/its-over-9000#.Tho6A-BUVMs
    • Peanut Butter Jelly Time – 5 elements – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/downfall-hitler-reacts#.Tho59-BUVMs
  • Mifflin – The Joy of Repetition, Repetition, Repetition – http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08/03/tv/the-joy-of-repetition-repetition-repetition.html

Writing Projects:

  • Response paper (3-5 pages) – Pick one reading that you feel strongly about (either positively or negatively) and respond to it. Summarize the main points, then (depending on your positive/negative response) critique or support the article with your response, then expand upon the article in some way.
  • In class response essay (30 minutes) – What does this clip have to do with repetition?
  • Final Paper (2 part cycle) – pick topic
    • Outline – feedback given
    • Final Paper – Due during the final


Games, Skopos, and (Functional) Limitations

As I’ve been recovering from qualifying in June, I’ve been playing a few games that I’ve been meaning to play (Assassin’s Creed 2 — the translation/localization issues are ever present in interesting ways; Avadon — a fan translation might be very interesting of an indie RPG like this) and reading some things that I’ve been meaning to read (Wendy Chun’s Control and Freedom, Jeremy Munday’s Introduction to Translation Studies, and various others). Here I’d like to think through a few ideas I had when reading Munday’s intro text book. It’s quite good in its breadth and inclusivity, so there’s been a few areas it has tied in for me, particularly the idea of skopos.

The skopos theory of translation is attributed to Hans J. Vermeer and Katharina Reiss as focusing particularly “on the purpose of the translation, which determines the translation methods and strategies that are to be employed in order to produce a functionally adequate result” (Munday 79). Its advantage, according to Munday, “is that it allows the possibility of the same text being translated in different ways according to the purpose of the TT [target text] and the commission which is given to the translator” (Munday 80). The above sentence is interesting for two reasons. First, it implies different translational possibilities and the likelihood of these possibilities happening, which also indicates that these differences might add up or be equally obtainable. Second,  it is the commission that determines the direction that the TT must go. A popular novel must be translated according to the publishing industry’s whims; a government or legal document according  to a different ‘commission‘ that is more ethically or politically oriented; a game to a different orientation still.

As Munday notes, various theorists critique skopos theory on grounds including the lack of a single purpose or meaning in certain texts (particularly Christiane Nord). On the surface, the different skopos lead forward solving this difficulty, they do different things if not all at once, but the problem still exists in terms of publication and visualization. How do you convince the monetary support to publish multiple versions (here I largely refer to literature and other popular forms that are translated, like movies and games) according to the different skopos, or aims, when the publisher/commissioner’s aim is money? And, how do you visualize these different forms? The latter I’ve discussed elsewhere, and the former is a very spiky question.

For now I wish to breifly look at how skopos theory has been taken up by Carmen Mangiron and Minako O’Hagan in their work on game localization. According to Mangiron and O’Hagan, [t]he skopos of game localization is to produce a target version that keeps the ‘look and feel’ of the original… the feeling of the original ‘gameplay experience’ needs to be preserved in the localized version so that all players share the same enjoyment regardless of their language of choice.” The authors identify a single skopos to game localization and ignore the commission element. They identify the look, feel and experience as legitimate elements to be translated, but ignore the contextual elements causing these particular elements to be the focus. Could there not be a different skopos for different games depending on if it is a publisher or if it is ‘abandonware’ with a rabid fanbase?

If games have distributed authorship (Huber) and fans help author them (Jenkins), then why does the publisher’s wishes get privileged for the skopos commission? The ‘source’ that is considered by skopos theory is not simply the publisher wishes, but a range of things seemingly unconsidered by standard localization discourse.


  • Huber, William. Soft Authorship. Dissertation.
  • Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006.
  • Mangiron, Carmen and Minako O’Hagan. “Game Localization: Unleashing Imagination with ‘Restricted’ Translation.” Journal of Specialized Translation, no. 6 (2006): 10-21.
  • Munday, Jeremy. Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. 2nd ed. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge, 2008.


Utopian Thought Experiment #7

1. Multilingual or omnilingual linguistic set up for game environment [1]. The more languages the better. The more subtitles the better.
2. Individual characters are tied to their various languages and subtitles.
3. Current statistics of national languages and used languages within any given nation tied to the user determined ‘locale.’

1. So here I’m going to sprinkle a bit of abuse (Derrida -> Lewis -> Nornes) on top of the utopia [2]. Not just the languages, but what one could do with languages to rob people of their safe homeness. Their belief that they are alone with their friends and family and don’t need to deal with the world.
2. The game reads the locale, as usual, and loads the appropriate localization. I’m in “United States” and my language is English. It loads appropriately. Or does it.
3. The United States of America has one [ed: de facto, and this is problematic, I know] official language: English. Language chauvinism is ripe and often linked to nationalistic/anti-foreign fervor. As a result, the fact that ~25% of all people in the United States speak a language other than English at home goes unmentioned, or at least ignored [3].
4. The game reads the current statistics of the determined locale and finds that 75% of the populace speaks English, 12% speaks Spanish, and then there are a massive host of other native, exilic, diasporic and immigrant languages. The game allocates these percentages by rounding up.
5. The player must then interact with their locale not as a safe environment, but as a unhappily statistical environment (I am loathe to say ‘real’).
6. This could work in the US as above, but it could also work elsewhere. Japanese in Japan is not as homogenous as it would like to believe, nor is Mandarin in China, or Israeli in Israel.

[1] This refers to a accessible and user increasable plethora of languages as opposed to the standard variation of one language per one locale or one language loaded as determined by the OS.
[2] Lewis, Philip E. “The Measure of Translation Effects.” In Difference in Translation, edited by Joseph F. Graham. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985; Nornes, Markus. Cinema Babel: Translating Global Cinema. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
[3] This is the 2000 census as the 2010 has not yet be uploaded to the web. http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/briefs/phc-t20/index.html

The First ‘Actual’ [International Edition]

At the Tokyo Game Show Square-Enix informed the public about the release of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Final Mix. Like the rest of the International Editions this will include English voices; unlike Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+ it will likely not include the theater mode with both English and Japanese cinematics; unlike all previous International Editions this one will be playable in other regions, which is to say, internationally.

The known so far is that it will be released with the North American edition’s (English) voice acting, have a sticker system, a new boss and new enemies, and possibly a secret ending. This mostly comes from the unrecordable video in the Square-Enix booth at the Tokyo Game Show, and the Famitsu page [1], both of which have been blogged across the net. Other than these details most is unknown, but a few things can be deduced/guessed.

Because Birth By Sleep is a PlayStation Portable game a few interesting things can happen. The first is that the data disk is more limited than a DVD. Therefore, the direct implementation of both voice tracks is unlikely (or impossible). This means that the theater mode from KH 2:FM+ will likely not happen, and it also means that there will not be multiple selectable vocal tracks, which only Star Ocean: The Last Hope International (for PS3) has had in the past. The most common thread across the English blogs following this line of thinking is that the game has no release date in the US and it will most likely not be brought over like the other Final Mixes. However, what they’re missing is that because Birth By Sleep is on the PSP it becomes easily playable internationally, and the recent Sony announcement of cross region sales on the PlaystationStore [2, 3] make this even more interesting.

Unlike the PS, PS2 and PS3, the PSP does not use region encoded data disks, which means that a player has almost no restrictions on what s/he can play. That which becomes a restriction is availability. However, with Sony’s cross country sales implementation this also will be less of an issue. Less because what is put up on the store is a limited selection of what actually has been released on disks. The fact that all of two games were uploaded to the store in the first update shows the problem here.

However, regardless of the PlayStation Store’s implementation people around the world will be able to play the new “International Edition,” Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and likely be upset with its naturalized global English. Of course, such availability/downloadability could force Square-Enix to make available truly International Editions that fully support multiple languages through downloading (after all, there is no size limit to an SD card). This is, of course, and unlikely eventuality, but I can only hope…


  • [1] ファミ通.com. “東京ケームショウ特集: 始まりへとつながる眠りの物語が再び紡がれる『キングダム ハーツ バース バイ スリープ ファイナル ミックス』.” Accessed: September 25, 2010. http://www.famitsu.com/news/201009/25034046.html
  • [2] Chen, Grace. Playstation.Blog. “PlayStation Store Update.” Posted: September 20, 2010. Accessed: September 25, 2010. http://blog.us.playstation.com/2010/09/20/playstation-store-update-157/
  • [3] Kotaku. “The PlayStation Store to Start Selling Japanese Imports This Month.” Posted: September 16, 2010. Accessed: September 25, 2010. http://kotaku.com/5640254/the-playstation-store-to-start-selling-japanese-imports-this-month

二ノ国 : Impressions and Localization Expectations

Day 1: Initial Impressions

I was discussing Japanese manuals and their translation at a game developers/producers bar gathering. Specifically, I was being told that translating them is incredibly boring as they are routine, have little of interest, et cetera. This struck me as odd at the time because my informant was referring specifically to Japanese manuals (although he then added that English manuals have similarly become boring), but also vaguely true in that manuals are very chunked up in terms of translation. They are incredibly redundant and simplistic. As Gee has noted they make no sense at first, but become sensible after playing. There are so many “problems” with manuals its amazing that they’re still there and haven’t been replaced by in-game education (by which they have partially been replaced).

To my informant I asked if it had something to do with reading and Japan. Their answer was that such was a relativistic statement as it’s no harder to read in Japanese as a child due to furigana as it is in English. I demurred, but still questioned. I’m still not sure what the answer is, but having just seen Level 5 and Studio Ghibli’s upcoming Nintendo DS title 二ノ国 [ni no kuni] I’m writing about how that manual will turn out in relation to this whole idea of manuals in particular and translation in general.

Technically, I’m not even sure if the 352 page book next to every DS unit filled with characters, items, story, et cetera is a “manual” that comes with the game or an extra for the Tokyo Game Show, but I can’t imagine the latter as during my 15 minutes of play I was required to go into the tome (to page 61), retrieve the phrase “いでよなべまじん!”, and input it into the game to summon the genie-like boss/enemy.

So, the question here is two-fold: First, is it really an integral 2nd half to the game? If it is, then what does a 352 page required reading tome do to “video gaming?” Second, how will that tome be translated!?

Both of these questions are fantastically interesting on various levels. The first to theories of “game” and “play.” Where is the story, and where is the play? They’re overlapped in that to play the game one must understand the story. Narratology has a vague revenge on ludology. Does this interaction of book and game encourage kids to read? Is all of this intentional?

The second is of course particularly interesting to me in that a 352 page tome is so far from both the standard practice of manual translation and the standard type of game localization that to translate it almost requires a translation and not a localization. Will the job be distributed? As Ghibli has previously even gone to Neil Gaiman for celebrity/professional rewriting style translation will that be the avenue of choice? And how will that then effect the actual localization element of the game?

Sure, 二ノ国’s manual is hardly “usual,” but it’s exceptional qualities bring out the very questions that came up with the original conversation of manual translation. Is reading ability, which is to say “literacy,” a target of this game spearheaded by a company whose head has a penchant for hating new media in particular and technology in general?

Let us simply say that I am looking forward to the translation/localization of this title, and I hope I can talk with the localizers. For that matter, Im’ not sure that a localization has even been announced…

Day 2: Further Thoughts and Localization Expectations

I went back to Level 5’s 二ノ国 DS title today and confused the hell out of the staff by not playing the game at all. No, I don’t want to put on the headphones, and no I don’t want to choose one of the two demos. I just want to peruse the book. So here goes my further impressions and expectations.

It’s a 352 page book divided into 7 chapters (魔法指南, 合成指南, 装備指南, 道具と食べ物, イマージェンと魔物, 伝説の物語, and 色々な地方), and those chapters have an amazing amount of stuff from how magic and alchemy work, to information about equipment, tools, food, and creatures, to legends and stories of the world, and finally various extra information about characters and places. And of course there are pictures throughout. The book is really beautiful, but its truly amazing in that it forces the player to read it! They must peruse it at least enough to get information, but its beauty encourages them to read the rest. Yes, it’s a carrot and stick situation involving children and literacy.

This book alone would make translation an interesting task as it would be translation, not localization. But the particular use of language within the game makes it even more complicated. The in-game alphabet is based off of the Japanese 46 character syllabary with corresponding characters including “, ° and っ. Such a one to one choice is far from unknown: FFX had a similar trick with the アルベドalphabet but it was largely a non-issue due to the bulk replacement and lack of visual use of the language in the game. The particular use in Final Fantasy is to take the language, mix it around and voila, a “different language.” Because . The issues with 二ノ国 are heightened by the visual representation of an alternate language and the writing of characters during play. If the player does not write them it is less of an issue, but still a great difficulty.

To give an example, the book itself is called Magic Master, which transliterates to まじっくますたー, which transliterates to English as majikku masutaa, or Magic Master. This is on the cover of the book and there are paragraphs of the game language throughout the book at various points. One expects it is in the game world as well. To localize the game the ties between the in world language and the player’s language must be untied and then retied. To do that for English the 46 characters must be weeded down to 26, which is easy enough on a surface level, but  more difficult if anything in the game uses some of the 20 deleted characters in an interactive way.

So, who is taking on this task? I asked one of the Level 5 booth workers and was told it is not being localized. It’s possible he was missing my point and thinking I was asking for an English version on the spot, or he didn’t know, or he couldn’t answer due to legal restrictions, but I’ll take the general ‘no’ for now. After all, what company would want to take on a task that highlights the difficulties and unruly ties between localization and translation? This is not to say I don’t want it to be released in other countries, just that it will be both interesting and problematic when it eventually comes up for localization.

Localizing Visibly Ideologically Material

Is it possible to localize America’s Army? How about Under Ash? Finally, what about Kingdom Hearts? The initial answer for both America’s Army and Under Ash is generally ‘no.’ It is not considered possible to localize such strongly ideological games because the ideological elements for these games are such a central feature, the content, and yet to localize a game is to take out such particulars and make it legible to an alternate audience. In order to localize America’s Army it would be necessary to take out the America element. Similarly, to localize Under Ash it would be necessary to remove the Hezbollah part. Subsequently it would be necessary to insert similarly understandable, equal yet different, elements in their place. Such a task is generally considered, if not impossible, incredibly difficult.

However, I want to answer that, yes, it would be possible to localize either game using the standard process of localization, but that the results would be meaningless. Both an America’s Army that did not help recruit cadets for the Army and an Under Ash that did not demonstrate a way to fight against incursions in Palestine would be so far divorced from their original text that calling them translations, or in any meaningful way related to the original text, would be false. And yet, that is largely what the localization of Kingdom Hearts, a story within the Japanese cultural context, but localized and transferred to America, does.

This statement is building off of arguments I have made previously with William Huber at the blog Gummi Ship, so I will skip going over those arguments extensively. The gist is that the allegorithmic (Galloway 2005) logic of Kingdom Hearts reproduces American Imperialism within the 20th century. Your main task within the game is to enter and control the entry into other worlds [countries] in order to aid/redirect their cultural politics in a manner highly reminiscent of developmental theory (Rostow 1960, Schramm 1964). But the point for Kingdom Hearts is that while barging into the countries is problematized within the games especially by having the Japanese player act the role of the American side, and through the mixing of Japanese and English in the so-called International Final Mix, thereby highlighting the problems of American exceptionalism, the localization removes these elements, places the American players within their own standard role, and eliminates any element of internationalism that was otherwise visible through the mixture of languages.

The point here is that Kingdom Hearts is just as ideologically charged as America’s Army and Under Ash even if this ideology is slightly submerged below the surface. However, even with that it is translated/localized without consideration. Importantly, however, is that such ideological changes happen with the localization, but they are not considered as really being changed.

So, I suppose my point is that translating ideologically prone games is impossible, but localizing them is certainly possible and done where you least expect it. But again, is that a good thing or a bad thing?


  • Galloway, Alexander R. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.
  • Rostow, W. W. The Stages of Economic Growth, a Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press, 1960.
  • Schramm, Wilbur. Mass Media and National Development: The Role of Information in the Developing Countries. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964.

Heavy Rain in Japan

Heavy Rain has recently been lauded for its adult nature and its story/narrative. What hasn’t been noted in the US game press is that the characters are very much Western. Such an element to a game released in the US is unremarkable and as such it goes unmarked.

I have not yet looked into the press reaction in Japan, but the game itself has had little localization from what I can see. Or rather, the characters, vehicles and setting are all the original, which is to say not Japan. Further, the language they speak and think is still English.  Essentially, it’s a very foreignizing translation/minimal localization.

According to the industry and most localization experts who write in English about Western localizations such a foreignizing translation is bad and will be bad for the eventual take. According to the random Japanese teenager playing the demo in Tsutaya it’s a resigned fact of life: いや、外国のゲームだから別に… And when asked if he’d rather the voices be in Japanese he didn’t have an opinion.

Obviously, the single player is hardly a good sample for anything other than a musing blog entry, but there’s something about the lack of care that’s interesting. The blunt knowledge, and lack of care, about the fact that it’s a foreign game is very different from localization’s drive to hide a game’s production home.

Do we really want games that just attempt to represent our locale? Is that good for us?

Censorship vs. Localization

There has been varied, but relatively constant noise being made by the World of Warcraft community about the Chinese release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Said in one way it is simply a year late. This is normal practice for some operating systems or languages, but for an MMO expansion pack it is a bit more visible, and with angry waiting fans it’s even more visible.

The thing about WotLK is that it has been ready for release for a year, but has gotten hung up in requirements put forth by the Chinese government regarding its release. These requirements have been dubbed censorship by the fanbase (particularly those on Kotaku and MMO-Champion), but the interesting element is that these are simply localization [L10n] issues from a different angle.

The main points of contention are skeletons: skeletons under cauldrons and against walls, skulls on spikes, skulls on weapons, skeletal knees poking out of zombie bodies, giant bone animals, and I’m not sure about skeletons in armor. The claimed ideological basis for and defense of, the censorship is that ancestor veneration, signified by being good to the bones of ancestors, is difficult when you’re going around destroying those bones/skeletons/zombies or putting them on weapons or spikes. Of course, there’s a slight problem when the the the majority of the expac deals with necromancy and its problems (via the Lich King). In short, the narrative of WoW: WotLK is hard to localize to China.

And yet, it has been done. Skulls are removed, zombies have no bones, and bone dragons and bone griffons are transformed to flashy ghost dragons and griffons. Is this a sign that, indeed, narrative does not matter? Or is it a sign that millions of ravenous players will force certain hands, and this is the best the Chinese government (particularly the the ministry in charge of publications and press (GAPP) and the ministry of culture (MOC)) is going to get (the fact that other games, particularly other, more local MMOs such as Perfect World were not put through such direct censorship, but multinational Blizzard’s MMO was is, perhaps, telling)? Or, is it just a sign that L10n really is the way things work now, and like translation only becoming visible with its mistakes, L10n is only visible when it doesn’t happen ‘properly,’ which is to say when it isn’t localized enough and is thus put through additional censorship. Games that are localized enough (self censored in both the production and L10n phases) do not need censorship; games that are not localized enough get censored before release.

This logic seems to be mirrored in calls to limit indigenous exclamations in Final Fantasy XIII (Koncewicz), which would make L10n easier, or at least possible due to the extensiveness of these noises (one of many places where you can seen these unlocalized noises is in Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks). But what they’re asking for goes part and parcel with the L10n process as internationalization [i18n], the production level planing for L10n. Both Koncewicz and guides to L10n indicate making assets easily changeable is best practice for i18n as L10n can then more easily push the product into some parituclar locale. However, while Koncewicz indicates this was the intention of FFXIII as an internationally aimed game it seems to be opposed by the very imbeddedness of certain games into certain cultures (Subarashiki kono sekai, which is subtitled It’s A Wonderful World in Japanese, but localized as The World Ends With You in English is an interesting example). Thus, the complaints of FFXIII are less against L10n than against Square-Enix’s i18n process and the idiosyncrasies that they do not want to delete from FFXIII and other games.

However, in the case of WotLK, Netease.com, the company releasing WoW in China, wants to censor, but did a poor job self censoring in the L10n process, and Blizzard in fact did not i18n ‘enough’ in the development process. One might also extend this claim by saying their recent, much lauded Starcraft II L10n is a direct step up from the failure of localizing WotLK for China. The ‘enough’ here is actually problematic for two reasons. One is that  they are being forced to change the narrative level significantly, and if such alterations are in fact part of the L10n can one even call the game a translation? If you don’t fight a Death Knight, a Lich and a Bone Dragon are you really playing Wrath of the Lich King? Is WoW: WotLK US/EU and WoW: WotLK China the same game? The second is that while WotLK was hounded by the Chinese goverment locally developed (multinational, but of Chinese origin) Perfect World Online was released with skeletons available for slaying. So how much of i18n and L10n are being enforced where they should not be, how much of cultural particularity or universality are being reinforced by political clout or business acquiescence where it is actually a nonexistent thing?


  • Koncewicz, Radek. Localizing Exclamations in FInal Fantasy XIII
  • Mickey Yang. “Pics: What’s Changed in Chinese Version Wrath of the Lich King.” Chinagame.178.com. Posted: 8/16/2010.

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.

“Space Invaders”

To who or what does “Space Invaders” appeal? It’s a simple question, yet also completely unanswerable. First, one must ask which space invaders? Are the capitals important? Do I refer to the 1978 arcade box? The individual sprites coming down eternally? The nihilistic fight that is playing a game that cannot be won? Or perhaps it’s one of the related text/objects? Perhaps its the Retro Sabotage flash game that shows this impossibility? Or one of the many web, or portable remakes, perhaps Taito’s 2009 Infinity Gene? Or might I be referring to the street/game artist of the same name who places the pixelated characters in city spaces around the world? In a simple answer to what should be a simple question, I’ll simply say I refer to all at once, because that’s how such intertextuality works. There is an original, but it may not be the important point. They all, after a certain point, refer to each other.

This meandering began when a friend mentioned photographing invaders. As she studies street art the first guess is that she was talking about the artist and said artist’s creations, but when I then went to find some sort of image to confirm this (searching for invaders without effort; catching aliens by picture). I opened an entirely different can of worms, or, to follow what soon will be an unwieldy metaphor, a new wave lining up at the top of the screen. However, at the end of this meandering I realized that it’s all the same interwoven meaning.

Invader’s website has a global listing of invaded cities. They are places where works exist, but San Diego, the city in which I live and my friend was catching aliens, is not there. One answer is that the site has not been updated, but it will be soon. Following this meaning the list becomes a sort of status. Which cities are good enough to be graced by the artist’s work.

People on the Yelp forum discussing the artwork certainly point to this: whether the work is fake or not (another answer to San Diego’s lack of appearance on the list), how San Diego has gained this honor (the street art exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art), and that the city has become “bona fide, betches” (Yelp user). Status is certainly tied up in the meaning of Invader’s space invaders. However, there are other meanings of the work: the game, nostalgia, migration and aliens. All of these are tied in the work and the general resurface and re-imagining of meaning.

Space Invaders holds a special place in the 20-40 year old generations as one of the early cabinet games of the golden age of gaming. Like most golden age games such as Donkey Kong, there are memorable characters, but unlike Donkey Kong‘s Jump Man, who was reborn as Mario, Space Invaders‘ player character is rather unmemorable. While Space Invaders had sequels, they are barely remembered. It’s hard to start a franchise when the plot and player are destined for death. However, Space Invaders did start a genre. Hundreds of shooter games followed with equally unmemorable player characters, but ironically these generally had forgettable enemies as well. What Space Invaders did was create a long chain of names, signifiers (1942, R-Type, Gradius, etc), that all pointed back to the original signified, Space Invaders, and its memorable, invading army.

The game has thus remained in cultural memory, to be sparked with each further generic horse beating, as the eternal good fight against an unnamed (but memorable) enemy. However, the past few years have brought a different resurgence. From genre and allusion back to direct reference. The retro/nostalgic trend of the 2000s has brought with it hosts of remakes and demakes, remixes and repositionings. André the Giant becomes a poster-boy for frat boys, Obama spells hope for the masses, beautifully relaxing Mario Clouds float by on a hacked ROM, and Space Invaders goes contemporary political commentary with its pixellated enemy sprites.

Invader’s invaders work on multiple levels. They refer back to the nostalgia of the 1970s and its memorable characters, but they also tie into fears of global migration/movement (invasion if you will) prevalent at the current moment. The invaders are aliens, the same as the “illegals” in the U.S. news and political media. They come in, attack, kill, take over the planet, and of course steal jobs, but they’re so memorable, bordering on cute. Wait, that didn’t come out right, or did it?

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries human movement over borders has reached an unprecedented high if only because the borders have become more pronounced. An equal amount of movement has always existed, small distances, long distances when borders were less national and less guarded, but not as they are now: pronounced, fenced, and racial/nationalistic. What might have been normal movement has become illegal border crossing, and those who cross become illegals. Aliens. Invaders.

Invader’s work is about merging the current fear of the illegal (in play with the original game, all of the generic follows and almost all games in general – particularly the link to Arabs/aliens in most modern FPS games is troubling and obvious) with the loving nostalgia of the past. People like these invaders, but it goes a step further. As the Yelpers demonstrated, invaders make a city. Where at one point it was a skyscraper, a sports team, or a museum, now it is an invader. A city has made it when it has been invaded.

But am I talking about space invaders or illegals right now? Are they?

  • Invader. Space Invaders. Accessed online June 17, 2010. <http://www.space-invaders.com/>
  • Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Viva la Revolucion: A Dialogue with Urban Landscape. Accessed online June 17, 2010. <http://www.mcasd.org/exhibitions/616/viva-la-revolucion>
  • Retro Sabotage: A Strange Kind of Love. Target: Space Invaders: Invasion. <http://www.retrosabotage.com/spacein/invasion.html>
  • Yelp. “Space Invader San Diego.” Accessed online June 17, 2010. <http://www.yelp.com/topic/san-diego-space-invader>