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?

Back from Kingdom Hearts

I’ve recently been doing a lot of work on a specific project on the game franchise Kingdom Hearts with William Huber. We’ve been blogging some of it at Gummi Ship, presented some at DiGRA ’09 and I will be continuing to do some work on it, possibly for DAC ’09. The project is quite expansive, but for me it is a means of looking at ideas of translation, transference, flow and interaction between Square-Enix and Disney, Japan and the United States, and the game world of Kingdom Hearts.

The work has consisted of playing through the games and analyzing them as texts, which has resulted in certain problems (other successes) and a definite greater knowledge of what I can and cannot, should and should not say from our analysis. It has also led to a greater understanding of what my work needs in other ares.

Mainly this is currently related to a need for ethnographic work of some sort. Most of my work seems to need the inclusion of user voice, but other parts don’t Really, the question is how to bracket things and yet have the ability to say things. To get to allegorithm must I interview to see if the obvious is there for other people? How much must one play between the field’s factions that stem from disciplinary difference as much as theoretical difference? And such.