An estimated 3.24 billion people worldwide played video games in 2021, an increase from 2.5 billion in 2020. This number is only expected to rise in the future. With 1.5 billion of these gamers residing in Asia alone, 715 million in Europe, 420 million in Latin America and 284 million in North America, it is important to envision your video game audience in a global context .
With that said, it has become increasingly important for game developers and publishers to ensure their products are properly localized. But what exactly does that mean? What sets video game localization apart from other forms of localization? What are the specific features of this sub-field ?
Game Localization Is About Interactive Experience
Beyond the basic questions that need to be asked before localizing any product , video game localization requires precise considerations for its medium. These are complex, even for the most advanced tools used in other localization fields.. It is essential to consider that video games are an interactive and artistic form of entertainment that incorporates not only text but also visuals, sound effects, music and often voice acting. These all need to be adapted for distribution in different countries. Since this is a complicated project with many elements, here are some key items to consider when approaching this task :
- How will players react and what changes are needed to ensure a true to spirit experience across all cultures?
- What cultural norms and differences need to be taken into account? This is a very broad category that covers things like:
- appearance and dress of characters and game environments
- social relationships
- religions and their representations
- perception of violence
- “coarse” or “vulgar” language
- sex and sexuality
- gender roles and identity
- social taboos
Of course, not all of these elements need to be adjusted for each game.
- What idioms, visual codes and symbols or folklore need to be adjusted to the target culture, and to what degree?
- What elements of the original game may have unintended meanings or interpretations in the target culture?
- What cultural sensitivities of the target culture need to be taken into account?
The overall goal is to successfully translate the game experience into another culture. The level of localization depends on the studio’s budget, the access to localization resources, the target cultures, the game’s needs related to those cultures, etc. Still, you need to make sure that your game is not only playable, but also understandable, no matter where it is being released.
Video Game Localization Training
If you are interested in video game localization, and localization in general, the TCLoc Master’s Degree program offers a broad range of courses that will help you improve your skills in the field.