Video Game Localization 101: The Player Comes First
12/12/2023

Video Game Localization 101: The Player Comes First

Over the past decade, video games have skyrocketed in popularity, leading to increased awareness among game developers and marketers about the importance of prioritizing player experience and satisfaction. Localization, the process of adapting video game content for specific regions, has emerged as a vital aspect in ensuring players feel fully immersed in the world created for them.

Let’s explore the concept of video game localization and its significance in creating a captivating and culturally sensitive gaming experience.

Defining Video Game Localization

Video game localization involves reproducing game content that seamlessly blends with the target region, giving the impression that it was originally created for that specific audience. While translation is a crucial component of localization, it goes beyond mere language adaptation. Localization encompasses altering elements such as the game’s name, art assets, packaging, and manuals, as well as accounting for cultural and legal differences to resonate with the target market. The primary goal in video game localization is not strict fidelity to the original but rather entertaining and engaging the players, sometimes requiring modification of elements that could hinder their experience.

The Ultimate Goal: Immersion

An immersive experience is the ultimate objective in video game development, and localization plays a vital role in achieving this in the localized versions of the games as well. By taking the various audiovisual elements video games rely on (such as narration, dialogues, songs, cinematics, on-screen art, etc.) and adapting them in context, localizers strive to maintain the seamless integration of linguistic and non-linguistic aspects. This immersive experience enhances player satisfaction and contributes significantly to the success of a game.

The Role of the Video Game Localizers and Their Choices

Localizing a video game is a multifaceted job that involves making numerous decisions based on linguistic and non-linguistic considerations. Localizers employ different techniques, such as transcreation and culturalization, to ensure the best possible outcome. Transcreation involves creatively conveying meaning when a direct translation won’t do, whereas culturalization focuses on adjusting the game’s content to suit the cultural sensibilities of the target audience. These approaches are vital for maintaining immersion and avoiding misunderstandings or offensive content that could disrupt the player’s experience.

The Importance of Quality and Testing

Given the intricate nature of video game localization, quality assurance through thorough localization testing is crucial. Once the localization process is complete, rigorous testing is conducted to identify and rectify any bugs, issues, or inconsistencies that may hinder the player’s experience. Localization Quality Assurance (LQA) evaluates the visual, functional, and linguistic aspects of the game to ensure its seamless integration and optimum performance. By prioritizing quality and testing, developers can deliver a polished game that captivates players and maintains their immersion throughout the gaming journey.

The Takeaway

Video game localization is a vital process that ensures players across different regions can fully immerse themselves in the gaming experience. By combining linguistic adaptation, cultural sensitivity, and quality assurance, localizers play a pivotal role in creating a seamless and engaging journey for gamers. By putting the player first, video game localization helps to maximize player satisfaction and contribute to the overall success of the game. With the ever-growing global gaming community, prioritizing localization will continue to be essential in delivering unforgettable gaming experiences.

The Road to Global Success_ The 5-Step Journey of Video Game Localization
17/10/2023

The Road to Global Success: The 5-Step Journey of Video Game Localization

In the ever-expanding world of gaming, video game localization has become a crucial component for achieving global success. With a strong localization strategy, game developers can bridge the gap between different languages, cultures, and markets, providing players with an immersive and engaging experience no matter where they are in the world. However, taking a game from one language to another is no easy feat. It requires a strategic approach that involves careful planning and execution across every aspect of the game’s development.

Let’s walk through the 5-step journey for video game localization that can provide developers with a roadmap towards achieving global success.

Globalization

This first stage typically falls under the jurisdiction of the developers, publishers, or experts/consultants they hire to analyze market viability, who must carefully study the possible markets in which the game will be sold, advertising tactics, legal issues, and various other factors. In this way, they can gear the gaming content and marketing approach towards the specific cultural and linguistic preferences and needs of these different markets. The goal of globalization is to make the game appealing to as wide a range of international consumers as possible and to gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Internationalization

The next step is internationalization. Here the game is analyzed carefully to determine the best approach for translating it into different languages. During this phase, the files are prepared and any potential issues are taken into account. For example, the team will look out for character limits that could affect certain languages and check if all fonts support special characters. This level of attention to detail is essential to ensure that the localization stage goes as smoothly as possible.

Localization

Once the globalization and internationalization steps are finished, it’s time to move on to localization. This is where the actual translation happens. The video game’s texts are extracted, translated into the necessary languages, and then imported back into the game. However, not all elements of a video game can be directly translated—sometimes, transcreation and culturalization are needed. This is especially important when it comes to story, characters, and tone, and involves adapting the content to fit the cultural nuances and expectations of the target audience. It can be a challenging process, but one that’s absolutely essential for successful video game localization.

Localization Quality Assurance

After completing the translation process of a video game, the localized game enters into the last step which is known as LQA (localization quality assurance). The objective of LQA is to test the overall quality of the translation and how well it fits with the game in context. This stage is crucial as it can be the determining factor in providing a seamless gameplay experience for the players. LQA comprises three essential elements: linguistic, visual, and functional QA. Who performs this step may vary, as sometimes game translators are responsible for this stage, while other times the concerned company can have an in-house team in charge of this or outsource it to a third party.

Testing

At this stage, a tester, who is not the translator, tries out the game, which usually takes the shape of playing the game and searching for various issues and bugs, which could be anything from cut-off text to poorly functioning design features. This thorough testing ensures the final product is not only free from linguistic errors but also runs smoothly for a seamless and enjoyable gaming experience. Testing is typically done by a testing company or an individual hired for the task.

The Takeaway

The road to global success for video game companies is a challenging but rewarding journey. By following these five essential steps, video game developers can effectively adapt their games to different cultures and languages, creating a more inclusive environment for gamers worldwide. As the industry continues to grow and diversify, proper localization will remain a critical element of success, helping video game companies to reach new heights of achievement and global recognition.

11/10/2022

How the Video Game Localization Testing Process Works and Why it Matters

It takes a lot of work to create a video game with an intriguing plot, well-developed characters, and a unique universe. The work doesn’t stop there if you want to localize your video game in order to break into new markets. A key step to ensuring that your localized video game is just as dynamic as the original is to undergo localization testing. Let’s take a closer look at what the video game localization testing process looks like and why it’s so important. 

What the Video Game Localization Testing Process Involves

So, what exactly does video game testing involve? Generally, the testing isn’t done by the translator. Instead, the testing is completed by a testing company or a hired tester who plays the game and identifies bugs.

The main goal of the testing phase is to make the product look and feel natural for the gamer as well as making sure the gameplay works fine. Testers not only check for linguistic or cultural issues, but also other visual or gameplay issues. 

Some of the things testers will check are the proper date, time, and currency formats corresponding to the regions and locales used. Color schemes are an important element to review too, as color can have different meanings in various cultures

Most importantly, the testers check the UI and appearance. They check that all the images containing text are localized, line breaks on the screens are in proper places, dialogs, pop-ups, and notifications or updates appear correctly, and that the text fits into all the fields without overflowing. 

Why the Video Game Localization Testing Process Matters

The reason localization testing is such an important step is because it helps video game creators confirm that the localized and translated version of their video game is consistent, clear, and as high quality as the original version. A high quality localization process ensures that a game maintains the original tone and feel of the game in whatever language it is translated into. The video game localization testing process is a key step because it helps check for this level of quality. You want your players to be able to play and understand your video game exactly as you intended it upon your original creation, even if it’s in a different language. 

The video game localization testing process isn’t necessary because translators and localization experts aren’t good at their jobs. It’s necessary as a second line of defense in a very complex process. Video game localization requires that a lot of different strings be translated and it’s commonplace to translate these strings out of order or context, which can lead to things literally getting lost in translation. Localization testing is a necessary step to review a translation as a whole and to make sure that all text is correct, coherent, and consistent. 

Don’t Forget to Laugh At Mistakes

As frustrating as finding a mistake is during the testing process, mistakes can happen and they aren’t always a bad thing. 

In the video game “Hitman: Blood Money”, there’s a mistake that’s become a fan favorite. In the mission titled “A Dance with the Devil”, there’s a lobster crate located in the kitchen area. If you pick it up and inspect it, you will see a development note addressed to Allan that read “Allan please add details here”. This mistake led to future appearances of the same note across a variety of Hitman games in the form of Easter eggs. For a good laugh, you can check out that famous mistake here

Mobile Gaming — A Market Opportunity in Brazil - PORTADA
06/09/2022

Mobile Gaming — A Market Opportunity in Brazil

Video game creators should listen up! There is no shortage of opportunities for mobile game creators to find success in the Brazilian market. Because so many Brazilians utilize public transportation, they can kick back and relax while on the move. Passing the time by playing mobile video games is extremely common in this part of the world, so let’s examine some of the market opportunities for mobile gaming in Brazil. 

A Look at the Brazilian Mobile Market

The Brazilian mobile gaming market is booming. Brazil is Latin America’s largest market for mobile gaming in regard to both the amount of players and how much revenue is generated. With more than 88.4 million players and over $1.0 billion in revenue expected in 2021, Brazil is a force to be reckoned with in the gaming community. 

Why is this market in particular so hot right now? There’s a variety of factors contributing to this surge of growth in Brazil. Alongside the appeal of passing time on public transportation, taxation policy changes surrounding gaming consoles in recent years have helped the industry expand. The accessibility of mobile phones, in the sense that they are now affordable and most Brazilians have them, has also helped this industry thrive. According to Newzoo, the most commonly used gaming device in Brazil is the smartphone (83%), which leaves a lot of room for growth specifically in the mobile gaming industry. 

What They’re Playing

Brazilians play a wide variety of mobile games. In 2020, the most downloaded mobile games from the Apple App Store were:

Free games

  • ‘Among Us’
  • ‘Garena Free Fire’
  • ‘8 Ball Pool’
  • ‘Call of Duty Mobile’
  • ‘Brain Out’
  • ‘Subway Surfers’
  • ‘One!’
  • ‘Magic Tiles 3: Piano Game’
  • ‘Brain Test: Mind Games’
  • ‘Gardenscapes’

Paid games

  • ‘Minecraft’
  • ‘Plague Inc.’
  • ‘Pou’
  • ‘Hitman Sniper’
  • ‘RFS – Real Flight Simulator’
  • ‘Farming Simulator 20’
  • ‘Bully: Anniversary Edition’
  • ‘True Skate’
  • ‘GTA: Liberty City Stories’
  • ‘Stardew Valley’

Why They’re Playing

Alongside passing time on long bus rides, Brazilians turn to video games to de-stress. Because of this, Brazilians tend to enjoy playing mobile games that are extremely immersive and that absorb them into the game, while distracting them from reality for a little while. Strategy, role-playing, and action games are super popular in Brazil because of their ability to be so engaging. Mobile game advertisers should look for opportunities to sell their games as a way to relax and escape everyday stressors like work. 

The Future of this Market

Despite the growing popularity of video games in Brazil, there is still room for this market to expand. Only a little more than one-third of the Brazilian population expresses an interest in video games. Because those uninterested in games are unlikely to own gaming devices, there is a better chance that their first foray into gaming would be on a mobile device that they already own and use for other purposes. Brazil has a population of more than 212 million people and 81% of those people already own smartphones, making smartphone users a goldmine waiting to be tapped. 

Discover how Game Developers Can Make The Localization Process Easier
16/08/2022

How Game Developers Can Make The Localization Process Easier

When preparing to launch a game in a new locale, going a step past translation into localization is necessary to help a game connect with a new audience on a deeper level. The localization process not only translates the source material into a new language, but makes important adjustments to the content to take historial, religious, and cultural elements of the game into account. To make the localization process simpler from the get go, here are some steps game developers can take when handling the source language and development. 

1. Keep Future Localization Needs in Mind From Day One

If game developers can attempt to foresee any potential locales a game will be launching down the road, they can make the future localization process much simpler. It’s important to know what game elements are cultural and try to predict any “cultural clashes” with other markets that may occur. If you already know which elements could be problematic, you can later focus on adapting those to the new market or just avoid that market altogether and focus on launching in markets that are more similar to yours.

To predict promising locales before launching, it’s important to analyze the target market in terms of game genre preferences, growth in the last few years, potential revenue, and other key elements. What works for other developers will not necessarily work for you. You have to keep the unique characteristics of the game and the target market in mind. It’s a question of finding the ideal match for your game. This research can help you get an idea of what your future localization needs might look like. 

2. Keep Small Details in Mind

While it’s understandable why elements that could cause offense, such as religious or cultural references, may be your priority when creating a game that is primed for localization, you don’t want to forget the small details. You may need to adapt dates, time, numbers, and units of measurements during the game localization process. The formats for dates and units of measurement tend to differ across most languages, so as small as these details are, it’s important you keep them top of mind. 

3. Watch Out for Text in Images

If there is any text used in images, it’s likely you’ll need to localize that text as well. If you’re planning to launch in many different locales, it may save your localization team a lot of time and effort if you can avoid enriching images with text. Your graphics team will also be impacted, as they will have to redesign any images with text from scratch. In some cases this effort may be worth it, but you’ll want to think carefully before adding text to too many images. 

4. Build a Glossary Early On

Whether or not you’re planning on localizing your game content, creating a glossary early on in the game development process is key for maintaining consistency throughout the game. Having one will also make the localization process go much smoother. A glossary contains in-game terms and concepts such as character names, items, statuses, and artifacts that need to be preserved consistently. Being able to reference this glossary throughout the game development and localization process will keep everyone on track.

Internationalization, which is the design and development of a product or type of content keeps localization in mind from the get go. Setting up an internationalization process right away can help prepare your game for the localization process. For example, from day one you can avoid the use of concatenations in English that are extremely challenging for localization as they don’t transfer to most languages.

5. Communicate clearly

To help the localization team succeed, game developers need to be willing to communicate. It can be helpful to assign a point of contact that the localization team can turn to with any questions about the game. That way, the entire development team doesn’t have to worry about fielding questions and the localization team knows exactly who will be able to assist them. Another option you have available to you is implementing query sheets, which can facilitate organized and effective communication between everyone involved in a project. A query sheet is usually an online form or spreadsheet that tracks important details, status updates, and questions and answers about a project. This is a great option if you’re localizing the same game into multiple languages at the same time.

On any type of localization project, it is helpful to make any assets such as images, videos, walkthroughs, screenshots, and term bases with descriptions available to the localization team. That way, they have every resource they need to do the best job possible. Style guides can also be a valuable resource for the localization team.

28/06/2022

An Overview of the History of Video Game Localization

Despite its wide use today, video game localization is a relatively new endeavor. Video game creators started having their content localized in the 1980s and only recently, video game localization technologies and processes allowed for certain advancements. To better understand the need for video game localization, it can be helpful to look back at the history of this technique. 

The 1970’s: The Beginnings

The 1970s is where video game localization really comes into play. Japanese developers were looking to break into the American market and this drove them to start thinking about localization.

One of the most famous examples comes from the internationally popular video game PacMan. The Japanese name was initially thought of as “Puck Man” (pronounced ‘pakkuman’), but when localizing the product for the US market, they decided to change the name to avoid the name being misspelled or misused with another word that could be offensive or inappropriate.

1980s: Initial stages of localization

The 1980s is where we see the initial stages of video game localization beginning. During the 1980s, games started to be localized, but there was a lack of awareness of the importance of using native and specialized linguists. As a result, this stage was the funniest, or one could say tragicomic, in terms of localization. This is essentially because you see completely incorrect translations, some of which still exist today and continue to be referred to.

The translation of packaging and documentation became standard practice in the gaming industry for publishers who understood that this small investment could help them increase their revenue in international markets. Super Mario Bros was distributed with packaging and documentation translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch—although the in-game text remained in English.

1990s: Demand grows

In the 1990s many games began to see their text translated on screen, and departments and companies that specialized in video game localization began to open. We were not only getting the box and docs translated, but we were also seeing the localization of the user interface and subtitles for the cinematics.  

This was huge for international audiences, because they could now immerse themselves in the game in their own language. Localization made video games more accessible to so many more players.

Some games from the 1990s are particularly memorable because they went as far as recording the voiceovers in other languages. Baldur’s Gate was one of the first RPGs that was localized and dubbed into other languages. 

By the end of the nineties, revenues doubled in the gaming industry, and more than half of that growth came from the results driven by localization

2000s: Localization established

We are calling this stage “localization established”, because in the early 2000s there were technological improvements to facilitate the localization process. This is when video games started to be dubbed in different languages with actors. It was also around this time when video games started to be published in a variety of languages.

This was the birth of what is known as ‘sim-ship’, publishers were simultaneously shipping the games in a variety of languages to be released on the same date in all of its language variants.

Nowadays, localization is an essential process in the development of a video game and many companies now have an exclusive team of professionals dedicated to localization and testing. There are also increasingly sophisticated tools available to coordinate and ensure quality during the localization process.

Female Gamers Are On The Rise - Portada
20/04/2022

Female Gamers Are On The Rise

In the past men have taken center stage in the gaming world, but it’s time game developers pay more attention to female gamers, because they’re a force to be reckoned with and should no longer be ignored. 

Women gamers are growing in numbers and their perspectives on video games matter. Let’s take a closer look at this trend and how game developers can capitalize on it. 

A Growing Interest Amongst Women

An interest in playing video games by female players is growing across the globe. Google Play found that 65% of women ages 10 to 65 are gamers and account for nearly half of all video game players worldwide. While women from every corner of the globe play video games, they are especially doing so in all of Asia’s key markets, including India, Japan, and China. Asia is considered to be the global capital of video games and contributes 48% of the world’s total gaming revenue, so those female players have a lot of influence in the industry.

How to Capitalize on This Trend

Video game developers should consider this trend an opportunity to cater to a new audience. A Liftoff study discovered that women are 79% more likely than men to make in-app purchases, so there is a lot of money to be made by being more welcoming to their female players. Let’s look at two easy ways game developers can attract and retain more female players. 

  • Create female characters. Google Play found that 60% of women feel that less than 30% of mobile games are made for them. By increasing the number of female characters in a game, women will feel like they can relate easier to the characters and as if the game is intended to include women. 
  • Include women in the development stage. To create video games that are more inclusive and more appealing to women, hiring more female developers is a great place to start, as they can provide insights and fresh ideas from their own experiences playing games. 
  • Use inclusive language. You can include inclusive language throughout all languages of the game, especially paying attention to gendered languages so as not to alienate female players and foster their immersive experience.

The Organizations Looking to Help

There are many organizations working towards making the video game industry more inclusive. For example, the Women in Games Ambassador program is a worldwide effort to help women and girls better understand the gaming industry, with the hopes of doubling the number of women in gaming over the next ten years. They have 12 Corporate and 446 individual ambassadors across the globe working on this mission. 

There are also industry level initiatives in other countries that aim to create more inclusive working environments in the gaming industry, such as the U.K. based #RaisetheGame which educates companies on how to create more inclusive working environments. This initiative is growing rapidly and over 100 companies have signed up to participate in the initiative. 

At Terra Translations, we share similar goals and we have three different team members acting as Women in Games Ambassadors. Let’s give a shoutout to these women for helping the video game industry make progress!

The Pivotal Role of Culturalization in Video Games
08/07/2021

The Pivotal Role of Culturalization in Video Games

The term culturalization refers to a translation technique that takes the geopolitical and cultural climates of the local markets where the content will be distributed into account. While culturalization can play an important role in any translation project that will launch in a new market — especially when handling creative content — it is especially helpful in video games

Why Video Games?

Good question! Again, culturalization can come in handy in plenty of areas, but video games can uniquely benefit from this translation technique. Video games are not simply games. Within them, complex universes are built. Some based on fantasy and some based on reality. There are countless content choices to be made when creating a video game and culturalization helps make sure the right choices are made when launching a video game in a new market. For gamers to both understand and enjoy a video game, creators will want to ensure that any political, cultural, or religious references don’t offend. 

Cultural mistakes can lead to not only low sales of a video game in a new target market, but can create a public relations nightmare and even lead to a game being banned. On the low stakes side, culturalization can make a video game more relatable and understandable for the player. On the high stakes side, it can stop video game creators from offending an entire culture.

What to Keep in Mind

There are four main cultural variables to keep in mind during the culturalization process in order to avoid creating problematic content when launching in a new location. 

  • History. Both ancient history and more recent events can touch on very sensitive issues in some markets. It isn’t uncommon for many regions to feel very protective of their historical legacy. If history that they feel is inaccurate appears in a video game, the emotional backlash can be strong. It’s nearly impossible to dive deep enough into the nuances of historical events in video games, so keeping how sensitive these topics are in mind can help you make better choices during the culturalization process.
  • Faith. Across different cultures, religious preferences and belief systems can shift massively. Some content can be seen as extremely problematic in a society that is deeply religious and follows a set of sacred rules closely. 
  • Cultural friction. Unfortunately, we don’t all get along. Cultural friction happens on a variety of levels and not portraying cultural or ethnic stereotypes will help avoid offense and make a video game feel more inclusive
  • Geopolitical imaginations. Some national governments reinforce their local worldview and their definition of their geographic sovereignty through digital media. A game that disrupts this worldview, even if their content is seen as accurate in other cultures, can lead to a disastrous launch in a new market. 

Creating a Culturalization Strategy

We’re going to further address how to create a strong culturalization strategy in an upcoming article, but for now, let’s take a brief look at how you can begin to create a culturalization strategy. 

1. Be aware. Understanding the cultural issues that can occur in key markets is the first step you need to take. Hiring a translator that is native to that market can help make this process easier. 

2. Ask questions. During development, make sure you ask the right questions to understand what the cultural needs of a target market are. If part of the content raises any concern, dig deeper until you confirm whether or not it will lead to an issue. 

3. Be accountable. For the culturalization process to truly be successful, it should be treated as a standard part of your development cycle. Assigning a standard team member or team to the task can help build expertise and experience in a way that leads to consistently strong results. 

4. Consult experts.  Whenever you launch a product or service in a new target market, it can be extremely helpful to consult an expert on that target market. If you can’t hire a translator that has strong knowledge and expertise surrounding the target market, you can consult other experts who can help inform the translation team of any mishaps to avoid and how to make your content truly resonate.

Localizing Games Effectively for Latin America
14/04/2021

Localizing Games Effectively for Latin America

In March of 2021, Terra Translations’ CEO Marina Ilari moderated a panel on “Localizing Games Effectively for Latin America” at the Game Global Digital Summit. One major topic the industry experts on the panel covered was the peculiarities of the Latin American market and how to address them. Let’s take a look at some of the valuable insight the panelists shared!

Celebrate Diversity 

Connecting with players in a new audience requires adapting to their cultures, religions, and history. Games can celebrate diversity by including music, outfits, and home designs that a wide audience can relate to. During the localization process, you can make references to popular shows and create events that celebrate the new audience’s holidays. Gamers want to feel heard, seen, and included. Kassi O’Connor of Glu Mobile expressed the importance of not just emphasizing diversity, but of implementing it the right way. “We want to make sure we represent them in a respectful and truthful manner,” O’Connor said. 

Prioritizing diversity is especially important in Latin America, where people are united by the same language, but separated by it at the same time. Games will resonate with players if they receive a culturally relevant experience. For example, in trivia games, as Ulises Uno of Etermax explained, this means asking questions about their immediate context.

Leverage the Common Ground 

For Priscilla Bermea of Riot Games, Latin American players have more similarities than differences, so they try to leverage that common ground in their games. Latin Americans are known to be very competitive and passionate. From the publishing standpoint when it comes to diversity, Bermea said that “Our vision for LATAM stems from one simple truth, but it is a very powerful truth, that Latin American gamers have more similarities than we have differences.” This creates a unique challenge to try to find common ground while also highlighting unique experiences. 

Partner with a Team of Localization Experts 

Hugo Miranda of Blizzard recommends game developers work with a well-structured localization company with linguistic expertise, whose translators are diverse and have knowledge of the entire region. In order to avoid falling into any kind of regionalism, a good practice to follow is to have a translator and reviewer of different nationalities work together. This way, they can collaborate and discuss any terms that generate confusion or that may be misconstrued across different nationalities. 

Encourage Feedback 

Receiving feedback is always valuable and you should encourage the linguistic team to speak up if they have any linguistic concerns regarding a particular term, feature, or another key element. This way, you avoid uncomfortable outcomes after the game’s release. “I can not stress how important it is to empower that team to provide feedback and be part of that process,” O’Connor explained.

Outside feedback can also provide valuable perspective. Pursuing player feedback can be extremely useful as in the end, the game is for them and their suggestions should be taken into account and analyzed.

The Importance of Transcreation in Video Game Localization
22/10/2020

The Importance of Transcreation in Video Game Localization

Today, video games are considered by some to be the world’s biggest cult phenomenon. This iconic status exists in-part because of transcreation in video game localization. Without this process, video games would only be accessible to players who speak the language and understand the cultural context of the original game. Transcreation has broken down borders and changed the entire landscape of the video game industry.

What is Transcreation in Video Game Localization?

Transcreation in video game localization is a different process than a traditional translation project. Providing an exact translation is not the goal here. Instead, transcreators use creativity and individuality to retain the original meaning while adapting the language in a video game to the target audience in a natural and effective way. Generally, transcreators have carte blanche to make necessary changes to language, and they generally try to retain the original meaning of the language used in a video game. That being said, sometimes they must change the meaning completely. The most important aspect of their job is to help ensure the desired outcome or result in the game.

Where is Transcreation Used?

A transcreator adapts all the text and audio language used in a video game. The list of the language they have to transcreate is quite extensive, but the following list captures some of the main considerations.

  • Names of characters: Adapting the names of video game characters can be particularly important for improving the user experience, especially if the original name carries meaning or has a certain connotation. Transcreating names helps users relate and empathize with the characters. For example, if a character’s name is “Berry Cute”, because it’s a friendly little strawberry, you might want to adapt that word play to something related to berries and cuteness in the target language.

Examples taken from Overhit

  • Names of weapons and powers: Generally, the creators of games must coin new terms or names for elements like weapons and powers. Therefore, a word-for-word translation may not be possible under reasonable circumstances. In cases like these, transcreators provide a translation from scratch. In order to do so, they may take into account what the weapon or power actually does. Because of this, it’s especially important that translators play the game during the transcreation process or have visual references of the game.

Examples taken from Pokémon

  • Instances of character restriction: In some cases there is nothing wrong with a literal translation, but in some languages a literal translation can cause issues. For example, a literal translation may end up taking up too much space on the screen, in which case transcreation can help find a solution that takes into account space restrictions. Buttons are usually one of most challenging UI elements because they can accommodate so few characters.

Example taken from Overhit

  • Jokes: Because cultures can have different senses of humor, it is especially important to apply transcreation to jokes. A direct translation can be potentially problematic if a joke that is considered funny in one culture is highly offensive to another.
  • Cultural references: These references can vary in relatability which can cause confusion. Common foods, songs, movies, celebrities, and politicians may be familiar to gamers in the country the game was originally made for, but can be very foreign to other gamers from different countries.

How This Affects the Gamer Experience

Alongside the task of making video games more accessible to audiences from different cultures, the transcreation in video game localization process also helps improve the gamer experience. One of the best things a transcreator can do to ensure they’re executing their job well, is to play the video game in its entirety. Ideally, they will play the game simultaneously as they work through the transcreation process. Doing so will help guarantee the proper interpretation and maintain the context of the game’s plots, tools, and characters.

At the end of the day, video games are supposed to be fun and the gamer should be “immersed” in the world created by game developers. If any of the elements are off, the gamer’s experience could be disrupted. Generally, their sole purpose is to entertain and a transcreator needs to keep that in mind when doing their work. Their end goal should be to convey the game’s play experience in a way that is as close as possible to that of the original, while ensuring that the game is appealing to new audiences.