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.

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