Clash of cultures: game localization or game transcreation?
Have you ever wondered why everyone seems to love their console so much? Once considered just a cult pastime, video games have grown immensely over the past 30 years to become the mainstream form of entertainment that they are today, alongside music and movies. Video games used to be just for kids; however, game developers are constantly branching into new markets and releasing a plethora of games, some of which are even based on daily, mundane activities, such as games that keep you fit, karaoke games, where you eventually end up hoarse as a crow, and even games that teach you how to cook! The expansion of the games industry is taking place across markets worldwide, meaning that there’s a good deal of work for translators.
Nonetheless, game localization involves far more than just simply translating or being an expert on the culture of origin. Game localization is a complex and lengthy process that ultimately aims at producing a version for the target audience that has a similar game play experience as the original; it’s not about simply translating words, but translating experiences.
To help you discern between localization and transcreation, let us cast our eye over these two terms:
Localization: A concept which has been adopted to describe localization, is adaptation (O’Hagan and Mangiron, 2013). Esselink (2000, 1) states that localization is “the translation and adaptation of a software or web product”. Localization does include translation; however, it takes into account a variety of constraints: context, language conventions, idioms, cultural appropriateness, etc. Some people recommend localization for companies who are looking for the right marketing solution; it’s a cost-efficient solution and it can deliver effective results for your business.
Transcreation: While the concept of “adaptation” covers one of the key features of localization in general and game localization in particular (O’Hagan and Mangiron, 2013), it remains a fuzzy concept. And this is where transcreation comes into play. In the words of Mangiron and O’Hagan (2013, 107), the concept of “transcreation” draws attention to the existence of the human agency of the translator in the process of localization, who may make use of variable, non-uniform and, at times, unpredictable solutions. The translator metamorphoses into a mediator who endeavours himself to follow a translation process more similar to creative writing than to the writing used merely for functional purposes, thus helping to induce intended affective responses in the end game player so that a similar user gameplay experience may be transferred to the locale (Mangiron and O’Hagan, 2013).
Now that we understand these two terms, it can be said that, from the point of view of translation as a whole discipline, localization clearly encompasses a wider scope of activities than transcreation does. Nevertheless, and from a target audience’s point of view, transcreation presents itself as the solution to the success of any of the localized versions of a game.
Renowned for our team of localizers —or creative agents— and our audiovisual translation services here at ComTranslations, we know the importance of following our clients’ specifications and we pride ourselves on always trying to ensure the utmost enjoyment of the localized versions of video games. We work with the best translators, proof-readers and dubbing actors.
You create, we localize, they enjoy!
Mangiron, C., O’Hagan, M. Game Localization: translating for the global digital entertainment industry. Benjamins Translation Library, 2013.
Esselink, Bert. 2000. A Practical Guide to Software Localization (Rev. Ed.). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.