If you think that just translating a game is enough, you might be wrong. Game localisation is the adaptation of some aspects of game design to suit one particular public, usually defined by cultural demographics. Game localisation goes beyond translation.

It is not a surprise that localisation influences conversion, bringing a big difference, particularly in Eastern audiences. This means that localisation also influences player engagement.

While looking for academic references in game localisation, I found a very useful paper on the History of game localisation (see Bernal-Marino, 2011). With the emergence of the industry in Japan, it was necessary to translate Japanese games for the Western world and English-speaking countries. The big example is Pac-Man, which was called Puck-Man before the adaptation. Imagine the repercussions if the game was Puck-Man. What Bernal-Marino (2011) says is that localisation can increase the sense of immersion in the game, particularly if adapting the content to a relevant local context.

Game localisation is also employed to avoid misconceptions and rudeness. Aspects like characters’ ethnicity and certain terms and colloquial language should be taken into account. The most interesting thing would be the maintenance of immersion levels. Can the localised game keep players more immersed? If so, how might we map those elements?

Localisation itself has been employed in different media. The main examples are websites and software development. Things like changes in dialogue boxes and buttons (mostly all the text-based content) can be adapted. But one might take this adaptation for granted. It may not be too easy to do that and having fans behind the localisation can help not just crowdsource this type of labour but to also build that community. This video (posted 5 years ago) at GDC talks exactly about that, and the challenges in game development when localisation is done in waterfall development. This other video from GDC (posted 3 years ago) mentions agile localisation and how collaboration is key to effectively localising your game.

Yet, only if your game is mostly language-driven, maybe localisation of text might be sufficient. But what if your game relies a lot on visuals and would visuals be localised? Or would players play a completely different version of the game if the visuals are different? This is like the broccoli version of Inside Out the film (see video below).

These details might make a difference. And if games entice emotions, would that be the case? Should visual elements change to convey the same emotion (and here the broccoli was changed as it reflected disgust)?

Some of these questions guided my thoughts on my thesis. You can read more here:

Wanick Vieira, Vanissa (2017) A framework for cross-cultural advergame design: a comparison between Brazil and the UK. University of SouthamptonDoctoral Thesis338pp.

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