Is Google Translate Causing Developers to Revert Back to Mistranslations from the Days of the NES and SNES?

You may think back upon games on the NES and SNES and remember – with amusement – the first time you came across mistranslations like “All your base are belong to us” and “I am Error.”   There are an extraordinary number of YouTube videos noting the lack of time and resources game studios used to devote to game translation.  Many a gamer has come across these mistranslations and likely said something to this effect, “What were they thinking?!” (to quote the Angry Video Game Nerd).

While established game developers and publishers now dedicate the time and resources necessary to solid translation, tools like Google Translate have given rise to a new sector of poorly translated games – games from indie developers looking for the “quick-fix” solution to global game markets.  I’ve written blog posts on this topic before, and I’ll likely write on it again, as I continue to encounter increasingly larger numbers of game studios using tools like Google Translate at incredibly high rates, at significant risk of actually driving gamers in global markets from playing their games.  By using translation tools at excessive rates (and more as a translation program than a mere tool), game studios could likely end up in a new series of YouTube videos by gamers who find your translation just as amusing as English translations of the NES/SNES days – “Conglaturation!!!  You have completed a great game.  And prooved the justice of our culture.”

 

Given that over 50% of worldwide game revenue comes from markets outside the United States, it is crucial for mobile game developers not only to make their games accessible on multiple platforms but also to gamers of different linguistic markets.  Would you take your Unity code that you developed for your iPhone game, simply use it to build an Android version, and release it – as is – for the Android market?  No!  Of course not!  With the varying interfaces, input methods, and other capability differences between Android models, it is essential to test for bugs and correct them, adapting your game to various Android devices.  The same is true with releasing your games for foreign markets.  If you don’t take the time to adapt your game to other audiences, you run the risk of your game simply not working within those markets.
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Mistranslations in Practice – A Short Story

This blog post is a little different than the others.  In this entry, you will read the tale of a gamer embarking upon an adventure, an adventure through a game unlike any other…a game riddled with odd happenings and strange occurrences, a game that takes you back to games of ancient times, a game that transforms the gamer’s entire gaming experience, a game that…well, you’ll see…

 

Soda – check.  Chips – check.  Controller – That’s a given.  Shoot, where are the batteries…“Mom!!!”

Okay, now I’m ready.

The start menu pops up – a fantasy world unfolds before you, complete with elves in a wooded, magical land.  (You know it’s magical because of the fairy dust shimmering through unfurling fog.)  A white, Asian-style dragon soars across the landscape, small in the distance.  The music is a symphonic masterpiece, beautifully constructed to convey a sense of serene majesty, with the rich sound of violins and the lilting melody of flutes resonating together.

Suddenly, the music crackles like an old radio being tuned, and chanting overshadows the tranquility of the scene.  “Cha b’urrainn do bhàrd, thuirt thu, a dhualchas no a thìr a roghainn, air neo a chànain…”  A word appears, blinking on the screen “STRAT.”  The symphony overtakes the chanting for an instant, and then it continues, “…ach du choir gu robh an dìlseachd a b’àirde’s a bu shàir a bh’aige da chogais fhèin a-mhàin …”  The sound cuts out, and the screen goes dark.  The only visible object is the word “STRAT” blinking on the blackened screen.
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