The Regional Differences of Languages and Their Impact on Game Localization: Exploring Spanish Localization across the Americas

 

Localization is one of the few parts of the production process where you know you’ve done a good job when no one ever mentions it.  A good localization isn’t intrusive and should make the player feel that no matter what language they’re playing the game in, that is the original.

-    Capcom’s blog for Dragon’s Dogma

  

I recently returned from DevHour, an incredible industry conference in Mexico City.  The organizers have done a fantastic job of bringing together game development talent from states across Mexico, making DevHour the largest conference specifically for game developers in Latin America.  As a result, the conference is gaining more traction from organizations abroad, this year including talks by the IGDA, King.com, YetiZen, and TechBA Vancouver.

 

Since very little has been written about the nuances of game localization, particularly for languages outside of Japanese and English, I interviewed Language Automation’s Latin American localization team and gamers from the region, in addition to scouring gaming forums.  This article reflects the compiled information – how linguistic differences across 20 Latin American countries affects immersion in games and how translators are able to compensate for these linguistic variations.  I’m publishing this article in follow up to my DevHour presentation about game localization, in which I spoke about the complexities of global markets and why proper localization (and culturalization) is key.
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How Video Game Translation Differs From Other Types of Translation

At Language Automation, Inc. (LAI), we focus specifically on the translation and localization of video games and ensure all of our translators have experience within the video game industry.  Why is this important?

Well, have you ever tried to explain a video game to your parents, grandparents, significant other, anyone who isn’t a gamer?  Assuming both of you are fluent speakers of the same language, as soon as you launch into World of Warcraft jargon, you may as well be speaking an entirely different language.  

For example, in the comic above, this avid gamer is screaming about a graveyard, mobs, runs, Taurens, and tanks.  Now, unless your mom is leveling her own toon in WoW, you may as well be speaking Martian.  And, chances are, unless your translator’s accreditation program had a class focused specifically on the translation of key vocabulary in MMORPG’s (unlikely), your run-of-the-mill translator will have no idea how to translate words like “pull,” “mob,” “run,” “Tauren,” and “tank,” much less the host of other WoW-centric words including “rez” and “drop.”  By now, WoW has a rather extensive library of words used for the various language packs available to players, but many games don’t have that luxury.
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Translation and Localization in World of Warcraft

Ever wonder how translation works in a massive, constantly evolving game like World of Warcraft?  In The Game Localization Handbook by Heather Maxwell Chandler and Stephanie O’Malley Deming, the authors list tips specific to MMORPG’s (118):

-          Treating each patch as its own localization cycle

-          Ensuring proper communication between translators and the development team to avoid rewrites

-          Monitoring the progress of writers and translators/the QA team so original content is not developed too far ahead of the translation

-          Being wary of the inevitable fatigue of translators specializing on specific aspects of the MMO

WoW is available in ten languages via free language packs, including English, German, European and Latin American Spanish, French, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, and Korean.  Blizzard announced in a press release this February that Italian will soon be added to the mix.  With each of these language additions, it follows that the website itself will get a makeover in its new language, and language-specific forums will open up for player communication.
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