Gaming Localization Part I: Translation vs. Localization for Gaming
These two terms are popular in our industry; they are related, but not interchangeable. Translation involves expressing the sense of content (words, texts, etc.) into another language from source to target. Localization takes it a step further. It takes material created for one locale and makes it appropriate for another locale.
In terms of gaming, the goal of localization is to prepare your games for new locales. This involves many components. I’ve caught up with some of our translators to put together a comprehensive list of all of these components so that you are aware of what goes into localization. Linguistic and cultural localization involves translating text and cultural references in such a way that the overall feel of the game remains the same, but it is still appropriate for each locale. This involves everything from the text on the box of the game, general marketing and PR materials for the game to spoken dialect of the characters through dubbing or subtitles. This involves script translation and also finding voice talent. Some languages, such as Arabic, are read from left to right, so things like menus may need to be reformatted to read properly. Hardware and software localization involves making sure hardware and software is compatible for each locale. Such things to consider here are color encoding systems; does your target locale use PAL, SECAM, or NTSC? There is also localization of the user interface and remapping of hot keys. Legal localization comes into play since each country or world has its own age rating systems. For example, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) regulates ratings in the United States and Canada while countries in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Oceania all have their own video content rating systems. Graphics and music localization are always important. Graphics may contain characters in one language that may need to be localized into another. A lot of games allow players to choose their avatar, and these options might need to be localized to different regions to allow them to do so. Music preferences also vary across different regions of the world, as trends are different from place to place. We’ve only scratched the surface! Stay tuned for a Part II.