General Information:

Title Game Localization: Translating for the global digital entertainment industry
Author Minako O’Hagan and Carmen Mangiron
Publication Year 2013
Link John Benjamins page

“Game Localization” should be a required reading for aspiring game translators. Drawing on years of professional and academic experience, the authors presents an an excellent introduction to this field with a variety of engaging examples and case studies, both from the their own work and and the work of others.

The book is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter documents the history of game localization, and introduces you to the video games industry and the terminology connected with their development. At the end of it, you will get a clear picture of how game localization have developed over the years, and the role it plays in the industry. The second chapter is a theoretical discussion that revolves primarily around localization and its relationship with translation, and it manages to arrive at a partial answer.

Back to practice, the third chapter describes in detail the localization process, its practices, in addition to the translatable components that form video games, while chapter four focuses on what translation issues arise during game localization, and what strategies and approaches are appropriate to deal with them. Finally, the authors devotes a section to the concept of “transcreation”. Although some professional translators are skeptic about it, I think that it is valuable nevertheless, since it highlight the creativity required to produce entertaining translations in the video games medium.

Chapter five is about the relationship between culture and games, addressing issues such as “cultural adaptation” and the view that localization is a form of rewriting. These are fundamental issues, and although many translators are advocates of modifying elements that might be offensive or obscure in the target culture, one has to be very careful when taking this path. In my experience, each culture has its own preferences, and for instance, many Arabic gamers play Western games because they feel foreign, and view a lot of the suggested changes as an unsolicited censorship.

Chapter six is devoted to professional training in the field of localization, and though it is written with educators and course designers in mind, working translators will find it of great benefit when developing a self-learning plan, or when trying to get an idea of what knowledge gaps they might have. Lastly, the seventh and final chapter is geared more towards researchers in the field of translation studies, and it shows possible area of research that can help develop game localization.

I always try to avoid “theoretical” translation books, since in most cases they attempt at theorizing what practitioners already do, instead of focusing on using theory to contribute to the pool of practices and techniques that we use on a daily basis. This book, however, is different in that it is balanced mix of theory and practice, and where the theoretical discussion are insightful and thought-provoking, even if they do not provide answers for the majority of tackled questions.

All in all, the book is good read and an essential guide to those starting out, or to academic scholars interested in game localization. The authors did a great job in covering all aspects of this subject, creating in the process what could be considered the most complete book on game translation. However, as I mentioned before, if you are have been working as a game localizer for a few years, then you will not probably gain too much from it, since you will be already familiar the ins and outs of game development and localization.

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