Why video game localization is more than just “speaking like gamers”
These days, video game localization is widespread and on a large scale. The ongoing success and growing complexity of video game dynamics means that video games are increasingly being sold in numerous different countries. However, before we go into more detail about video game localization, it’s important to point out that we can also include the e-learning boom in this field, because digital courses also incorporate games and quizzes that need localizing.
The birth of video games in the 50s certainly marked the dawning of a new era and was probably the prelude to digitalization. Now a global phenomenon, video games actually had a very unpretentious beginning. Early games were created by academic researchers as part of their work, or just for fun. Nobody could have imagined that video games, which were originally based on computers, and very basic in their structure, would achieve huge popularity in the 70s and 80s, with the creation of the first consoles and a suite of devices such as joysticks and controllers. Even then, few people could have imagined that video games would invade social media—and even real life, thanks to the immersive experiences offered by Augmented Reality. Only a handful of people predicted that such games would be developed into more complex products, where nothing is left to chance, from the choice of sound effects or subject matter to the soundtrack and depiction of beloved characters and villains.
However, expected or not, the growing success of videogames led to the emergence (and then evolution) of a new field of translation—known as video game localization—which involves preparing video game software and hardware for sale in other countries or regions. This definition suggests that the process is more structured than the simple “translation” of video games—which is just a part of the overall process. The translation step is actually where everything starts: the texts and assets belonging to a video game are translated into one or more languages, and are then edited and proofread, and later uploaded or integrated into the game itself. The content is then reviewed and adapted in accordance with target culture requirements and, ultimately, the final result is tested in the game itself. If you are familiar with software and website localization, or even audiovisual translation, you will have noticed that this process combines elements of those fields, with the common aim of obtaining a target language version that flows naturally in that language.
According to Nimdzi Insights, video game localization is worth USD 330 million, and there is also an even larger market for related services such as testing and game audio localization. Nevertheless, according to Nimdzi, the next three years will be crucial for companies working in video game localization, as the industry is predicted to see annual growth of at least eight percent, and top performers will see 20 percent growth (or more).
Video game localization is not the only field experiencing such a boom. The education sector, among others, is also undergoing dramatic changes, and technology is disrupting the way people work. There is also a desire in the modern workforce to acquire knowledge and apply new learnings in the workplace. According to Leah Belsky, Senior Vice President of enterprise at Coursera, in her article “Where online learning goes next”, published by Harvard Business Review:
“Today’s educators have to rethink higher education for a world that’s being overturned by technology. […]Technology is transforming jobs and skills faster than organizations or people can adapt. Coursera’s Global Skills Index 2019 found that two-thirds of the world’s population is falling behind in critical skills. Research from the World Economic Forum suggests that the core skills required to perform most roles will change by 42% on average by 2022. At this level of disruption, companies are scrambling to identify and source the skills they need to stay competitive.”
According to Mihnea Moldoveanu and Das Narayandas, authors of another HBR piece, “The future of leadership development”,
“Chief learning officers find that traditional programs no longer adequately prepare executives for the challenges they face today and those they will face tomorrow.” The authors argue that this emerging new trend has led to other issues gaining in importance. The cost of setting up an in-house learning environment has decreased, and HR officers are today allowed to make more discerning decisions about the right experiences for the people and teams in their organizations. Standard classroom-based programs for executive development are in decline. Instead, we are seeing a rise in customizable learning environments, where platforms and applications can be used to personalize content according to learners’ roles and their organizations’ needs.
The steady and substantial developments and revolutions in both video gaming and education over the last few years are not the only things they have in common. The need for faster, more customized methods for learning in the workplace and other environments has led to the growing use of e-learning and the implementation of games within e-learning courses. This is actually one of the aspects of a phenomenon known as gamification, well explained in an article by Jonathan Cronstedt, the president of Kajabi, an all-in-one platform helping users to create online courses:
“Gamification is the application of marketing or educational content to an interface that introduces game mechanics. It’s not the same as gaming because it isn’t a separate type of content. Instead, it’s a way to repurpose content that exploits the motivations inherent to games. Think about the last time you played cards with a family member. Even though it was a friendly game, you still felt compelled to do your best, and if you won, you felt a surge of victory. You felt like you accomplished something. That’s the feeling that gamification attempts to instill in users in a business or educational setting. While gamification can help people learn, it’s actually more valuable in terms of engagement. People associate the activity with your brand, which makes them feel included. It can also help you create a deeper relationship with your customers. You become more indispensable to them, and they develop a deep sense of loyalty that can result in a higher customer lifetime value and more revenue.”
In e-learning, games are used to engage employees or workers: think about online courses designed for employee inductions or training. They are often based on simulations of real-life workplace scenarios, and use interactive quizzes to check what users have studied in an e-learning course. If you are not familiar with them, have a look at some of the templates for e-learning you can find in this article.
Although e-learning games more closely resemble early video games, like those from the 50s, they do bear some similarity to modern video games, namely in terms of game mechanics. Jonathan Cronstedt, in his article, mentions some popular game mechanics found in gamification campaigns and e-learning quizzes:
- “Goals: Participants work toward a particular objective
- Status: Users can “level up” through various modules in the gamification strategy to gain status amongst their peers.
- Community: Teams work together to achieve specific goals or to bring about a desired outcome.
- Education: As participants move through the game or level up, they’re given tips and tricks to help them navigate the process. You can also use quizzes to help people learn in a gamification ploy.
- Rewards: Badges, points, and other rewards fuel motivation and help participants feel like they are accomplishing something.”
Essentially, the whole process of localization that is typical of video games is the same for e-learning games: from translation to text implementation, review, cultural adaptation and final testing. As technology becomes an increasingly important feature of our lives, e-learning is, to use the words of Ayesha Habeeb Omer, “following a natural evolutionary path, keeping in sync with changing lifestyles” and “Educational games are going to play an increasingly prominent part in shaping the future of digital learning.”
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