Video Game Translations: Mistakes and Challenges

Fuente: Empresa de traducciones EVS Translations Blog.
19 del 10 de 2010


The video game industry is worth billions. Nowadays, more than fifty percent of the revenue generated by the industry comes from international markets.

Although most video games are developed in English and Japanese, the new global market requires that video game developers translate their products into many other languages.


Until recently, the need for professional video game translation and localisation was not recognized and incorporated into most video games’ international releases, which resulted in many memorable translation mistakes.


While the aforementioned examples only refer to bad translations of  in-game text content, such poor translations are also a common practice in video game marketing campaigns.


is a horror action game that the terrifying graphics will make you enticed with surreal illusion.” ()


Adapting a video game to different markets is a highly creative process, and translation and localisation service providers play an important role in it.

 There are several components, called assets,that need to be translated and/or localised in a video game:




Different languages use different characters, there are right-to-left and vertical-reading languages. Another issue is the length of words. The on-screen text in video games is usually subject to strict character restrictions (often the target language shall not exceed the length of the source language), because of the limited space on the screen.

Nowadays, video games are very interactive and contain many detailed menus and options for controlling game features, these characteristics pose further challenges.


consists of written scripts and sound files

consists of oral texts that have to be presented in a written form.

Usually video game dialogues are very complex and translators shall carefully study the game in full and be familiar with all game characters in order to be able to determine if the participants in a particular dialogue are men or women or a group of characters and accordingly use masculine, feminine, or plural equivalents in the target language.

Translators face further issues, such as reproducing the original dialogue in a written form, lip-synching, number of characters per subtitle, etc.

Dialogues and music, used in video games, shall be localised to reflect the target market culture in a way that the final player can identify with the game and enjoy the playing experience.

Video games contain multi-layered graphics.

Cultural adaptation in video games is unique because it goes beyond words and requires the modification of the graphics and DTP as well.

Video game source code contains many variables that allow players to build characters and strategies by choosing between many available options.

In most cases, the strings that need to be translated are just one or two words completely out of context. Translators have to be very careful which strings belong to the source code and shall remain untouched and which have to be translated, since even changing one letter in the source code might result in the video game not functioning properly or even crashing.

The best practice is that video game developers work together with the translation and localisation service provider from the early stage of game development, as opposed to sending a video game for translation after it has been completely finalized.

Developers shall write the software with translation in mind. Translators can request modifications to game assets when they deem it necessary to better reflect and reach the targeted market.

A good practice is that during the development process, a glossary is created that includes all the terms that appear in the game (names, characteristics and attributes of characters, places, items, weapons, levels, scenes, buttons, game options, etc.).

The glossary shall be the first thing to be translated and localised. Once approved, the terms in the glossary shall be used in the translation of all materials related to the game.







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