How Language Differences Can Affect Your Gaming Experience

Dark Souls is one such game that loses part of its appeal and significance when not translated. Image: FromSoftware

As the video game industry has continued to blossom in popularity and cultural relevance, it has found itself in a position of no small significance. What was just a couple decades ago a new and innovative field burgeoning with potential is now the largest entertainment industry in the world, a feat made doubly impressive when one stops to consider just how short a time video games have been around.

Being the largest in the entertainment industry is quite the accomplishment indeed for a medium so young, but this distinction means much more than just being the industry that has the biggest amount of revenue. All of that revenue doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It comes from consumers, people who are voluntarily choosing to spend their money on that specific entertainment, and those people are what compose an audience. Considering its staggering level of success, the video game industry has accrued quite the audience, to say the least.

Because it has such a large audience, it has a tremendous amount of potential for influence on those who are exposed to titles that are produced. After all, entertainment can mean a whole lot more than a bit of cathartic fun, and its effects should not be underestimated. These video games can be so much more than just games, as they can leave impressions and create memories that can stay with someone throughout their entire lives.

The idea may sound rather silly, but just consider the thought for a moment. Think about entertainment that you have experienced that has stayed with you; perhaps there was a book that kept you thinking long past the point when you set it down, or maybe there was a movie that introduced a new idea to you. Whether it is a piece of music that moved you in a way that you couldn’t readily describe or performance in a theatre that you still remember the thrill of experiencing firsthand, there is some form of entertainment that has influenced you in a way beyond just simple enjoyment. Video games are no different in this sense, and they can offer similar experiences to their audiences; this is very important to bear in mind for the next point.

We have established that entertainment can be much more than just entertainment, but stop to think just how many mediums would no longer be able to achieve that goal if they were not presented in a language that you were able to understand. With the noted exception of music, it is difficult to make a strong case that almost any medium could consistently deliver the meaningful effects that they are capable of if they were unable to clearly communicate with their audience.

Language has been a barrier for as long as time itself, and video games are by no means exempt from having to deal with its obstruction. While there are some genres of video games that don’t require language comprehension in order to appropriately experience, this sort of experience can never go beyond that of mere enjoyment.

Video games, like so many other mediums, can tell beautiful and meaningful stories, and without the proper resources invested into their production, so many stories can go completely untold to potentially hundreds of millions of people in foreign markets. Just as a book written in a foreign tongue has practically no value to the reader, so too is the case with many different video games.

While there are always costs associated with the translation of video games, they are very necessary costs when considering the validity of the industry as a medium of expression.