We have recently seen just how bad, bad localization can be; not only effecting the item in question but the community surrounding it. Fire Emblem: Fates being the most recent travesty in localization.
Notably fans of the Fire Emblem series, who have been waiting months to get their hands on this new title were not to happy when they found out major section of the game have been changed or cut out. Forget about 80s style translation “The Winner is You!”, and think sweeping character changes via their dialog and tone being altered mixed with English grammatical mistakes, sprinkling in a bit of cut content that is pivotal for character growth. As Forbes’ Erik Kain explained it:
There are other problems with the localization, including entire dialogues cut and replaced with nothing but ellipses, and other sloppy errors and inexplicable dialog changes that have nothing to do with either clearing up confusion or removing offensive material.
Fire Emblem: Fates, Petting Mini Game
Outside of Fans and Forbes, journalists / enthusiast press have been whistling a different tune. A tune so sour it could curdle milk.
Example, Jeff Gerstmann, who many have looked like a bastion of journalistic integrity, being fired while he worked at Gamespot because he did not give into the pressure of his company when they were hosting a massive ad campaign for a game he gave a poor score. That game being Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, which was given a 6.5 and was universally panned by most. Ironically Gamespot bought Gerstmann’s exit venture, Giant Bomb back in 2012, effectively bringing him back into the company. Interesting note to this video, the concern brought up by Gerstmann was not that of consumer protection, but editorial protection.
Fast forward to 2016, Gerstmann is now going out of his way to defend a very anti consumer practice as well as mock the fans who are upset by said practice after they payed anywhere from $40.00 USD to $80.00 USD depending on what version they purchased. He would go on to say:
Back in my day, if someone was pissed off about a game translation, they learned Japanese and started importing instead of whining forever.
Advocating that a consumer should learn another language instead of demanding the whole product that they expected was an outrageous statement. Having games either censored or just have really bad translated is just something you should ignore by this extremely harmful exposition of opinion. By stating that the fans should learn another language in a flippant manner to address criticism, he manages to transfer the problem from the company who is removing features in the game specifically because of concerns they have with press representation, on to the consumer. He is ether painfully unaware, or extremely selfish and self serving of his ideology. Even if you learn Japanese, you might not even understand all the puns or references, as Japanese word play is extremely complicated. It takes years to learn Japanese, not only to speak it, but also to learn how to write and read it in a proper manner that would allow enjoyment of a game in a series that has already had a good set of legs without censorship, bad localization, and bad translation. Why are any journalists defending this?
If you care that much about experiencing content that might be lost in translation, play it in the original. Import the hardware.
Now the idea of him being painfully unaware starts to fade fast with this statement. The entitlement and dismissal of this issue is stated as if he were Marie Antoinette quaffing “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”(Let them eat cake) to peasants who have no bread. Most consumer do not have the disposable income to import a new system and the Japanese game, and they should not have to. While games are a luxury item, so are paintings, movies, music, and other general forums of art and entertainment. Outside of books providing minor localizations changes to words to help explain a concept or object, this is generally frowned on, seen as a bastardization of the artists work.
Don’t worry guys, I got this
This continues with Gerstmann’s associates/ editorial staff like Alexa Ray Corriea exclaming “PREACH” on twitter. This isn’t just Jeff Gerstmann that has this entitled and harmful mentality, it is looking like this is a disease within the gaming industry where the consumer isn’t a focus. What he says next, and what is echoed by other associates and industry friends of his is enough to make anyone with a vague understanding of consumer-company relation skin crawl:
The other backdoor benefit to importing is sending the message that you want the original versions intact, too, ya know?
Lets lay this out straight. Nintendo has proven time and again that they are hesitant to even release Japanese targeted games in the west, see Xenoblade Chronicles X, another title that was localized in a way to have some (luckily minor) content cut out. If people did not petition for Xenoblace Chronicles to be released in the west, you could bet that X would have never seen the light of day state side. Fans shrugged off the minor cuts being happy the game reached them in a 99% complete state.
The other “backdoor” disadvantage to what Gerstmann is saying to do, is that it would shows that consumers will go out of their way to buy the item from Japan that care about the series, “so who cares if the localization is bad” or even worse “why bother spending the money to even bring it to the west, when they will just by the Japanese version anyway”.
Did we bring the right bait?
If we don’t support it, we wont get the game at all. If we do and Nintendo keeps listening to these individuals with detrimental ideologies, Nintendo will treat the American Consumer base with the dignity of a toddler. The only option is to complain, loudly and publicly. That is not even counting the fact that fan only found out after the purchase that these issues even existed. Gerstmann would go on to muse:
Anyway, I feel like I missed my window on that stuff. Segagaga was probably the last time I was seriously bummed about not knowing Japanese.
With all do respect, not only are the musing schizophrenic in nature, but a combination of projection and seemingly willful ignorance. Would you learn polish to to play The Witcher series as intended or would you learn German to play Crysis? Some would but they would be missing an insanely huge market if they held themselves as Nintendo Treehouse has. Because this is how ridiculous it sounds, especially coming from these journalists who are considered industry veterans.
Industry veteran on his 225th prestige
Shaming gamers for wanting features that he or his constituents may or may not agree with, for seemingly blasé reasons is extremely damaging for the media art forum on all levels, especially someone who has such notoriety. While his job is not to call out bad business practices and lacking features, he and the writers touting this charge, in no way should be endorsing such practices. Localization has been a problem for years and being apathetic to will only exasperate the problem. A problem that could result in a grim future for international game release in an age where it is becoming common place.