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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Responsible Localization : Game Translation Between Japan and the United States

  • Author(s): Mandiberg, Stephen
  • et al.

Responding to increasing flows of digital media texts across national borders during the late 20th century, video game production companies began to expand translation from linguistic alteration to extensive semiotic manipulation. The practices involved with moving a digital game over national and linguistic lines widened from translating boxes, instruction manuals, and in-game dialogue, to re-designing audio, visual, and ludic aspects of games. Called 'localization' within the game industry, these translation practices are indicative of how globalization operates within the frictional boundary zone between local audiences and global markets. This dissertation in Communication uses media studies, translation studies and theories of globalization to approach how these industry practices of video game localization operate as meaningful and meaning-making processes. Not simply important for game players, these industry practices are a critical part of how the national game industries of the 1970s-80s became the global game industry of the 2010s, and how individual workers effect change within the global system. Combining ethnographic observations of localization studios, interviews with localization specialists, and textual analysis of Japanese and North American versions of games, this dissertation is an account of localization as a practice that is being pulled in two directions: toward maximum profit as an industrial practice, and toward an ethical practice that can facilitate elements of social justice. Bringing together several different practices of ethical game translation and naming them responsible localization, this dissertation elaborates such ethical localization's cultural benefits, describes how it is conducted at present, and shows how it might be conducted in the future

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