S2 EP7 – Localization Back to the Future

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Episode Transcription

ALEXIS: Hi everyone! Welcome to another episode of Open World. As always, I’m Alexis, I’m here with Meli, with Lali.


MELISA: Hi, everyone!

ALEXIS: And in this episode, we’re gonna be talking about localization through the ages. We’ve called this episode “Localization Back to the Future” because the localization industry…

LARA: Because I’m a huge fan of “Back to the Future.”


LARA: Come on, don’t lie.

ALEXIS: I was just gonna make something up… Yes, we’re all big fans.

MELISA: That is the truth. We’re gonna be honest with you.

ALEXIS: So, I mean, nowadays, video games are expected to be well localized or expected to have some… We have standards.

LARA: We have. What a great time to be alive, to be honest, because we have standards.

ALEXIS: We have standards in localization.

MELISA: We’ve come a long way.

ALEXIS: High standards. But that wasn’t always the case.

LARA: No. Dear God, no.

ALEXIS: So we’re gonna take you from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s to where we are today. But we’re gonna have fun today, we’re gonna show you some memes. With the magic of post-production, you guys are gonna see what we’re seeing on our tablets and everything. So let’s start with the beginning. The beginning of time.

MELISA: Big Ben.

ALEXIS: I think that it’s safe to say that we can start in the 70’s with, like, Pac-Man. Right? I mean…

LARA: The classic example. The example that everyone gives.

ALEXIS: If you guys have seen some of the content that we’ve created over the past few years, we’ve talked about Pac-Man. But, I mean, in a nutshell, not to go too far, not to go too long, Pac-Man, as we know it, wasn’t always called like that, right? When it was invented, when it was created in Japan, the name of this popular character was Puck Man. P-U-C-K MAN. So, when the game was shipped to the U.S., it could get messy, and some wordplay could happen.

MELISA: Like if you changed the P for an F.

ALEXIS: The P for an F, yes.

LARA: Yes, it would change the whole rating of the game.

MELISA: Especially if it’s a kids game.

ALEXIS: It’s a kids game, you don’t want that. “What are you playing? I’m playing… [bleep]”

MELISA: Yes. Let’s not…

ALEXIS: That-Man. “I’m playing That-Man.” Right. So they decided to change the name to what we know today.

MELISA: It was a good call.

ALEXIS: It was a good call.

LARA: It was brilliant.

ALEXIS: It was brilliant. I mean, that was… We could say that it was the kick-off to…

LARA: Yeah, and I believe that nowadays, if you had the option, I don’t think they would make it, because I think they would make it like in purpose to make it sound more fun, to be honest with you.

ALEXIS: But we’ve come a long way.

LARA: But back in the day…

ALEXIS: Back in the day, people weren’t ready for that.

LARA: Now we’re ready. I think we’re ready now. But yeah, back in the day…

ALEXIS: Yeah. Who wants to take us to the 80’s?

MELISA: Yes, I can go. I think the 80’s is when we started to see, like, some localization…

LARA: An attempt.

MELISA: Yes, let’s say it that way. The lead was taken when Super Mario Bros started translating the packaging and the documentation into what we call FIGS, which is French, German…

LARA: Italian.

MELISA: Italian and Spanish. Yeah, so…

ALEXIS: Europe.

MELISA: Yes. This is still called FIGS or EFIGS for these core languages for localization. And some games started translating the packaging, but the video games themselves weren’t yet localized.

ALEXIS: Yes, manuals and…

LARA: Yeah. And I believe it had some sort of evolution right there, because we’ve seen like Super Mario going with a FIGS translation, and the Japanese video game developers wanted their games first in English, so that’s why we have so many funny attempts and jokes to laugh about today because there was an attempt, they wanted that, they tried to copy that.

ALEXIS: It wasn’t professionalized.

MELISA: They were going the right direction. They were like, “Let’s… We want to approach new markets.”

LARA: Yeah, and we want to thank you because, if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here.

MELISA: Yeah, exactly. When everyone was laughing at their games, and they were like, “Oh, this wasn’t our intention. This was supposed to sound scary, and now everyone is laughing.”

ALEXIS: In a way, we could say that all of these individuals that tried, we can tell them, “A winner is you.”

LARA: A winner is you. Our first cute example.

ALEXIS: Our first example.

LARA: Oh, my God. And yeah, there is like a rendition…

ALEXIS: 86? Something like that?

LARA: Yeah. There is a rendition of 2003 that is called Matrimelee.

ALEXIS: Matrimelee, yeah.

LARA: When you win, there is like this huge thing that reads “A winner is whom.” And I don’t know if they meant, like, to make the joke about “The winner is you.” I wish it was like that.

ALEXIS: I wish it was like that.

MELISA: I wish we could know. Can we, like, contact these people?

LARA: Do you know? If you know, please leave a comment.

MELISA: I’m so intrigued. Is it “A winner is whom” or “A winner is you”?

ALEXIS: A 2003 game, Matrimelee. If you guys know “whom” did the game…

LARA: The winner is whom?

MELISA: Whom is the winner?

ALEXIS: Whom is the winner?

MELISA: And for everyone who is listening and not watching this episode, we are showing like screenshots of these games and their localization. We’re going to explain them.

LARA: Yeah, we’re trying to read them.


ALEXIS: Yes. And if you get this on the podcast version, we’re gonna talk to our folks who have the transcription so that you guys can see it as well. We’ll try to hook you up to have the same experience.

MELISA: Yeah, exactly. So we have our next example.

ALEXIS: “Conglaturation!”

MELISA: “Conglaturation. You have completed a great game. And prooved…”

ALEXIS: “Prooooved.”

MELISA: “…the justice…” I said, “just ice.” “…the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes.”

LARA: “Rest, our heroes!”

ALEXIS: “Rest our heroes.”

MELISA: It sounds so creepy.

ALEXIS: We need a comma there. Or something. “Go rest our heroes.”

LARA: You need to rewrite the entire paragraph, to be honest, from the “Conglaturations.”

ALEXIS: “Conglaturations.”

LARA: That’s a lot.

MELISA: The funny thing about it is, I mean, you can still understand it, you can still, like, get the message. But, of course, you know, it’s just funny. It sounds funny.

ALEXIS: But the interesting part is that it’s in different platforms as well, because you even had localization in Game Boy. So that was a lot. But you have to remember to “flash the toilet.”

LARA: “Flash.” Do you wanna take a picture, Ale?

ALEXIS: You don’t flush the toilet, you flash it.

LARA: Like when you’re playing Counter-Strike and you throw a flash to blind the enemy.

ALEXIS: Fire in the hole!

LARA: Blind the toilet. Come on. It’s so good.

MELISA: Amazing.

LARA: Yeah. Then we have this example that says… There’s a soldier speaking, and he says, “That’s what you say, but evil is good. Evil is the job.”

ALEXIS: “Evil is the job.” You had one job…

LARA: You had one job, and it’s evil? Oh, my God.

MELISA: It’s so profound. It sounds very like…

ALEXIS: It’s so profound?

MELISA: Exactly. Like, you know, “Evil is the job.”

ALEXIS: Maybe they were trying to convey something.

MELISA: The meaning of life is evil.

ALEXIS: The other one was the culture, “of our culture.” Now “evil is the job.”

LARA: “Evil is the job.” I don’t know, maybe, like, some kind of super-villain came out of this, just like, “Oh, my God, yeah, evil is the job. Yeah, I get it.”

ALEXIS: And then we have a classic, right?

MELISA: Yes. This one is also a classic. “All your base are belong to us.” This is also, I think… Yeah.

LARA: Everyone knows.

ALEXIS: Everyone knows about this one.

MELISA: Yeah. And… I think we’re ready to move on.

ALEXIS: The 80’s, as we said, it started, but it was mostly seen properly done, professionally done in, like you said, manuals or things that weren’t in-game content.

LARA: Yeah, because I believe the thing with this kind of examples that we have, we don’t know what kind of technology they used. We don’t know if they even had the technology…

ALEXIS: If any. Right.

LARA: Yeah. So maybe it was like a huge lack of context. Maybe they were not professionals. Maybe they just knew a few words in the other language. So it’s just like, I believe there are many factors that are involved in these attempts to localize a game. You can understand the meaning… the meaning…

MELISA: Sometimes.

LARA: Sometimes.

ALEXIS: We left out quite a few. When we were doing the research for this episode, we left out quite a few.

LARA: Because there were some… Some ones that we couldn’t show on screen.

MELISA: Yes. Definitely.

ALEXIS: Too painful and too… And not appropriate.

MELISA: Not appropriate.

LARA: Yeah. Yeah.

MELISA: Absolutely. But I think, I mean, it’s good… Of course, we’ve learned from this, like, it has that positive side of, like, you know, you can’t just have a random person that knows a little of a language have your game localized.

ALEXIS: “You speak English? Help me translate this.” This happens nowadays. This still happens, but we know better now.

MELISA: Yes, exactly. We know better now.

LARA: Absolutely. Then we have the 90’s. I mean, we have, like, the demand grows, we have a more sort of like a professional…

ALEXIS: More consoles.

LARA: Yeah, more consoles, the industry is growing, everything is going massive, worldwide. But we still have some funny examples for you.

ALEXIS: Particularly memorable ones, because voiceover was installed, too.

MELISA: Exactly, yeah. That’s a really good point. I think it wasn’t like… You know, it was needed, like, it was needed the localization, but it wasn’t as professionalized yet.

ALEXIS: No, but the notion of that immersive experience and that the voices needed to accompany what you were reading started to appear. Like in this first example. Everyone who grew up in the 90’s knows X-Men. The X-Men was massive. The theme song, everything. The arcades were growing. So we have an example here, it’s a small clip of the X-Men arcade game.

MELISA: We can play it now.


MAGNETO: Ha, ha, ha, ha! X-Men, welcome to die!

LARA: It’s just like, such a complex character saying something like, “X-Men, welcome to die!” It’s just like, oh, my God!

ALEXIS: That’s a weird way of naming a waterfall, because he’s in a waterfall.

MELISA: Even the setting. Everything’s just makes it hilarious.

LARA: Everything is so confusing, like… “Okay.”

ALEXIS: Memorable for the wrong reasons.

LARA: “Thank you for welcoming me.”

MELISA: To die.

LARA: Yeah, absolutely.

ALEXIS: So the next example that we have is from Dragon Master from 94. When you lose, Gloria just flat-out says that “You are a sucking baby.”

MELISA: There you go!

LARA: “You’re a sucking baby.”

ALEXIS: ““You’re a sucking baby for losing.” Hey, maybe they tried to bleep… the word?

LARA: To make it more accessible to all ages? But it’s just so funny.

MELISA: It’s very appropriate, like, bad words.

LARA: Appropriate for ages, but… No?

ALEXIS: “It’s okay, you don’t get a mature rating, but are you doing it right, buddy?”

MELISA: “Is that something people say?”

ALEXIS: “Gloria, are you okay?”

LARA: Yeah. “Do you wanna talk about it, Gloria?”

MELISA: Oh, this one, I just love it.

LARA: Please, please read it.

MELISA: “What did I had done!” “What did I had done.”

ALEXIS: So, let’s spell this one out for those that are listening to the podcast. “What did I had done.”

LARA: “What did I had done.” And the game is Eight Forces from 94.

ALEXIS: Yeah, it’s an arcade game.

MELISA: It’s an arcade game. Yeah. I wonder if, like, arcade games just have a bit more, I don’t know, like…

ALEXIS: But in the 90’s, the arcades grew. I mean, we grew up with arcade games. We played more in arcades than in our homes, right?

MELISA: Absolutely, yeah.

ALEXIS: Maybe that’s why they were like, “Hey, we need to ship these games to overseas. Translate them somehow.”

MELISA: Yeah, to the arcades in Argentina.

ALEXIS: “What did I had done?”

LARA: The funny thing is that it was more accessible for everyone to get it at the arcade because everyone could play it.

ALEXIS: Just get a couple of chips and go play.

LARA: And you get it. Yeah. So it’s just like, there was this massive need for video games, and they tried to mass produce these kinds of translations. That’s the problem because I don’t think it was something that was well-thought.

MELISA: Yeah, no, definitely. Definitely, it wasn’t on their plans. We get that. Yeah, absolutely. But, Lari, you have to read this one.

LARA: Oh, my God, this one’s my favorite.

ALEXIS: Yeah, you go with this one.

LARA: Yeah. The game is called Touhou Reiiden. I don’t know even the name of the game.

ALEXIS: The Highly Responsive to Prayers.

LARA: The Highly Responsive to Prayers, yes. From 1996. Instead of “hurry,” because you have to hurry.

ALEXIS: Hurry up.

LARA: It says “harry.” Like, are you talking about, like, Harry Potter? Harry Styles? What Harry areyou talking about?

MELISA: Who’s Harry? We wanna know.

ALEXIS: And what it shows on the screen is an intense moment, that you surely need to hurry, and it just says “Harry.” It’s like…

LARA: Is Voldemort back? Um… What do you mean?

MELISA: Harry, please, we need you. Whoever you are, come to our rescue.

ALEXIS: Harry, come sing. I don’t know.

MELISA: Yeah. Then, we move to another moment in history on our time machine.

ALEXIS: In our time machine, to the 2000’s, right? So the localization has kind of established at this point, right? The localizators had tools, right? There were technological improvements made, like, I don’t know, Monkey Island or Baldur’s Gate. This was when the publishers truly realized that they needed to take localization seriously when they wanted to simship their game, which is basically releasing the game worldwide at the same time. They didn’t… they couldn’t patch it up anymore.

MELISA: Absolutely. Yeah.

ALEXIS: But we still have some very good examples of how the dubbing was wrong, when…

MELISA: Yeah, especially at the beginning of the 2000’s.

LARA: Yeah, because, I mean, we know, like, in the early 2000’s, we’re coming from the 90’s and these “harry up” moments. Harry! Are you there, Harry? But…

MELISA: Yeah. We have that example from the 2000’s… Oh, it’s this one. Which is also really funny.

LARA: Yeah, it’s so good.

MELISA: “What a polite young man she was!”

LARA: “What a polite young man she was.” Aha. It’s inclusive!

ALEXIS: It’s inclusive. They were ahead of their time.

LARA: Yeah, but this is showing one of the biggest problems they had in the 2000’s, right? The lack of context, the lack of materials, the lack of…

ALEXIS: Tools given to the translators.

LARA: Yeah, the lack of tools, the lack of opportunities for these poor translators that had to do this job, to be honest with you, because can you imagine being in that situation? You don’t actually know the gender of the person that is speaking. Maybe nowadays, with all this experience from the past, I think that’s so valuable, you know? We can see how much everything has improved, how much you can take the gender out of that sentence, right?

ALEXIS: Yeah. Yeah.

LARA: But yeah, I mean…

MELISA: I think you traveled too far in time. We’re not there yet, Lali.

LARA: I know, I know.

MELISA: No, I’m just kidding.

LARA: It’s just like, yeah, but it’s funny to see these kinds of things because it’s so good to see how we can learn from our mistakes. And yeah, nowadays, something that might have seemed like a real huge problem, we can laugh at it and have a really good time and learn from it and be like, yeah, this was good and this helped us to get here.

ALEXIS: To get where we are. I mean, it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t something that happened… day to night.

MELISA: Overnight.

ALEXIS: Overnight. Thank you. But, I mean, we can laugh at the things that went wrong, and we learn from it. That way also it’s the same, right? Content is king, right? But context is the queen. I mean, you need to have context for translators to work, and professional translators to do the job.

LARA: Yeah, and that’s why sometimes it breaks me a little bit because, with everything that localization has come through, I still sometimes sit myself to play a video game and I still find translation mistakes. And it’s just like, we should be so over this. And it breaks my heart.

ALEXIS: And not only in indie games, in triple A games as well.

LARA: Yeah. Yeah.

MELISA: And just thinking also, like, localization as part of the process, like you were saying some minutes ago. Just know that, if you plan ahead, it’s gonna be easier, it’s just gonna be better.

LARA: It’s going to be faster, it’s going to be natural for the translators that are working on your game. Everything’s going to run smoothly, and I think that’s what you want.

MELISA: Yeah, especially like, you know, because the idea is that you can, you know, have your game played everywhere and that, you know, it has the same impact it has in the original language. And that’s, you know… I think we have the tools nowadays to make that happen.

ALEXIS: It’s comforting to know that, I mean, localization started as a patch, to some extent, you know? To solve a problem, right? Then, as an afterthought. But now we have workflows, we have ways to integrate everything from the get-go.

LARA: Yeah, because I think they realized somehow, in this timeline, that there was a huge need for video games localized in the entire world, not in just these specific countries, you know?

MELISA: Yes, as a business opportunity, you know? It’s just like, you’re gonna be a lot more successful.

LARA: Yeah. So that’s why I think, like, they realized this, and it grew and it’s trying to get better. And I wish someday, like, the localization part, I wish to see more translators in credits, too. I would love that.

ALEXIS: That’s the current issue. Yeah.

LARA: I wish to get localization included in the video game-making process, because it’s so important. And the translators’ job shouldn’t go away.

MELISA: Of course. It’s part of that visibility that we want to support in our industry, you know, and how important it is to have specialized translators in video games.

LARA: And make their work credit, like…

MELISA: Absolutely, yeah.

LARA: You want to know that person that worked on that game because…

MELISA: It’s very valuable.

ALEXIS: It’s a part of the game’s development as well, especially with games having… I mean, they are as complex as movies or even more, so it’s like, you have people working to make the game as you intended it to be in the language of the developer, to be the same experience in every language.

MELISA: It’s an art.

ALEXIS: It’s an art. So the fact that translators are not credited is a shame. But we are in 2023, the discussion is out there, publishers are making changes. Hopefully, hopefully, this won’t be a topic to discuss in the near future.

LARA: Can we make an award for the best localized video game? So maybe they will encourage this.

ALEXIS: Geoff Keighley, we’re talking to you. Game Awards 2023. Best localized video game.

MELISA: It would be nice if our time machine would let us go to the future and see if this is not an issue anymore.

LARA: Oh, my God, I know. Let’s meet here in ten years.

ALEXIS: I don’t have more. But, I mean, in that spirit, I believe that that’s it for our episode today. We’ve come a long way, there’s still room for improvement.

LARA: Room for visibilization too.

MELISA: Absolutely, yeah.

ALEXIS: I’m guessing that, before 2025 —I want to be optimistic— we might get that.

LARA: Yeah.

ALEXIS: Someone has to tag Geoff Keighley to…

LARA: Hey, and if you know some funny translations that we didn’t add to this episode, please leave a comment.

ALEXIS: We want to watch them.

MELISA: We have so much fun seeing these.

LARA: Yeah, we wanna laugh.


LARA: We also have a Discord channel, you can send them there, that is full of localizers and translators that might wanna laugh, too.

ALEXIS: We had a channel especially made for memes, so you can just share them there. Tag us, we wanna laugh with you.

LARA: You can find the link down below. Please.

ALEXIS: That’s it for today’s episode. Thank you, guys. Thank you, everyone. See you in the next episode.

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