5 Best Practices for Effective Game Localization

Lucy Xu
August 14, 2018
5 min read

The golden rule of any game localization effort is to make sure you not only translate text, but localize it. This means properly and fully adapting your game for the new market and culture into which you are expanding. It may seem fairly straightforward, but achieving a fully adapted game that takes into account culturalization and other local factors will required dedicated effort and resources.

If you are managing the game localization process, there are a few fundamental resources that you can equip your translators with to help them better understand the game’s story and characters and ensure the success of your game localization projects. Below, we break down a few of the ways you can equip your translation team with everything they need to create the best adapted and translated content for your target audiences.

This post is part of the #gamelocalization series, built to equip everyone in your gaming localization process – from game developers to localization managers – with the knowledge and resources necessary for driving game localization success.

1. Establish a Pre-Flight Stage

To make sure you start your game localization journey off on the right foot, make sure to build in a pre-flight stage into your localization process if you haven’t already. The aim of the pre-flighting phase, specifically as it relates to game localization, is to create a mutual understanding of your game and vision, to ensure that you and your translators are on the same page. During this stage, it is important to make sure you familiarize your translators with your game content. With a strong understanding of your game’s elements and voice, translators will be able to best adapt your game in a way that best fits the respective culture while making sure your overall brand stays in tact.

2. Create a Style Guide

A style guide is a referential framework for understanding how the game’s content is presented. This will be the skeleton for your translator to refer to. With a detailed and well-thought-out style guide, a translator will be able to adapt the game’s content into the local culture while still staying true to the source game’s story and tone. When creating your style guide, you should provide detailed context for the following (to leave little room for guessing and variation):

  • Brand Elements: The identity and tone of your game (e.g., formal or informal tones).
  • Linguistics: The style and structure of your game language (e.g., the use of third- or second-person in dialogue).
  • Formatting and Grammar: The more meticulous (e.g., use of parentheses, exclamation points), the better. 

3. Build a Glossary

Regardless of whether or not you are localizing, a glossary is a standard requirement for games to ensure consistency across development and gamer teams. Here are two tips for creating a strong and effective glossary:

  • Keep it simple: Only include the terms that are specific to your game. To ensure consistency, which is extremely important in gameplay, you should make sure every game-specific term is translated in the same way.
  • Provide context: In addition to a simple definition, you’ll want to provide context for all terms in the glossary. Context can come in the form of further verbal description, visual context, sample translations, or screenshots.

4. Account for Culturalization

Culturalization is a crucial part of any localization effort. Things to consider in the realm of culturalization are: historical accuracy, religions and belief systems, ethnicity and cultural frictions, and geopolitical issues. Adapting your game for different cultures doesn’t mean massive changes and rethinking the entire game. Your approach to culturalization should be precise. For example, if your game is centered around farm animals and you are planning to send your game to India, you will want to think carefully about any interactions in the game regarding cows. Only change what really needs to be changed in order to ensure that distribution of the game to a global market will be well received. In the majority of cases with cultural issues, the resolution is a small fix (like a specific word, character, symbol, or design).  

5. Provide Context and More Context

Aside from style guides and glossaries, also make sure to include additional context such as game instructions, screenshots, and sample scenarios. Screenshots are especially helpful to translators because they provide visual context to how their translated content will be displayed (e.g., if the text is dialogue or an error message). The more context you provide your translators, the more precise and on-brand your translations will be.

Explore the Full #GameLocalization Series

This post is part of the #gamelocalization series, built to equip everyone in your gaming localization process – from game developers to localization managers – with the knowledge and resources necessary for driving game localization success.

Explore the full #gamelocalization series to catch up on other posts and get more insights into game localization:

Everything You Need to Know About Game Localization

Bottom line, with the proliferation of mobile devices and spread of gaming systems across the world, video game localization is more important than ever if you want to succeed. In our latest gaming guide — A Quick Guide to Localizing Games for Global Markets — we answer the most common and fundamental questions that game developers and localization manager ask when translating their game for international markets.

Download the guide to better understand:

Download the game localization guide today, to learn how you can start adapting your game for users worldwide.

A Quick Guide to Localizing Video Games for Global Markets

Lucy Xu
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