- Language Tips
Western gamers have become Chinese video game developers' new target audience. Provided to China Daily
Chinese-made video games are moving into international markets and 'Westernizing' to appeal to a wider audience. Eric Jou reports.
Holy Chinese paladin swordsmen, shiny dragons and flying monks - all staples of Chinese online games - are getting new life as Chinese video games move out of the Middle Kingdom and into the wider world.
The move into international markets is giving Western players such as Brian Cohen a chance to join the massive world of Chinese games.
Cohen, from the United States and a game developer himself, says he plays lots of video games but he did not have the chance to play a Chinese-made game until recently. He is now working his way through the multi-player online role playing game Age of Wushu.
Before playing the Chinese game Cohen, like many people in the West, had the common misconception that Chinese games are terrible. However, after playing Age of Wushu, Cohen was hooked.
"After playing Age of Wushu my preconceived notions were blown away," Cohen says. "I would definitely be willing to try other Chinese-made games."
China's domestic online video gaming market reached record highs in 2012, earning $9.7 billion in revenue according to a report published by the Chinese Video Game Industry. That's a 35.1 percent increase from 2011.
While the domestic market is still growing and is expected to reach even higher levels of revenue, Chinese companies are looking to expand their audience by bringing the same games that the Chinese enjoy to the wider world. They are doing this in the same way Chinese movies were brought to the West - localization and translation.
Localization is the process of taking a work, be it film, book or video game, and translating it in a way that makes sense for a region.
"Any good localization or translation in general has to be smooth in the country it's in, the exception would be something that was meant or intended to be bizarre or weird," says Joshua Dyer, a translator who specializes in localization in China. "Most of the time, you don't want any barrier to play."
Dyer, from the US, has been working in the Chinese game industry since early 2009. He says his job is primarily translation, translating the Chinese in domestically created games into English.
Over the course of the last four years Dyer has seen an increase in the number of Chinese developed online video games heading out West. According to Dyer, the majority of the games he's seen "leaving" China are massively multi-player online role playing games and simulation type games. Dyer says Chinese developers are aiming to bring in more players and extend their reach.
Chen Di, head of overseas business at Longtu Games says the West is the new "gold mine" for Chinese developers. Chen says that despite the growth in the Chinese industry, competition has gotten very steep. According to a list compiled by Tencent's QQ games news portal, the top 10 online games in China are all games that have been around for at least four years.
"In order to survive in this environment, Chinese developers quickly find their way to the markets outside of China," Chen says. "Of course, English speaking countries have high potential for this business, the people there are highly educated and able to pay (for services)."
Chen's company has not yet moved outside of China, however, he says that their new game, an online first person shooter, is aimed at a global audience. Chen says people in the West already have some exposure to Chinese culture, from Bruce Lee and Chinese food to Kung Fu Panda.
David Lakritz, CEO of Language Automation Inc, a game localization and translation company, says Western gamers are definitely ready for Chinese games.
"Broadly speaking, there is nothing fundamentally different about a Western audience that makes it unreceptive to Chinese culture," Lakritz says. "On the contrary, there have been many examples in other media of Chinese culture being well received by Western audiences. For example, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Jet Li and Jackie Chan films, etc."
Lakritz says the reason there have not been any video games included in the list of media already accepted in Western culture is the lack of quality localization of Chinese games.
"Imagine what would happen if movie-goers walked into theaters to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and heard a soundtrack and dialogue that were totally incomprehensible - something more akin to jabberwocky than to English. People would storm out of the theater and demand their money back," Lakritz says. "Yet, in the world of gaming this level of localization is somehow considered acceptable."
While weak translations have marred the spread of Chinese games in the past, it seems more Chinese companies are learning from their mistakes, hiring translators and companies to do a proper job.
Chinese games tend to fall under genres such as martial arts fantasies, says Chen. Chinese companies can create Western-style games but it's not their forte, so localization is needed to make the Chinese styled game more appealing to Westerners.
The inclusion of cultural references and jokes that foreigners understand comes in at this point. Dyer says that literal translations of Chinese games can create issues for the players.
"Chinese games tend to be a little more romantic and poetic. You can run into a character and he'll recite poetry, 'Peach blossoms flutter to the ground in a spring breeze' It will make no sense to an American player," Dyer says. "You want a little of the references to Chinese history and culture, but you want to spice it up."
Dyer says that little nuances and in-jokes for players are able to help gamers connect with the game.
"American gamers are quick to judge and even quicker to point out mistakes," Cohen says. "Developers who are interested in localization into English should take the time and spend the extra money to get it right the first time."
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(China Daily 04/22/2013 page22)