A Thought On Localization and Censorship

現地語化と検閲の一言

Funny how my last post was about inaction. And here I am, a week late. But at last some action came together, for this collection of words is now a thing!

Regardless of what circles you happen to be in, most people agree that censorship is a bad thing. The idea that conversation can be halted because some party doesn’t like what the other is saying. And for those involved in video games, the topic of censorship seems to come up every day.

But I’m going to make a simple point that is worth thinking about:

All localization is censorship.

It can’t be helped. This isn’t just about how some words and phrases can’t be translated directly. It’s about how the act of localization is entirely about making sure something from a different culture and cultural biases fits into your culture and cultural biases.

People say things like, “but they’re removing something from the original,” even when the original creator approved the change. And yet, that statement will always be true. Once you take out all of the original language, the game is no longer going to bring the exact same message.

Ironically, for those who don’t speak Japanese and don’t deeply understand Japanese culture, playing a game in Japanese without some of these understandings can lead to a experience the developer didn’t intend. The developer wants you to play and understand the game. By going through with a localization, you’re getting closer to the heart of the experience than by playing the original. Even if you don’t pick up all the references and allusions in Okami or Persona.

You might say: I’m fine with the localization if they’re just changing the words. I don’t want them to change the images. I don’t want them to remove features and activities and scenes altogether. And that’s fair, in a sense. I would love to have the option to buy the game legitimately outside Japan with as few changes as possible. But in most cases, it doesn’t make business sense.

So, my recommendation: come to Japan, learn Japanese, delve into Japanese culture, and play the game as it was intended to be played. It’s a little legwork, but if you really care about experiencing the original, that’s what it takes. Otherwise, are you really respecting the original?

Working on Vacation

I have a trip scheduled with some friends to go to the Yuki Matsuri in Hokkaido this week. It’s a yearly trip and I’ve never backed down. The trip runs from today until next Wednesday the 10th. I’m excited to go, but, with the game deadline approaching, a little nervous.

After all, 5 days away from the game, while potentially meditative, is a huge chunk of time to not be doing anything with. But should I bring my computer with me?

When I was young, my father would often come with his computer on vacations. I guess he does it even now. There was always a little dismay in the family at the fact that he was working instead of “spending time with the family”. I don’t really care now, but those thoughts have infiltrated my brain.

“Working while on vacation is bad,” they say. “Don’t waste your vacation time!” “Spend time with the people around you while you have the chance.” “Make memories.” “Live a little.”

And I don’t plan to use my computer much. But, if I have 5 minutes to spare, and I could be using it to make something, shouldn’t I? Especially with less than a month left to make things.

After all, this is my 3rd Yuki Matsuri. It’s not like I haven’t seen it all before.

I’ve been working at a breakneck speed recently, finally catching up to my schedule and attempting to surpass it. But 5 days off is a near death sentence. Steady wins the race. Thankfully, next Thursday is a holiday, so I’ll have that whole day. And yet, it’s little compensation.

I’m getting close to the end. But with each day comes a little more stress. Internal talks about what is important.

Monday night was a big milestone. Half of the students are in the game. 18 more to go. I mean, now, on Friday, only 13 left. Next milestone: Current section of the game complete. I set the finish date for the 10th, but it’s looking tough. Possible though. Then, main story complete by the 20th. Then, all the students in the game by the 25th. That will be enough to let friends test it. Then, all the side areas and bug testing done by the 1st. Then…

All I can think about is this game. Is it even possible to go to the Yuki Matsuri without thinking about the game?

I guess I’ll bring it. If only for the peace of mind. Work for 10 minutes will let me enjoy the rest of the day. Steady. Bit-by-bit.

 

And hey, having a whole group of potential testers to rope in isn’t a bad idea. I always learn a crazy amount watching someone play.

A Sign of Good Friendship

A friend recently flew up to my place from western Japan to come snowboarding for the week. I’d agreed to it when I thought I had a lot more time to work on the game. As the final stretch approaches, I realize that perhaps I was naive. But, so be it. This weekend will be a good time to relax and get some needed sleep.

The same friend was looking to come up one more time for some more snowboarding and we were trying to decide when a good day is. Most of his good weekends were busy for me and vice versa. There was one particularly free spot: the weekend of February 27-28.

My final stretch period.

He asked why that weekend was bad. I explained that I had to work on my project. I was preparing myself to hold my ground if pushed, to not budge on that weekend even if it was the only one left of the season. I was happy to find that he didn’t push, and we found a good, if expensive, weekend in late March.

One sign of good friends: They understand when you say no. They understand when something that is important to you isn’t worth missing.

It was a relief to find I didn’t have to defend myself. But maybe it says more about my trust in friends that I worried he would push. In any case, it was a good start to this relaxing, snowboarding weekend.