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ASK Wheels
Wheels vs. The Toxic Avenger
  October 14th, 2013

10/14- 7:00PM EST

Welcome to another episode of Q&A! I apologize for this delayed episode. A trip to Comic Con New York and a busy weekend prevented me from getting this up on Friday, despite it being on the shorter side. As we burn through a fall filled with games, a goodly number of RPGs have recently come out, and one of them seems to be about some kind of monster collecting.

With that said, let's get right to it!





The Letters
Lost in Translation

Dear Wheels,

Going back through my stock of old games (and playing the Ghostlight version of the first Agarest) I found myself reflecting on the nature of translations when it comes to entertainment material. 


Wheels

  A fine discussion, so let's get to it!

Generally speaking, the J-gamer community is split among three types, the purists, the pro-Americanization types, and the 'please just bring it over here, we won't be picky' types.   The purists want translations that are as literal as possible, as well as the Japanese voices.  The pro-Americanization ones want their English dubs, as well as a text that uses easily-understood English (usually fifth-grade English).  Last of all, the not-so-picky types just want the games to come over, in a language they can understand.  They might very well prefer Japanese voices, but their focus is on getting the games over here, more than anything else (this is the largest group, needless to say). 


Wheels

I think you're mislabeling those who want good localizations a bit. The point isn't easily understood English, it's a game with language, names, and cultural references that are understandable to a Western audience. I would say this group is actually the largest, as there are many gamers who don't follow the Japanese gaming scene closely and aren't away of what games are or aren't making their way over. Among the vocal groups the "just bring it over" crowd is surely the largest, but we can't forget gamers that just want things to be palatable and aren't concerned with the localization process. We may, for example, be happy that Arc Rise Fantasia made it to the West at all but your average gamer just picking a rare RPG for the Wii is not going to be pleased.

Originally, I was a purist, thinking that literal translations and Japanese voices were the only way to go.  However, as I myself became a translator, I began to realize how difficult that could be.  For one thing, Japanese just doesn't translate directly into English in a lot of cases.  Language is shaped by culture, and Japanese culture differs from ours on so many fundamental levels (despite superficial similarities brought on by modernization and the trend toward Westernization) that there is very little common ground to work with. 


Wheels

I think culture is the more important issue here, not just certain words that don't translate. Like you said, the two often go hand in hand, but sometimes they don't for thing like humor. I think one of the best examples is the characters Flea and Slash from Chrono Trigger. I guess in Japan their names were food references, the humor of which doesn't exactly translate. Granted you could probably find a better choice of names than Flea and Slash, but they work. I think purists sometimes forget that these games need to be localized for an audience with not much knowledge of Japanese culture, and not everyone is as in tune to those things as they are.

That said, my pet peeve is translations that needlessly change the meaning of lines, even when they do have a direct counterpart in English that makes perfect sense and doesn't sound awkward in the context.  This, I think, is the biggest problem with game translations.  Expecting a perfect translation of a statement that contains concepts that an English-as-a-first-language individual simply can't fully comprehend is unreasonable, so I've more or less given up on nitpicking there.  However, when I see someone mistranslating unambiguous words like numbers, greetings, and action words, I can't help but feel exasperated.   After all, these are all things that could be picked up by just using an electronic dictionary for individual words, not requiring any advanced knowledge beyond the grammar (if you don't know the grammar, what are you doing trying to translate in the first place?). 


Wheels

Do you have any examples of this? Not knowing Japanese I wouldn't know of any. I can think of one good example for wording that wasn't changed and should have been. Disgaea 4 used the word tsundre on multiple occasions without any real explanation of what it means, I guess assuming the audience was nothing but anime junkies. It drove me nuts! Getting back to your point; localizations are often done on unrealistic time frames with small budgets so I think it'd be safe to chalk some of these up to mistakes during the process. I mean I can't imagine why else it would be done, right?

Incidentally, since I import most of my games these days, it is rare for me to play a translated game these days (due to my obsessive importing); I'd almost forgotten how bad it could be, until I started playing the Steam version of Agarest.  As a gamer who plays Jrpgs, what do you think of translation and localization as an art?  Do you feel frustrated when you come across ridiculous statements that obviously have nothing to do with what was really said and make no sense in the English context, much less the Japanese?  Or are you just thankful to have an opportunity to play the game in your own language?

Sincerely,
Travis Lucius


Wheels

Mostly I'm thankful to get the game in my own language since I don't know any Japanese. I think localization has greatly improved as time has gone by and it has moved away from being such direct translations. There's always some frustrations that pop up every now and then, but on the whole I think the industry and fan translators alike have improved dramatically. Localization can be a difficult art, and finding the right balance between change and being pure to the source is difficult. Do you leave in honorifics because the game takes place in Japan despite the difficulty it may present gamers? Does a joke about popular types of movies in Japan translate at all? I don't envy anyone doing the job.

Also game developers themselves have done a much better job of preparing their games with localization in mind. Look how well Atlus has not only drastically increased their localization time, but also made popular games that seemingly had no chance in the West in the past. There are exceptions, but on the whole we are largely past many of the horrors localization used to face.

Sounds like you've got a good handle on things, I'd be happy to hear more of your thoughts.

What the?

BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels

WHY DOESN'T ANYONE BELIEVE IN MY CANADIAN GIRLFRIEND WHO IS SUPER HOT AND SUPER REAL?

THIS IS A REAL QUESTION


Wheels

Because you have created a fake twitter account for her obviously.

BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels
GHOSTS STOLE MY GAMEBOY AND ARE FLOATING AROUND IN THE CEILING PLAYING #TETRIS AND RUNNING DOWN MY BATTERY


Wheels

Man, have you used a Game Boy before? Those things can run on batteries for weeks. You won't have anything to worry about for awhile.

BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels
HOW MUCH #SWAG DO YOU HAVE?







TRICK QUESTION IT'S NOT ENOUGH
IT'S NEVER ENOUGH


Wheels

There can never be enough swag, but I think this Monster Hunter lanyard I got at PAX East is pretty rad.

BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels

OH MY GOD DID YOU SEE THAT DEER

THAT DEER WAS NUTS, ALL WALKING AROUND LIKE A MAN AND CAREFULLY POLISHING HIS MACHETE


Wheels

DUDE, he could be listening, what are you even thinking?!?!!?!?!? Use your inside voice! If you're going to talk this loud just don't use the word venison. OH GOD I SAID IT.

BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels,
WHY DO THEY HAVE YOU REVIEWING GROSS GAMES LIKE THAT?
I THOUGHT THESE GUYS LIKED YOU.


Wheels

Are you talking about Disgaea D2? I liked that game, as the review should clearly show.

falselogic: @BEAT_TWITTAR @AskWheels He asked to review it! Wheels hates himself and everything he has become!


Wheels

Well it's a volunteer site, so technically I ask to write anything. If I hated myself, I'd review Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days a bunch of times. Don't make me do that.

BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels,
IS @falselogic SPEAKING THE TRUTH? BE HONEST I PROMISE I WON'T BE MAD


Wheels

You're actually asking me if someone whose name contains the word "false" is speaking the truth?

BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels,
TOO LATE I'M ALREADY MAD


BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels,

THING ABOUT BEAT IS

BEAT
LIES

ALSO THESE ARE ALL REAL QUESTIONS FOR YOUR COLUMN
EVERYTHING WITH "DEAR @AskWheels" IS



Wheels

This call may be monitored for training and quality assurance purposes.

BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels
I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO
MY FAKE INTERNET SON @AskWheels IS OUT OF CONTROL. @falselogic AND I ARE RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS...


Wheels

I can't hear you!


falselogic: @BEAT_TWITTAR I think @AskWheels is doing drugs! I found these little paper tubes full of colored powder under his bed?! What do we do! ?


Wheels

Pixie sticks man, pixie sticks.

BEAT_TWITTAR: ... IS IT TOO LATE TO CONSIDER MILITARY SCHOOL?
@falselogic IS ALL WORRIED BUT I THINK SOME DISCIPLINE MIGHT BE JUST WHAT @AskWheels NEEDS


Wheels

Well I guess that could be OK...


BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels
HAVE YOU SEEN THE YELLOW SIGN?


Wheels

Why should I worry? Why should I care?


BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels
WHAT'S A MOB TO A KING?
WHAT'S A KING TO A GOD?
WHAT'S A GOD TO A NONBELIEVER WHO DON'T BELIEVE IN ANYTHING?


Wheels



BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels
WHY DOES A FLY HAVE TO FIGHT THE UNIVERSE?
WHY DOES A DANDELION HAVE TO FIGHT THE UNIVERSE?


Wheels

Why is the rum gone?


BEAT_TWITTAR: TO SUDDENLY SEE THE GREAT FACE OF @AskWheels WHICH WORE A STRANGE SMILE
"HAVE YOU" HE CRIED IN A DREADFUL VOICE, "HAVE YOU EVER SUFFERED?"


Wheels

Yes, before I became a prince.


BEAT_TWITTAR: DEAR @AskWheels
CREATE AN ARGUMENT FOR OR AGAINST LEGALIZATION OF DRUGS BASED ON THE FOLLOWING QUOTE
"@SnoopDogg: weed."
CITE ALL SOURCES


Wheels

I only need one argument...



BOOM.
IN CLOSING

See you all next week!

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