THE IMPERATIVE OF CULTURISATION IN LOCALISING GAMES

There’s never a question about the localisation of games, given the global nature of the games industry in 2023. But culturisation is now playing an increasingly pivotal role, ensuring that games are not just understood, but also culturally resonant in their target markets. It’s a topic that continues to be discussed, and quite rightly so. Here, Jouhaina Ramy, LQA Manager at our Corporate Ambassador Testronic, does just that…

Understanding Culturisation in Gaming
Culturisation goes beyond the mere linguistic aspect of localisation to encapsulate the cultural nuances, norms, taboos, and customs of the target audience. It considers the historical, social, political, and religious aspects of the game’s content and its potential reception in the target market. Neglecting this critical step could lead to cultural offences, boycotts, or market withdrawals, potentially causing significant financial loss and tarnishing brand reputation.

Why Culturisation Matters
It’s no secret that games that reflect local cultures not only sell better but also foster deeper engagement among players. The strategy of ‘Think Global, Act Local’ has never been more relevant. Notably, among the highest-grossing video games, many have done exceptionally well because they speak the ‘cultural language’ of the players. Games like Overwatch and League of Legends have character designs and storylines that resonate with diverse global audiences, contributing to their success.

Focus Countries and Territories
Culturisation necessitates deep understanding and nuanced changes for all localisation efforts, but there are certain regions that require a more intensive lens due to their geopolitical, historical, political, and societal complexities:

  • China: Boasting a vast gaming population, China’s market cannot be overlooked. However, its geopolitical environment, characterised by stringent regulations on content—ranging from restrictions on violence and depictions of death, to superstitions—requires a thorough understanding. Moreover, the socio-political dynamics, history of state-controlled media, and societal norms also play a crucial role in influencing these regulations. Navigating this territory, while respecting its unique cultural landscape, is vital for successful culturisation.
  • Middle East/North Africa (MENA): This region, rich in cultural diversity and intricate historical narratives, calls for thoughtful culturisation. Political dynamics can be tense and complex, heavily influenced by religion. Therefore, any content that could be perceived as offensive to Islamic culture, or that conflicts with local norms, should be avoided. Also, societal values vary across different territories, adding another layer of complexity to the culturisation process.
  • Japan: Japan is renowned for its unique gaming culture and community, heavily influenced by its rich history and unique societal norms. Here, geopolitical considerations include a strong sense of national identity and the influence of traditional structures in contemporary society. High-context cultural references, deeply rooted in Japanese aesthetics, narratives, and humour, are highly valued. Understanding these aspects, along with the country’s historical context and contemporary societal influences, can significantly impact a game’s acceptance and success.

Key Tips

  1. Engage Local Experts Early On: Leverage local cultural consultants, linguists, and regional game experts, or work with a vendor like Testronic which can do this for you. These professionals can guide you in understanding the nuances of the target culture, saving you from costly mistakes down the line.
  2. Consider Cultural Elements in Design: This includes art, character design, gameplay mechanics, and even music. Each element can contribute to making your game more relatable to your target audience.
  3. Inclusive Testing: Include testers from your target audience in the testing process. Their feedback will be invaluable in determining whether your game strikes the right cultural tone.
  4. Continuous Learning: Culture is dynamic. Continuous learning and adaptation will ensure your games remain relevant as societal norms and values shift over time.
  5. Respect: Above all, remember that respect for all cultures is paramount. Culturisation should not result in stereotypes or caricatures, but in an authentic representation that resonates with your audience.

In our interconnected world, games are an influential form of cultural exchange. As such, the role of culturisation in game localisation is pivotal for global success. Approaching it with diligence, respect, and sensitivity can significantly increase your game’s market acceptance, player engagement, and ultimately, its global success. Ignoring it could be a costly mistake.