Importance of Localization and Culturalization in Gaming


What is a perfect game? We suppose there might be quite a number opinions on that. In any case, however, a perfect game is a game developed in the language the player understands, ideally in the player’s mother tongue, and the one reflecting the culture that is close to the heart of the player.

Our very own Localisation Manager Abdulrahman has a vast experience in localisation and culturalization of games. 

He started his career in gaming industry early, as a result of his passion for cartoon movies and the animation industry and his interest in programming: video games were the link between these two worlds!

We asked Abdulrahman, what are the most essential hard and soft skills required for a Localization Manager role and if it is enough to speak a foreign language to become a Localization Manager. First of all, it must be emphasized that localization does not mean only translation! – says Abdulrahman. The fullest localization may include rewriting the story and names and rebuilding the characters, graphics, and the environment in proportion to the local culture of a country, taking into account the preservation of the entertainment identity of the game. This requires a high accuracy and dedication, defining to the slightest difference between negative stereotyping in cultures, as well as adjusting the focus to highlight the culture in an appropriate and real manner. All of the above is an addition to the ability to set budgets and a working plan, as well as soft managerial skills such as the ability to work with the developer, artist, writer, and translator and coordinate between them to achieve the vision of the fullest localization of a local-made game in a convincing form for the recipient.

Abdulrahman is convinced that localization has always been important in expanding the segment of the target groups. In the world of games, especially after the spread of smartphones, video games have become closer to everyone than ever before, all over the world including the farthest parts and closed cultures, which necessitated localization to achieve expansion and greater success.

Why are some game genres more prevalent in a certain culture?

Due to many factors, – says Abdulrahman, – butthe most impactful one is the difference in culture from the ground up, which largely reflects the religious dimension, myths, stories, the nature of geography and the environment in the place. For example, the exaggeration of the bright ornaments on golden armour in Chinese games: it is a reflection of the aesthetic and environmental diversity of the culture, as well as fashion and imagination of the region. The simplicity of an Arab desert fighter, who wears modestly decorated leather armour, actually reflects the simplicity of the colours and diversity of his desert environment closest to silence.

The biggest challenge that localization may face in general, is the lack of sufficient understanding of the culture which may lead to the reversal of a negative stereotype about a country or people in an attempt to market the game. Common stereotypes seen at various media sources, used as such in a game or another product, may create a crisis of trust between the player and the product, causing players to have a negative experience.

Considering your vast cross-cultural experience, what are the main challenges and mistakes of a localization/culturalization process?

The biggest challenge that localization may face in general is the lack of sufficient understanding of the local culture which may lead to the reversal of a negative stereotype about a country or people in an attempt to market the game someplace! If you associate a terrorist person with a black beard, for example, or if you imagine the personality of an Arab man as being extremely wealthy and immersed in pleasures! This link, maybe innocent at times and affected by the stereotype of the media, but it may create a crisis of trust between the player and the game developer and may cause players to leave the game or launch a counter-campaign.

Of course, we asked Abdulrahman our traditional question: what would be your advice to people pursuing a career in gaming?

Entering the game industry is fun, beautiful and diverse. Not everyone who works in the games industry has to specialize and study video game design! In any gaming company, you will find Marketing Department, Legal Department, Financial Department, HR Department.. but in general, it will require you to be close to the gaming world and keeping pace, creativity, positivity, flexibility and ability to accept repeated failures. It may seem to some that the world of the gaming industry is just as fun as playing these games – the reality is not like that, but without a doubt, it is a wonderful field that is not devoid of fun.