Playing the game

Updated: 2013-04-22 10:07

By Eric Jou (China Daily)

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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."

Playing the game

Playing the game

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