Podcast: 'Censorship' And Localisation

Podcast: 'Censorship' And Localisation

When does video game localisation become 'censorship'? And how often are localisation decisions just made for business reasons? Today on Kotaku Splitscreen, former XSEED editor Jessica Chavez joins the show to talk about her experiences bringing games from Japan to US shores. She's got plenty of stories from the trenches of localisation, which is far more complex than most people realise. (As it turns out, the localisation decisions that some people complain about are usually made in tandem with the developers themselves.) We also talk Trails and geek out about Suikoden II because of course we do.

You can listen to the show on iTunes, Google Play or on Simplecast here. (You can also download the MP3 directly.)

Marketing art from XSEED's Senran Kagura 2 Deep Crimson


Comments

    Yeah, but XSeed are like the best company out there when it comes to localization because they don't censor their stuff and would prefer to pass on things if it meant censoring them otherwise, so I'm not sure a former XSeed localizer's take on changes is universal for the industry.

    Also, of course it's 'made in tandem with the developers'. Most localization houses do zero programming themselves and changes to the game need to be made by the original developer! Doesn't mean that the developer agrees with the changes or even gives a crap.

      Was about to say, XSEED are great localisers.

      The problem are people like Nintendo Treehouse, who seem to be the most sex-negative, horrible writers i've ever seen.

      I mean, It's not just the petting game that's annoying about FE: Fates localisation, or the boob slider in Xenoblade, it's the meme filled dialogue, and the changing of characters personalities completely type stuff thats really bad. It's sad that it looks like #FE is getting the same treatment...

      it just annoys me that people who were probably never going to buy the games anyway are complaining about what's in them... and who the hell wants less content in there game?

        Yeah, the straight up bad & meme-laden translation is my biggest issue with the way they do things as well. But I feel like their less overt self-censorship is just as much of an issue, because the result of those changes can be a straight up alteration of the tone of some of the things they localize.

        They seem to have had their fingers in Tokyo Mirage Sessions too, despite supposedly leaving that to Atlus to localize. It feels like Treehouse is run by some 60-year-old conservative that firmly believes that video games are for children. Even when the average gamer is 30 and more than capable of being able to make their own choices. That game was basically going to be the last chance for the Wii U for me, but I think at this point I'm done with Nintendo completely.

          More like that 60-year-old conservative has remembers stuff like Fox screaming about Rapelay, Hot Coffee and Alien Sex and doesn't want Nintendo to be in the news over what, at the end of the day, is pretty small potatoes sales-wise. It's a business decision and a conservative one. The people who support this kind of censorship just keep reinforcing the stereotype that Western society is prudish (which it is, in certain ways).

            Weird that Nintendo cares so much when no one else really seems to, then.

              It's Nintendo. Slightly out of touch doesn't even come into it. If you read the book Console Wars by Blake Harris there are a lot of snippets highlighting the ultra-conservative outlook of the Kyoto executives. That may be changing, but it's a process that is very slow, especially due to the desire for consensus-based decision-making. You get the odd exec like Iwata who, at least to the public, seems to be a bit more 'with it', but behind the scenes these execs still seek a consensus and are extremely reluctant to create discord via maverick actions.

              Long story short, I'm not surprised that Nintendo dictates conservative 'amended' releases for the West. I'm more surprised when non-Nintendo companies like Idea Factory do the same thing (like it did with Monster Monpiece).

                I don't think you can equate those two. Idea Factory apparently took that game uncensored to one of either the ESRB or PEGI and were told it would get an adults-only rating if they left it as-is. They opted to censor it and were up-front about the fact they did it as well. The removed CGs are literally the only thing they changed too.

                Nintendo don't even acknowledge that they change stuff. They drop entire features and then let reviewers reveal that stuff's been excised when early copies go out. You can't even trust them to keep in things like dual audio any more. The thing is, it feels like they've started going super dipshit on this whole thing recently, like the last 18-24 months. I feel like a few years ago they were nowhere near as bad.

                At this point I've been let down by frustrating changes in four games in a row because of their meddling. I can't get excited for anything on their platforms because they end up fucking with it somehow. I don't really go for their franchise stuff (I'll play a new waggly-bullshit-free Zelda or Metroid but that's about it) so their more niche Japanese things like Fire Emblem or Xenoblade are all that they have that really has my attention. So I'm basically done with them. My two-year-old Wii U sits gathering dust beside my 3DS and every time I think there's a game I might play on one of those systems, my interest is completely torpedoed. So I'm just done with them. Better to just ignore them than get excited and then disappointed again and again.

        As someone that approves of the removal of that weird petting game, what is this meme business? Did they do weird things to the script??

          Petting is awesome! You get cute little reactions if you do it just right. It's not weird or creepy at all. No different to petting a cute animal. The mistake people make is to equate it with petting a real live person... which is a bit weird except for when you are petting a baby or very young child.

            But that's exactly what's weird about it man.... You're not petting a baby or a young child, you're petting adults. Virtual yes, but it's still an adult person. Why would you want to do that? Why would you think they like that aside from really terrible script writing? Why in the first place is it appealing to rub an adult's head just because they might make a cute expression if you do it right? It's completely bizarre. That's just consensual petting. The forced petting was a new level of strange.

            I guess it's like fetishes? If you don't get, you'll never get it? Each to his own I guess...?

            If a game about petting was banned and you guys were upset, I could sort of understand. But given this game is absolutely not about this bizzare mini-game, I don't see any problems with cutting it personally as the game is still what is at it's core.

            But this adjusted meme filled dialogue troubles me. Did they lose valuable script time to garbage? :/

          A lot of the localised game feels like it was written by a 13 year old girl. There's things like a character who in the Japanese version was a normal guy, who they then decided "Hey, we should make this guy always talk about pickles, because thats funny!"

          They also straight up turned two characters super serious support conversation into nothing, like, literally nothing, they just repeat "..." to each other a bunch of times. I wish it was a joke. http://i.imgur.com/UKXDkTO.png

          There's a lot more you can look up, while i don't think there's any direct references to memes (Look up the localisation of Triforce Heroes if you want to see Nintendo Treehouse in full meme action) the characters talk like they are trying to get likes on a reddit post for their "wacky" humour... in a game about war...

          Basically instead of just translating the game and making sure it makes sense in english, which is what localisation should be, they decided they would straight up rewrite characters because apparently they know more about the characters than the original Japanese devs.

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