Sold in Translation

The one-inch-tall barrier

Warning: Once again, I am talking about colonialism. If you don’t like that, there’s a TLDR at the bottom, and while I do apologize for the continued use of the topic, I do not apologize for talking about it itself.

I’m a subs kind of gal.  And before you stop me there, I should let you know that my position once again involves colonialism. So, are you willing to go against me now?  The reasons that I have are good. So good in fact, that it may surprise you that for the same reasons, ultimately for the sake of media itself, I’m wrong.  It’s a sad, blurred line.

This is Elise and this is Game Praisers Deep Dive, where I take a researched and thought out look at topics that I feel are more difficult or interesting that require more than just a glance.  I hope that we all learn something from this, and while I don’t think my perspective is perfect, I think it should be considered.


I don’t know if you were here when Parasite by Bong Joon-Ho came out in 2019 and 2020, but it is a phenomenal film.  Kind of horror, more thriller-ish style of film.  I don’t want to say anything without spoiling it.  In fact, I recommend watching it without knowing very much.  It is rated R by the MPAA though, just in case you have kiddos around.

My point is that it is a Korean film that won an incredible amount of awards and was recognized by the audiences in the United States.  So of course a foreign film that catches the attention is going to bring up that subs and dubs war.  I always believe the original version is the best intended for something like consumable media.  And so here I’m going to say, watch it in subs.  As the director said himself, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”1 I think that’s very true.  Especially when it comes to acting, I think the cadence and movement of people are very important as to keeping the original feeling. 

However, I don’t like when people say subs are all superior, especially if it’s for the sake of keeping Japan-ness in things.  I know we were just talking about a Korean film but in all honesty the media of anime and video games usually concerns Japan.  I don’t want people saying “subs” to gatekeep.  That’s not the point.  It’s to preserve the cultural aspect of what it is.  Which is why I also argue the point of dubs.  

For people who can, subs are great.  But one cannot say that everyone can keep up with subtitles while watching something.  Some people struggle with things like dyslexia.  Some people are still learning to read English or whatever language they use.  For the people who are trying their best but at the moment can’t read, should have dubs.  The voice actors work very hard to try and be the characters as best as they can.  I trust them in their professionalism to do that.  So ultimately, yes, dubs are fine.  But if you can, I truly desire that you watch in subs.


This great success didn’t come with an amount of sacrifice though.  Success does not mean decolonization.  In fact, it could mean the opposite.  I mean, it’s great that things from Japan are so popular and mainstream now.  I can say that I like anime without people cringing at me now.  And yet…I can’t tell if it’s better.  I feel like there is a lot of moral licensing going around.  Once again, I’m going to outright say that it’s very possible that it just so happens to be in my gaming spheres.  So forgive me if this is just a bad coincidence.  

Moral licensing is kind of like tokenism.  The idea that because we accepted something about this foreign culture, we can now be lenient towards it afterwards.  It means we’re allowed to be a little more racist because we’ve accepted anime.  Obviously that is not the way, but I still see it in clubs and groups today.  Accepting culture is more than just saying you watched anime.  It’s more than just saying “baka”.  You can’t turn around and start making fun of Japanese food methods or traditional cultural beliefs just because you “know more” about Japan now / watch anime.  It just doesn’t work that way.


In Carlson and Corliss’ article about video game localization they start off talking about someone wanting to “be” Japanese.  It is completely fine to want to integrate yourself into a different community, especially if you come to an understanding of the cultural implications.  Not necessarily an acceptance, but an understanding. But “being” Japanese isn’t just about consuming the culture either.  It’s all the negatives and racism that comes with it.  It’s the baggage of the bad things your culture has done as well.  If you’re taking only the good things to be “foreign”, that’s colonialism.  Sometimes it’s literally that exoticism that attracts people though.2

Do you know what we did as Asians in the nineties in the USA?  A lot of us fought back at learning our own languages.  Especially those who were born in the United States and are not off the boat.  And a lot of us regret not learning our own languages now, because now it’s a nice attribute.  We colonized ourselves to try and fit in.  And now in a weird turnabout way, it’s kind of happening again, but in exoticism. There are entire videos on Youtube dedicated to this.3 And I agree, it’s not entirely the people’s fault.  It’s us trying to fit in again as well.


All this.  All this to bring me to the point as to why I’m wrong about subs, and why people would rather things get lost in translation.  I want subs because I want foreignization.  Foreignization is when things are purposely left in their cultural meaning to try and maintain what it was before.4  I want people to have to make an effort to be familiar and understanding to consume these things, not as gatekeeping, but as encouragement.  I said effort, not qualification.  

Foreignization is most commonly seen as transliteration in names.  An example is in Genshin, where some names are left as is: Xiangling, Liyue, Tatarasuna.  But games aren’t about making you learn new cultures.  I’m sorry.  That’s the truth.  Games are localized, and sometimes that’s a very good thing.  Bear with me here.  I always have a teddy bear or plush nearby.  But that phrase grouping would not have worked in another language, right?  Puns and wordplay just don’t work.  One of my favorite examples is in Genshin where Hu Tao’s ultimate is a phrase of “吃飽喝飽,一路走好!”, which is like “Eat well, drink well, journey well.”  But the cadence, rhythm, and wording is extremely difficult to combine in English, so in English she says, “Time to go!”  A lot of Hu Tao’s playfulness is lost in translation.  Although not the best used here, most people would use transcreation to maintain that feeling.

Transcreation is when new content is created in order to try and maintain the character, while localizing it so it still makes sense.  “In game localisation, the feeling of the original ‘gameplay experience’ needs to be preserved in the localised version so that all players share the same enjoyment regardless of their language of choice.”5  Sometimes that kind of content is needed.  It’s ultimately too complicated to leave content foreign.  People buy games to play the content to be enjoyed in the language they want.  

Oh yeah.  I forgot.

People buy games to play content.


Because in the end.  This is about consumerism.  Localization isn’t just here to maintain the experience, it’s to sell the game to their targeted language audience.  Unless the game is about teaching you about understanding cultural context or something, that’s not the point.  This is why no matter how much I would like people to watch Parasite in Korean, ultimately, as a movie people are there to watch a movie.  They’re not here to learn about the nuances of Korean speech.

I’m wrong because I want people to use these pieces of media as a springboard to guide them to new cultures and understandings.  And that’s just not what people do unless they already had that inclination to begin with.  There are developers who want cultural understanding and considerations of perspective, but if it’s not a fun enough game the only people who buy the game are the ones who already wanted understanding.  They’re preaching to the choir.

Can we change minds?  We can.  But we can only change minds by changing ideas of what is already being ignored.  Genshin’s presentation of Chinese opera was well received, but I don’t know if it changed any minds.  It brought to light a new style of opera that many people didn’t know about.  It simply didn’t exist yet, but that won’t change the minds of people who will act ethnocentric.  It won’t change people from recognizing privilege.  It just removes ignorance.

Interest for the sake of understanding is just not a good selling point.  And that’s why all of this doesn’t feel like it has changed as much as I’d have hoped.  People understand things and references more, but I feel like these are things thrown at the process of acceptance or denial for a person’s opinions.  It’s not something to make them question whether or not they’re acting with privilege.  

Globalization of products has changed things, but it’s not fast enough.  I met with someone making their own anime now.  They’re not Japanese, and that’s fine, but they’re also the same person that has some pretty negative, and I dare say colonialist, viewpoints of Japan, which is not fine.  In fact…that’s colonialism.  They took something from another country, made it theirs, and do not respect the origins of it.  

And…it almost doesn’t feel wrong, because the point of it is to sell products.  It’s to sell media.  I think I may have been using energy on this tide that pushes me back and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.  Some people in the gaming group are saying this is just the way it is.  They’re all white people from the United States.  Am I just trying to be a justice warrior?  Should I ignore it all?  It’s all about selling, so why should I care?  


…I feel like I keep standing on this soapbox and I’m sure most people tire of this, which makes sense.  Elise, why can’t you stop talking about this?  Why do you always bring this up?  Because every single day I have to deal with it, so it’s rather difficult to not have it on my mind.  

…maybe this whole Deep Dive stuff is just me ranting.  Ugh, I apologize.  I really do want people to see the nuances that are more than just senpai and memes.  I just want people to see that cultures are more than just memes and jokes.  Maybe that’s what I should’ve just said.  Hold on.

TLDR: I just want people to see that cultures are more than just memes and jokes.

Or maybe I just need new communities to talk to about games.  Too bad my communities are anonymous discord people.

Thanks for reading, and I PROMISE the next deep dive will not be about racism, colonialism, or ethnocentrism.6  It’ll just be about media.

Elise

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX3obZ0lXoU
  2. Carlson, R., & Corliss, J. (2011). Imagined Commodities: Video Game Localization and Mythologies of Cultural Difference. Games and Culture, 6(1), 61–82. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412010377322
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNkZIJkXI6g
  4. Cai, Mengge. (2022). Translation of Culture-loaded Words and Cross-cultural Communication from the Perspective of Domestic Games. SHS Web of Conferences. 148. 10.1051/shsconf/202214801025. 
  5. Mangiron, Carme & O’Hagan, Minako. (2006). Game Localisation: Unleashing Imagination with ‘Restricted’ Translation. JOURNAL OF SPECIALISED TRANSLATION. 6. 
  6. Unless you want that.

More Complicated Than I Could Imagine

It’s all coming together.

Spoilers for: Genshin Impact, moderate, late game.

I think I finally figured it out.  My approach to video games.  “Oh no, Elise, not this again.”  Stop, wait!  For real this time!  I think I got it.  This is going to be a long post, because it’s…well, more complicated than I could imagine.  


I want to mention something about the beginning of this journey that I’ve been on in video games. Even previously through all of that I could not pinpoint exactly what I meant by all that I said.   I’ve talked about games that I played often, and I’ve talked about some of the political aspects of video games that affected me

In a terrible, incorrect, and biased way, I originally thought this was a difference in East vs West mindsets.  But that’s obviously not true. And let’s be honest, that’s a pretty racist way of me to think.  It was wrong.  However, it was not true in an unfortunate way.  The people that I interacted with that had stronger backgrounds from East Asia still had conflicts with the way I view video games.  Conflicts that drove me away.  More importantly, it’s about the way I approach them and how I can interact with other video gamers.  When a perspective you have comes in conflict with the way that you can interact with the general community, do you still feel like a part of it?


I then thought, it’s the spoilers.  It is me not wanting any spoilers. Studies do show that spoilers don’t really ruin it for most people.1  For most people.  I am, whether for good or not, one of those people.  It does however, matter where the spoilers are placed.  If they’re in the actual story itself apparently that really does affect it.  But if presented in advance, yeah it doesn’t matter for the majority of people.2

I hate spoilers.  I saw The Lord of the Rings movies last year in January.  But, man, if it wasn’t shrouded by the memes of today, I think it would’ve been even more epic.  Instead, there were some parts that were funny.  I don’t think it detracted from the experience of enjoyment.  I do like a good laugh, but something about it always stings looking back.  Maybe it’s…a feeling of missing out?  Missing out on a feeling I will never have the opportunity for again.

The thing about the feeling of missing out is the time we have to spend on catching up.  We’ve all played that game before whether it’s because of Netflix, a February in gaming, or an influx of new content from a convention’s announcements.  We have to catch up with the neighbor who has that new, cool blender.  If they have that blender it’s not going to change your experience.  In fact, when you watch them use that blender, you know for a fact your experience will be just as awesome and just as smoothie.  …I’m so sorry.

But catching up in media and entertainment is different than catching up to your neighbor’s appliances.  If you watch someone else watch a movie, assuming we’re not looking at the screen, that’s not the same thing as watching the movie itself.  Watching someone play through a game is more accurate to the blender theory, because you and the player are experiencing the game firsthand.  It’s like watching a movie with them.  But having someone tell you the experience is telling the game, film, or book in a way unintended by the creators.  I’m not here to watch the rugby game outside the stadium.  I’m here to watch the rugby game.

And that can be argued against as well.  But the point is from my perspective, it ruins it.  I want the original of what the creators intended or published.  And in the end that doesn’t even matter.  Why?  Because that’s not the problem with my perspective.  That isn’t it.  Although it is a bit because I feel like a nuisance when people can’t talk about what they want around me if they don’t want to spoil it.  Ultimately I don’t think that is what makes it so hard for me to get along with the video gaming community.  Obviously I appreciate when people spoiler tag things, because it means they’re being considerate, but there’s something one step further that I feel like I finally identified as the biggest chasm that separates me from the rest of the others.  It feels like I’m saying, “I’m not like other girls”.  I’m so sorry about that, but don’t worry just because I’m separated doesn’t mean I’m better or anything. 


I can’t be upset at characters.  At least not in the way I see other gamers do.  The characters are real people. I’m not asking people to think that way.  That’s ridiculous.  Some people find me treating them like real people ridiculous, and in some ways I feel like their perspective is justified.  But I don’t know what these characters are going through behind the scenes.  Literally, behind the cinema scenes.  I can’t be upset because Ayaka wore socks in Genshin Impact while she was standing in the stream in that one scene.  That means developers, real humans, would have to take more time changing the models.  Time that, if spent on something like that even if they wanted to, could be an inefficiency mark for them.  It might make them look like they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  It really depends on how loose the art director is.  It also depends on what Ayaka was thinking at the time.  Was it spontaneous?  Was she too nervous to think about it?  

If you look on YouTube you’ll find that a lot of people seem appreciative of the dance.  Even if this is a comment that is going to be plastered on the internet for however long, there are a lot of them.  But I’ve never run into someone who feels like this for most games.  In fact, I’ve never run into one in my Genshin community.  I get told that these people exist, and yeah, I see them right here on YouTube, but in every video game group that I join I feel none of that for different games.

Whenever I bring up that scene to the other Genshin players in my group, their first thing to bring up is making fun of her socks because she was wearing them while standing in the water.  But in the context of the story, I think it’s so graceful, genuine, and peaceful.  The dance, I mean.  The dance that she does for you.  The dance that she is apprehensive to show anyone else, but she shows it to you.  I don’t think I can look back on the experience and think, “Ha, she’s wearing socks in the water.”  I always think, “I am so grateful that she was willing to share that with me.”  Too cheesy?  But that’s just the thing.  Why does it sound like they have to make an excuse to recognize that part of the story?  “Oh yeah, I guess so.”  “But I mean…”  “Why didn’t they just…”  It goes on.

I don’t know.  I’m also not Ayaka.  Maybe one day the developers will update it so she takes off her socks one day.  I don’t know.  I’m not the developers.  I do know that in the culmination of all things technical from the developers, and all things ethereal, spiritual, and fantastical even, from Ayaka, I am grateful for that heartfelt moment she gave.

And that’s where the difference lies.  


When people approach and consume media, it’s a service.  I pay you, you entertain me.  But for me, I’m here to learn to respect this new world.  I’m not here as a VIP to be served, I’m here as a sociologist to learn what I can to understand.  This approach is the same I have for everyone in real life.  In cultures, societies, families, I am the visitor.  I am the guest.  I don’t touch things I shouldn’t touch.  I don’t do things I shouldn’t do.  Sometimes my beliefs may conflict, but in the context of things, I need to be willing to take a step back and realize, this is a different world.  And mayhap you think it silly, but it’s the same for video games.

So yeah, I do feel bad if you think someone in a game is stupid, because to me, they’re someone that’s real.  If a concept of lore is dumb, well, guess what?  Those characters have to live in that world.  And if you’re paying for the game as service, that game has failed you.  And it makes sense.  If you’re playing specific characters  just for the numbers to be bigger than anyone else’s, great.  If the reward isn’t good enough you’re not going to aid the village?  Elise, they’re not real.

Sorry, and in most people’s eyes, yes.  You’re totally, totally right.  The people in the pixels on my screen are not going to come to my aid when I am being mugged or I am in financial need.  My therapist says my approach is just that I’m being extremely considerate.  But does that make everyone else’s approach inconsiderate?

I don’t think so.

Sometimes respect isn’t a single road.  Sometimes it is.  And in this case I’m willing to bet that there is more than one road, I’m just not driving on it.  But when one version is wielded as a way to look down on another, that’s when it is a problem, not the perspective itself.  That’s another big mistake in thought I made. It’s not that other people with this technical or service based mindset are bad.  They’re not.  It’s when it is wielded against me that is the problem.  I am constantly feeling shut down in the communities because I feel they talk harshly about other people, and by people I mean the characters in a game.  But they don’t notice that.  It’s silly for me to think that.

It’s not that these people are rude.  At least I’m going to assume they’re not, unless the reason they don’t like a character is for something severe like racism.  It’s that the boundaries of this bubble of respect that I’ve created have become so inflated that in order to accept this perspective, that boundary is going to be rubbed the wrong way.  And the spoiler thing just feels like an echo of this that exacerbates that.


The problem with taking perspectives like these is that there are sacrifices to be made.  And even those sacrifices can be seen as problematic to those around you.  They think it facetious, stupid, or pretentious for taking it this far.  And in most cases I don’t blame them.  

People in the gaming community that I’m in are not rude.  They’re not wrong.  They’re not inconsiderate or disrespectful.  It’s just that they have a different view of things, and with the sacrifices I’ve made to have the perspective that I feel best provides the fun and appreciation for games, I have to accept that this is the result of that.  They’re going to be breaking those boundaries, and usually it’s not their fault, it’s mine, because I actually want this.  

I sincerely am grateful if you’ve actually read all of this.  It’s very likely that our perspectives on this differ.  Don’t make yourself feel bad if it’s not the same as mine.  Or don’t make me feel bad because of mine, trust me, I’ve gotten that my whole life.  I just want people to be introspective and realize that, excluding dangerous or inappropriate extremes that can harm other people, your perspective of video gaming is likely not wrong.  It just is, there are aspects of it that are very likely joyous to you, and sometimes it exists because of things within the realms of what is more complicated than we can imagine.  

And that’s okay. We’ll figure it out.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

Elise

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797611417007
  2. https://www.livescience.com/53126-spoilers-can-ruin-movie-enjoyment.html#:~:text=Johnson%20was%20quick%20to%20add%20that%20the%20study,your%20experience%20with%20the%20story%2C%20the%20researchers%20learned

Spooky Time

It’s spooky time.

That means the Mad King in Guild Wars 2.
That means Geheimnisnacht in Vermintide 2.
It means pumpkins in Deep Rock Galactic.
It means all the games that I have played that have Halloween in them have Halloween.
All the ones that haven’t, may have them now.
All the ones that I haven’t yet played, could be having them now.
Trying to make me have FOMO.

This means I’ll be trying to play through horror games even though I’m not good at dealing with them.
The plan is the last expansion in Control, since I never finished that.
Prey from Arkane as well, since I love the Dishonored series so much.
And if I have time, Resident Evil 5, Little Nightmares, and The Evil Within.

I don’t think I’m going to get to those last two. Just not enough time.
Bigger, busier drawing projects.


But it’s spooky time so I hope that you enjoy spooky media this month.
Be safe, and enjoy the spirits with me, both the drinks and otherwise.
– Elise


I don’t drink.

Backstories of Loved Ones

To know the past and keep the future

I keep getting spread so thin on all the things I could possibly do.  I’ve been spending more time with my family as well, because the older I get the more I realize that time with them is precious.  But something else hit me when I was playing Genshin Impact that made me realize that spending time with them is great, but there’s something else that I lacked that I desperately needed.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about since the article I wrote that included Final Fantasy VIII not too long ago, but it really hit me when I was playing Genshin.  In Genshin if you play with characters doing daily quests, little grindy things called domains, and a few other things you can increase your friendship with them.  Increasing your friendship allows you to learn more of their backstory.  I’ve been so busy and mentally tired lately that although I really wanted to learn more about Collei’s backstory that I had unlocked, I didn’t bother to read it yet.

I was using her in a boss battle and she died, and for some reason I freaked out and I immediately paused the game and went to read her backstory, as if I could lose my chance to do so.  You can easily revive characters through food or statues of the gods strewn throughout the map, but I frantically went and read all of her backstory in one fell swoop.  It got me thinking a lot about my parents.

My parents are older than the average parents in between generations.  And even though I’ve spent and have been spending more time with them, I’m beginning to realize that I don’t know much about their actual childhood and their backstories.  I know them now, and what they act like, and what they like to do, but I don’t know anything about their earlier life.  They never talk about it, and they’re very typically conservative Asians.  They just don’t say anything about it.  I know a handful of stories for both parents, and by handful I mean like…three at most, each.

The more I think about it, the more I really want to preserve those stories.  They’re things that are unique and important and I just have neglected that.  Spending time with them isn’t enough for me and now I want to know more.  If I was so scared of losing the opportunity to get to know a friend that is a character in a game, how much more fearful and defeated would I feel if it were someone as close as my parents?  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to contact them easily until later in the year, but when they return I will definitely spend the time to hear and record their stories.  I will push them to tell me, since I know that they would resist saying it’s not important or there is nothing significant, which is very typical of them.  As long as I’m not crossing any boundaries, I want to hear their stories.


It’s good, but also worrisome, that it took a character’s life to help me realize that there is more I want out of my family relations, and perhaps even friends as well.  Collei will be alright, but what about my loved ones? I’ll make sure to love my family, friends, and characters as much as I can, and to make sure I get to know them all better.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you spend time with your loved ones and get to really know them, because we don’t know how long we have with them.

Elise