There are many difficulties that must be faced when a video game is localized. It is not just a matter of translation because, often, there are conflictual cultural issues that can not be ignored: that is when culturalization comes into play. Something that is not accepted in a country could be passable in another one, especially when it comes down to religious themes. There are also puns, riddles and nursery rhymes that usually do not find a literal translation in the target language. An interactive work that had a remarkable localization process on these themes is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt by CD Projekt Red.
About The Witcher 3
This interactive work based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s books is the third installment of a saga that has Geralt of Rivia as its main protagonist. This video game is a very popular RPG in which the player must fight fantasy creature by impersonating the “witcher”. They are human beings who went through alchemical processes to receive supernatural powers by giving up their fertility and their emotions.
The Witcher 3 was localized in sixteen languages and dubbed in nine: it was not an easy job for their teams.
An Articulated Localization
The world of The Witcher 3 is extremely complex, with an impressive but intricated worldbuilding of which translations changed over time. The same term “witcher” was changed more than once: for example, in the first movie adaptation, “hexer” was the chosen term. The Italian translation for “witcher” too was very particular: “strigo”, adopted by Raffaella Belletti who translated the first books of the Geralt of Rivia’s saga.
Fantasy works are filled with nursery rhymes and riddles and CD Projekt Red’s video game lives up to that legacy. In the additional content “Blood and Wine”, one of the main quests involves Geralt in an investigation of which its final linguistic riddle has “greenhouse” as the answer. The word is different in each language and the riddle had to be adapted accordingly. For example, in English we read:
I begin like a groan hollowed out with ease, then end like a mouse with a head of hard cheese.
Italian localizators, instead, opted for:
Inizio con la “esse”, poi una congiunzione, ho due rane senza corpo e una fine con la “a”.
(Literally: I start with an “s”, then a connector, I have two frogs without their bodies and an ending in “a”.)
The solution is serra and it is evident that the Italian adaptation would make no sense in English.
A Matter of Culturalization
The Witcher 3 is full of sensitive contents regarding sex, religion and crude violence. This led to many problems, starting with the creation of the localization teams. For example, many Arabic-speaking linguists refused to work at the game or to translate some religious concepts. Some content had to be cut from these versions.
Another interesting detail on team creation is about the Brasilian localization team. Many parents refused to let their children sing something about the devil.
The challenges of video game localization are many and various. Luckily, many tools come to the aid and experience is the key for an efficient translation.