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Japanese Video Game Localization : A Case Study of Sony's Sairen Series

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Title: Japanese Video Game Localization : A Case Study of Sony's Sairen Series
Author(s): Szurawitzki, Andreas
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Institute for Asian and African Studies
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2010
This thesis is a comparative case study in Japanese video game localization for the video games Sairen, Sairen 2 and Sairen Nyûtoransurêshon, and English-language localized versions of the same games as published in Scandinavia and Australia/New Zealand. All games are developed by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. and published exclusively for Playstation2 and Playstation3 consoles. The fictional world of the Sairen games draws much influence from Japanese history, as well as from popular and contemporary culture, and in doing so caters mainly to a Japanese audience. For localization, i.e. the adaptation of a product to make it accessible to users outside the original market it was intended for in the first place, this is a challenging issue. Video games are media of entertainment, and therefore localization practice must preserve the games’ effects on the players’ emotions. Further, video games are digital products that are comprised of a multitude of distinct elements, some of which are part of the game world, while others regulate the connection between the player as part of the real world and the game as digital medium. As a result, video game localization is also a practice that has to cope with the technical restrictions that are inherent to the medium. The main theory used throughout the thesis is Anthony Pym’s framework for localization studies that considers the user of the localized product as a defining part of the localization process. This concept presupposes that localization is an adaptation that is performed to make a product better suited for use during a specific reception situation. Pym also addresses the factor that certain products may resist distribution into certain reception situations because of their content, and that certain aspects of localization aim to reduce this resistance through significant alterations of the original product. While Pym developed his ideas with mainly regular software in mind, they can also be adapted well to study video games from a localization angle. Since modern video games are highly complex entities that often switch between interactive and non-interactive modes, Pym’s ideas are adapted throughout the thesis to suit the particular elements being studied. Instances analyzed in this thesis include menu screens, video clips, in-game action and websites. The main research questions focus on how the games’ rules influence localization, and how the games’ fictional domain influences localization. Because there are so many peculiarities inherent to the medium of the video game, other theories are introduced as well to complement the research at hand. These include Lawrence Venuti’s discussions of foreiginizing and domesticating translation methods for literary translation, and Jesper Juul’s definition of games. Additionally, knowledge gathered from interviews with video game localization professionals in Japan during September and October 2009 is also utilized for this study. Apart from answering the aforementioned research questions, one of this thesis’ aims is to enrich the still rather small field of game localization studies, and the study of Japanese video games in particular, one of Japan’s most successful cultural exports.

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