However, between the 1980s and the 2000s, the localisation process was far from being compulsory and players were happy enough to get to play games in their language, whatever the quality of the translation. When games were exported, the translation was often overlooked, causing mistakes that led to player confusion and sometimes even made it impossible for them to play the localised version.
The term ‘Engrish’, describing the ‘corruption’ of the English language by some Asian countries was applied to the translations of Japanese games into English. The most famous case of a mistranslated game is Zero Wing’s English version in which the well-known ‘All your base are belong to us’ appears. It eventually became an Internet meme.
Such poor translations could also be found in American games in their localised versions. Between 1980 and 2000, hundreds of adventure games were released (mainly by the the companies Sierra On-line and Lucas Arts). These games, in which the player takes on the role of a main character embarking upon a quest, displayed some textual specificities that were strikingly challenging. They required the translator’s careful attention and creativity in their vocabulary choices. Inaccurate translation of these games prevented players from being emotionally involved. The translated versions were not intuitive anymore, and players had to try objects they found in the game on absolutely every element appearing on screen to progress in the game, which led to frustration.
As video games have now become a huge industry, localisation will have to evolve and improve further to meet the growing expectations of today’s players.