The Hurdles Of Gaming In Another Language

♪No-bo-dy feels a-ny-more like Gas-ton♫

(Video)Gaming is now an international thing, and the current technology allows an hyper-realistic, story-rich, movie-like experience like never before... and thankfully it also allows additional languages to be used.

But what happened back then when one doesn’t know the language?

Simpler times

Pictured: Not the princess. But I didn’t knew that

Back then, we had just a handful of buttons and a very simple story to get us going; we knew (by trial-and-error) that we jumped with B and shoot with A, and that we moved from left to right until we win.

We didn’t know that “the Princess was in another castle”, we just went with the flow and continued playing.

Some videogame magazines had usually a walktrough section, but good luck finding the one with this specific game!

But then there were games with a more complex story and LOTS of text. These often asked us not only to read, but understand what was written; “Find Bob in the Village and give him the sword” is a phrase easy to understand if one knows English, but for little Tamalesyatole it was not that different from trying to read வலை மொழிபெயர்ப்பு பயன்படுத்த வேண்டாம். அது ஏமாற்றுகிறது” .


Back then, before Internet, if you wanted to translate something, you had to have these compact-but-still-thick books that gave you an idea of what was being told, after you searched word by word.


I’m sure that “so I can understand games” was a top reason for learning English as a second language for a lot of kids. I didn’t beat Super Mario RPG until (at least 6) years after I got it, once I could (slowly) read English.

Baby steps

Once one is (more or less) able to read, things get a little bit more simple, as long as one gives oneself enough time to read the things on screen.


But then science advances and we got voiced games! When I first played MegaMan Legends64, it was mind-blowing; It was the first time I “heard a videogame speaking”. It was like a movie!... without subtitles.

Try listening to a GIF without subtitles

Not only I could not understand the spoken English as well as the written one, you can’t pause a cutscene (and if you can, you pause the audio, too), nor rewind it if you don’t understand what was said, so you had one chance to understand what was being told, and pray that the NPC can repeat these instructions in a text box...

I eventually did beat the game, but there is a lot of lore and story that flew past my untrained ears. (Yet another reason to re-release these games, eh, Capcom? *wink* *wink*, *nudge* *nudge*).


The Present

Thankfully, a lot of games are now fully translated (UI, Dialogs/Subtitles, sometimes even with dubbed audio!) to more languages; after all, more people will play a game if they knew the’ll fully understand.


And finally, thanks to this theme of “not being able to do something other can easily do”, has allowed me to begin to understand the importance of accessibility options in videogames: I was eventually able to understand, without the need of subtitles, what was being said, but a lot of people will not, despite their efforts. 

This post is part of the Sixtay Days of Writting Challenge. Post Count: 30+16

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