“All Your Base Are Belong to Us”: Exploring Good Translation In Gaming

translation in gaming

“All Your Base Are Belong to Us”: Exploring Good Translation In Gaming

When the character of CATS uttered that immortal phrase “All your base are belong to us” in the opening dialogue of the poorly translated Japanese arcade game Zero Wing, a retro meme was born and the gaming industry knew it had a problem; a problem that wasn’t just limited to the poor graphics on a 16-bit shoot ‘em up game either!

The issue is, of course, in the translation of phrases from one language to another, especially when those languages are so vastly different (as was the problem with the Japanese to English translation of Zero Wing). 

Professionalism in Gaming

The gaming industry has moved at an incredible pace since the 80s and early 90s 8-bit and 16-bit games, and these days story arcs are a huge part of gaming for both the players and for the industry as a whole.

When gaming companies push out poorly translated or overdubbed games to players, it doesn’t sit well, and players are quick to feel the frustration. On a larger scale, it also reflects badly on a professional company to create works that don’t give real credence to language, something that is highly important and highly personal to every gamer on the planet.

Good language translation has its roots in human history across the globe, as we strive to understand one another despite the barriers put in our way. The archaic story of the Tower of Babel shows how deep our need for understanding goes and, with today’s modern technology, there is no excuse for poor translations, even in gaming.

Achieving Globalisation

From a professional point of view, language translation should be done as part of the game creation process, so that your game is ready for global release across the world.

As third-party translation and captioning software shows, gamers are not afraid to modify games to suit their needs, and it’s a risk to leave the translation up to the fans.

Here at Chatterbox Voices, we work with many game producers to ensure that the scripts for their games are translated correctly and accurately, and with our connections to voice actors across the globe, we help game producers to have both properly spoken scripts, but also correctly accented voices for their characters and narration.

Understanding this level of detail when it comes to voice acting is what sets us apart from a standard translation service, as our actors understand the cultural nuance of how words are spoken, the timbre, and inflexion of the phraseology, as well as how phrases can land across different audience languages.

This level of care is something that gamers appreciate, especially for games that have a strong story arc that relies on good communication.

Good for Business

Translating video games has the added bonus of improving your chances of a higher turnover for your game.

Put very simply, if your game is translated into more languages, you have more hope of people in those countries downloading and enjoying your game, which will expand your bottom-line profits.

Some caution must clearly be taken here to ensure that the game itself, and the storyline of the game, is appropriate for the localities, but these are the kinds of questions that your producer can pitch with the language experts.

For global organisations, having the ability to translate games across the world means increasing the share of the global profit and building on brand popularity across continents, even if the game may need to be modified slightly in order to sit well culturally.

Cultural Considerations

No discussion about translating services would be complete without posing the question of cultural nuances and considerations.

While it might be tempting to think that most games are outside the realms of cultural consideration, especially when they are sitting within their own fantasy culture, today’s societal demands dictate that culture and diversity is a big consideration for all companies; gaming companies included.

This is especially true for games that rely on folklore and deep story arcs. Many of our translation clients have posed questions such as:

  • Should I change the names of characters across different languages?
  • How do I translate particular phrases when no close translation exists?
  • How do I keep the culture of the country in which the game is set?
  • At what point should I be concerned about cultural appropriation in my game?
  • How can I avoid stereotyping other cultures in my game?


These questions are all important and not spending the right amount of time considering how particular phrases and cultural references will land with audiences can mean that game producers are at risk of being offensive to the very countries and cultures in which they want their game to be popular.

How Voice Actors Help

Here at Chatterbox Voices, we work with some of the best voice actors from across the world. We understand what it takes to bring a game to life for every language, and we can help advise on changes that may be required to ensure the translation works cross-culturally.

Recording spoken parts for your games is not just a case of reading a scripted translation, every culture and every language has a different way of speaking, a different approach to worlds and how they should be presented, and this is where good voice actors will make the difference.

Gone are the days when flat script reading was all that was available. These days we work with talented actors who can paint a picture with just their words. Our creative producers will also help to get the most out of your script and ensure that the voice actors who are working on the script give it the love and attention it deserves.

Working with experts in language translation is a service that should be part of your game development, it’s as vital as ensuring you have the right music, the right sound effects and even the right graphics to keep your audience enthralled and excited to be playing.

If you’d like to find out more about our expert language services and how we can help you to bring your game to life across the glove, contact Chatterbox Voices today and we’ll be happy to chat. Call us on +44 (0) 203 744 3558.

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