News: Japanese Studies Spring 2018 Spring 2018 Featured

Daniel Birriel (Japanese Studies and AMES, ’18) Explores Japanese Video Culture

BirrielDaniel Birriel is very interested in Japanese language and culture, and someday hopes to work for Nintendo localizing video games. These interests led him to focus his AMES Capstone Paper on how localization affects intercultural exchange and the response Japanese video game companies should take regarding this exchange. Understanding localization requires an understanding of how it is different from translation. While translation takes a product and moves it from one language to another, often modifying certain words or phrases to create a smooth transition between languages, localization involves adjusting aspects of a product, like culture, music, art, fashion, religion, in addition to words and phrases in order to ensure a product will be accepted and succeed in a foreign market. This is commonly seen in the video game market as some of the biggest game developers are based in Japan. To what degree Japanese culture, humor, gender norms, and marketing will need to be modified for foreign markets is always a key concern for these companies. Japanese video game companies must be more aware of the shifts in consumer markets that create this growing group of consumers seeking more and more “authentic” Japanese video games, else they find themselves losing out on potential profits. The paper also touches on the influence video game and anime has had on American pop culture, such as cartoons and film, as well as how Japan utilizes soft power politics to shape its global image.

Over the course of his research, he discovered one important way that American consumers are engaging with Japanese pop culture and media. After watching anime or playing video games developed by Japanese video game companies, they start seeking out more Japanese products and begin a search for what they deem is truly “authentic.” The way this search sometimes manifests itself is through switching a games voice acting to Japanese or by playing video games that were never released in the US and were translated by fans.

For fans, this is a great way to engage with Japanese games that they otherwise would never have been able to play. However, for Japanese game developers, these fan translated games represent an interesting problem. On one hand, they never officially released the game in the US so they lose no profit, but on the other hand, their intellectual property is being placed in the hands of people who may not translate their game in the way they would like.