Ex-Blizzard Producer Alleges Localization Is Used as a Censorship Tool

According to ex-Blizzard Producer Mark Kern, localizers will frequently make changes in translations that disrespect the original work.

If you follow are a fan of Eastern media, there is no way you have avoided the controversies around localization. Through the dedicated community of gamers, there is frequently a discussion of the quality of translation: is it true to the artist’s original intention, or was the game altered to fit Western sensibilities? Speaking to the issue on Twitter, ex-Blizzard Producer Mark Kern shared his experience, alleging that localizers frequently change the body of the work despite the game’s original culture or the artist’s intent.

The discussion on this kicked off yesterday when, in response to poorly-localized episode of the anime Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Mark Kern shared his experience in the industry. According to Kern, the practice of localizers “injecting their own writing” and “disrespecting the original [work’s] culture and creators” has been going on in the game industry for years. His bottom line recommendation? “Respect the work!”

While other developers shared their opinions on the matter, and their personal sensitivity to localization as a whole, Kern advocated that translations should aim to be much closer to the original body of work.

Kern frequently holds industry positions that are iconoclastic to the gaming development scene at large. For example, amidst the Diablo Immortal controversy, Kern took a hardline stance against his old employer saying that Blizzard does not understand gamers anymore. As you may remember, this was a position popular among gamers,  less so among the industry at large.

Of course, there are a swath of developers that treat the localization process with respect — going as far as to give details into how they approached localization (and the occasions where their hands are being forced). Take for example SEGA’s open approach in acknowledging how they handled localization of DualShockers 2019 Game of the YearJudgement:

In any case, it’s always fascinating to hear different takes on the gaming industry — especially with the pedigree that Mark Kern has. With the next console generation quickly approaching, hopefully we will start walking a tighter balance between localization and respecting original works.

Lou Contaldi

Lou Contaldi is the Editor-in-Chief at DualShockers, specializing in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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