Video Game Textual Types and File Formats

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By: Link Translation


Within video game products there are different textual types, each of which has its own characteristics and purpose. Because we are dealing with a multimedia product, the challenges translators have to face are also multimedia. Within the same project they have to deal with a wide variety of issues like reproducing the oral quality of dialogue in writing, lip-synching for dubbing, space and time constraints for subtitling, number of characters for subtitle, UI, etc.



(May be a Pagemaker or a Word format) Although it always has some attractive and engaging creative writing, partly promotional partly literary, most of the manual would normally be filled with didactic texts when telling players the instructions to be followed to fully enjoy the game. Manuals would also include technical texts with the appropriate hardware and software specifications to be able to run the game application. In addition players will always find corporative and legal texts, informing users of their rights and responsibilities attached to the acquisition of an entertainment software product.



(Pagemaker or Word format) Like manuals, game boxes and packaging present a mixture of textual types, the difference being the space provided, limited not only by the size of it but also by images of the game, logos of the companies involved and legal labelling requirements. It mixes an alluring promotional text, together with concise technical information and legal notices.


Readme file

(Wordpad format) This small .txt file is probably the last thing in the development process. It is used to inform users of all the last-minute adjustments and how to make sure that the product runs smoothly, as well as to correct mistakes and typos in the printed material, such as manual and packaging. It is mainly a technical text.


Official website

(HTML or Java format) It mixes a promotional text with a journalistic one, but it will also have technical details like minimum requirements, etc. A lot of the information offered through the official web will be similar to the one that was shipped with the game. But websites tend to include previews and reviews of the product, notice boards, customer support and downloadable files to fix specific problems, or patches with new language versions, as well as screenshots, concept art, thematic screen savers, merchandising, and fan blogs.


Dialogue for dubbing

(Spoken form. A separate sound file per utterance. Written scripts will normally be in spreadsheets or Word tables.) Speech delivered by game characters where registers, accents, and idiosyncrasies have to be conveyed into other languages. Sometimes an extra column is included to add inflection comments for the dubbing director. A part of the dubbing script may include atmospheric utterances also in a spoken form. Many games might feature characters talking or reacting to players’ actions. These characters may have little or no relevance to the plot, but their inclusion and to the immersion of the player in the virtual world. No synchronisation is normally required, but orality has to be maintained.


Dialogue for subtitling

(Spreadsheets and tables are preferred for this although subtitles might be hard-coded in order to synchronize them with video and animations).The dubbing script may be applied directly in the subtitling of the game, which results in cluttered and fast subtitles with no character limit per line, nor lines per subtitle. In addition, translators may be faced with the fact that not all languages allow for the same freedom when writing subtitles. Often translators will have to apply techniques used in the translation of children’s literature and comic-books to convey certain characteristics that would otherwise be lost. Time and space constraints are very relevant here.


User interface (UI)

(Table format, sometimes hard-coded text file due to the interactivity of each item). Space in menus, pop-up windows and hint captions is at a premium and redesigning is rarely an option, so translators will have to maintain a similar number of characters to that of the original label. Similarly to what happens in software localization, video games may have very detailed and crowded menu options to control different features of the game such as difficulty level, as well as graphic display selection, mouse sensitivity, or feedback preferences.


Graphic art with words

(A multi-layered graphic format). Players will normally find this type of graphic-text in game names but they can often be seen throughout the game as part of the branding of the product, as well as in advertisements.


Targeting new regional markets is always a challenge for game producers, as high-quality translation is often not enough for the product launch to become rewarding. To ensure the game is successfully introduced to the target audience and to eliminate possible retail risks, it is important for the product to be perfectly adapted to all the regional requirements and standards, taking into consideration a significant number of social, cultural and legal aspects. Proper localization requires a considerable amount of resources and effort; therefore, detailed step by step planning is crucial for a successful project.


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