UPDATE – note that the blog post noting the behaviour from Square Enix has since been deleted. We have included a screen shot of the original post below, and a link to the google cache here. Reader discretion is advised.
As KFC infamously discovered, some things simply do not translate. The decision to roll out its taste-tastic catchphrase met with hilarious consequence in Asia. Translating literally as “So good you can eat your own fingers”, it’s not something we would have gone with. This is nothing new of course, language is a complex beast. A most demanding mistress that ill-treated will writhe and wriggle until all meaning is lost to abstract literacies. It is somewhat perplexing then, that as audiences mature and gaming narratives with them, that Square Enix have demanded a review undertaken in Swedish of recent triple A release “Marvel’s Avengers” be unilaterally applied pan-Europe.
Marvel’s Avengers to receive one universal rating from GameReactor
To interject my language lament with a modicum of context, Square Enix have urged the Danish leadership of GameReactor to use just one review and score for Marvel’s Avengers. Written in Norwegian. GameReactor is a gaming site with more than ten different European subsidiaries. It spans the continent, including the Nordics, Germany, Italy and the UK.
This is no two-bit editorial team, with readership exceeding the hundreds of thousands. Their influence is, quite literally universal. But does it make sense that a review conducted in one language, with all the idiomatic intricacies that entails to be simply Ctrl+XV’d wholesale to myriad other countries? To use an analogy, would you be more inclined to favour a French restaurant recommended by a native, or a tourist? The answer to that, c’est evident.
The information comes from the Swedish Editor-In-Cheif’s blog, translated as follows;
“We…Yes…There will be no Swedish review of Square Enix’s Avengers Game, this despite Henke playing it to curse and knowing what he thinks of it. Square want’s to see a “pan-European” rating, which we have never agreed to before, but apparently have to arrange this time. So, so it will be. The same grade everywhere and it is a Norwegian text that I will translate into Swedish on Monday. Henke will kindly write another opinion and share his opinions, anyway, but now you know why we do not have a text today and why it will not be Swedish when it comes.”Taken from GameReactor Blog – this post has now been removed, but a link to the cached article on google is available here
Above: The original article from GameReactor, before it was removed
Les carottes sont cuites!
French – The Carrots are cooked! – The situation can’t be changed.
Let’s move away from language for a moment. Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether a game developer with the gravitas of Square Enix should be able to exert such undue influence on the critical press at all. Sadly, this practice is nothing new to the industry. It goes a little something like this. Game developer graciously gives reviewer early access to their game. Reviewer responds in kind by putting out a sugar coated review with elevated scores on day of release. Thirsty fans read said reviews, so increasing readership/viewership. Rinse, repeat.
And Square Enix particularly are guilty of this, having had their hands caught in the cookie jar once before. This was via their media distribution partner “Koch Media”. Spanish gaming site, “AreaJugones” reported that Koch Media threatened not to provide pre-release copies of future titles. This was based on their Final Fantasy XV review of 7.5/10.
Square Enix allegedly held black list for poor review scores of FFXV
This comes direct from the online magazine’s director general. The article reveals that Square threatened to add the magazine to a “silent blacklist”, curtailing access to future releases. The position taken by AreaJugones is stark, and considering the threat made, brave. It states that,
“Koch Media has vetoed us today the possibility of launching the reviews of its future games embargo date for disagreeing with the score we have awarded to Final Fantasy XV. Yes, you read well, our independence as a medium collides with the economic interests of said company and that’s where we lose.”Translated from the article published by AreaJugones.
Tomaten auf den Augen haben!
German – “You have tomatoes in your eyes!” You are not seeing what everyone else is seeing
At this point it is fair to say that so far we have only been gifted one side of the story. Neither Square Enix nor Koch responded to the allegations made by AreaJuones, so it’s difficult to attest to their validity. But considering this recent statement from GameReactor, you have to wonder where all this smoke is coming from. What we can say is that post-launch surprises intentionally withheld from review are becoming increasingly prolific. EA’s inclusion of adverts in their recent MMA title UFC4 were certainly not covered in day one reviews, and the complexity of in-game currency grind within the Avengers game itself was, and still is something of a mystery.
Amazon Prime show “The Boys” advertised mid fight in EAs UFC 4
The simple advice for consumers here is that day one reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt, and day one purchases avoided at all costs. Give it a week, take another gander at the reviews popping up and re-evaluate. And there’s a good reason for that, too. Publications without the commercial acumen of, say GameReactor simply don’t get pre-launch copies of AAA games to review.
Of course, this means that their reviewers desperately scramble to put in the 40+ hours necessary to formulate their own conclusions often in the space of a week, tops. Any later and you run the risk of irrelevance. But this short hiatus comes with the inimitable advantage of being made completely without duress, or fear of repercussion. There is simply nothing to lose from being honest. As the German’s like to say “don’t buy a cat in a sack”.
But I digress. Whilst the influence and practices of games developers are to be condemned, assuming the response of a continent will align to a review written in another country, in another language seems a step too far. Localisation exists for a reason, and when done well elevates a game to resonate beyond the generic. FromSoft in particular, a Japanese company renowned for its foray into typically Western mysticism understand this nuance above all. Demonstrably articulated best when they get it wrong.
Sen’s Fortress, or the Fortress of a Thousand Traps?
Sen’s Fortress is the perfect example. In a rare act of oversight, From’s localisation team failed to translate directly from the Japanese “Sen”, which means one thousand. Delve a little deeper into the archives of discarded code and dialogue, and you uncover the true name for this desperate pit of rancour. The original translation, once unpicked, unveils that Sen’s Fortress was originally named the “House of Thousand Traps”. Much more fitting you would think. But ultimately this changes the meaning completely. Sen is not person, but a concept, ultimately altering the player’s perspective, and so experience of this aspect of the game.
Avaler des couleuvres
French – To Swallow Grass Snakes – To be so insulted you are unable to reply
So language is important, then. It is the very fabric with which we weave our experiences. A dropped vowel here, a misspent adjective there and you begin to pluck away the treads, tearing into and ultimately transforming the illustrious, complex quilt until it resembles something else entirely. Surely with a game so unapologetically bathed in Americanism, such as Marvel’s Avengers, the gauntlet for cultural misinterpretation is raised yet further still.
Putting abhorrent industry practice aside for a moment, if a developer is intent on such generic reception, surely this can only speak to generic quality of the game itself. Seeking unilateral appeal surely dulls the edges of innovation; perhaps the game will transpire to be as much a clone of its contemporaries as the reviews we are all no doubt about to read.
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