Video Game Translation and Cognitive Semantics

by Mateusz Sajna (Author)
©2016 Monographs 157 Pages
Series: Łódź Studies in Language, Volume 47


The book concentrates on video game translation from the perspective of cognitive semantics. One of its objectives is to assert that translators’ knowledge of cognitive semantics can affect translation, i.e. decoding the sender’s mental states and evoking particular mental states in the target language recipient. The work is interdisciplinary and draws on such fields as games studies, cognitive semantics, and translation studies. It also aspires to complete gaps in the scientific research on video games, systematize the knowledge of localization, and ascertain the role played by translators in the localization process. The research material consists of eight video games which belong to different genres, and the investigated English video game texts cover almost 3000 standard pages.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Video Games And Video Gaming
  • Overview
  • 1. What Are Video Games?
  • 1.1 Products Or Works of Art?
  • 1.2 Computer Games And Console Games
  • 1.3 Social Aspects of Video Gaming
  • 1.3.1 Authors’ tricks
  • 1.3.2 A Colossal Waste of Time?
  • 1.4 Brief History of Video Gaming
  • 1.5 Video Games – Previous Research
  • 1.6 Game Typology
  • 1.6.1 Video Game Industry Game Typology
  • 1.6.2 Aarseth’s Open-Ended Typology
  • 1.6.3 Massive Multiplayer Games
  • 1.7 Lexis of Video Games
  • 1.8 Chapter Conclusions
  • Chapter 2: Video Game Translation
  • Overview
  • 2. Localization And The Translator
  • 2.1 Translation of Video Games
  • 2.1.1 Translation Techniques
  • Vinay And Darbelnet
  • Tomaszkiewicz’s Culture-Specific Terms
  • Delabastita’s Pun Translation
  • 2.1.2 Video Game Translation Features
  • Variables
  • Source Code
  • Blind Translation
  • Space Limitations
  • Non-linearity
  • Impersonal Translation
  • In-Game Art Assets
  • Access Paths
  • Links
  • Game-Specific Terms
  • Style
  • Rating
  • 2.1.3 Video Game Translator “Helpers”
  • Lockit
  • Computer Assisted Translation Tools
  • 2.2 Skopos Theory in Video Game Translation
  • 2.3 Commissioner And Goals of Localization
  • 2.4 Translation As Part of Gameplay
  • 2.5 Modes of Video Game Translation
  • 2.5.1 Subtitles
  • 2.5.2 Dubbing And Lip-Synchronization
  • 2.6 Additional Materials
  • 2.7 Chapter Conclusions
  • Chapter 3: Cognitive Semantics And Translation
  • Overview
  • 3. In Search of Meaning
  • 3.1 What is Meaning?
  • 3.1.1 Meaning in “Pre-Cognitivism”
  • 3.1.2 “Cognitive” Account of Meaning – Dictionary vs. Encyclopedic
  • 3.2 Mental Space Theory
  • 3.2.1 Meaning Construction
  • 3.2.2 On-Going Discourse And Mental Spaces
  • 3.2.3 Salient Features of Mental Spaces
  • Space Builders
  • Counterparts And Connectors
  • Roles And Values
  • 3.2.4 Constraints of Mental Space Theory
  • 3.3 Conceptual Blending Theory
  • 3.3.1 Salient Features of Blending Networks
  • 3.3.2 Principles for Constructing A Blend
  • Compression
  • Other Governing Principles
  • 3.3.3 Taxonomy of Blending Networks
  • Simplex Networks
  • Mirror Networks
  • Single-Scope Networks
  • Double-Scope Networks
  • 3.3.4 Conceptual Blending vs. Mental Space Theory
  • 3.3.5 Criticism of Conceptual Blending Theory
  • 3.4 Conceptual Metaphor Theory
  • 3.4.1 Salient Features of Conceptual Metaphors
  • 3.4.2 Conceptual Metaphor Theory vs. Conceptual Blending Theory
  • 3.5 Cognitive Semantics And Translation – From Description to Application
  • Chapter 4: Video Games And Blending
  • Overview
  • 4. Hors-d’oeuvre
  • 4.1 Translation Techniques for In-Game Blending Texts
  • 4.1.1 Direct Transference
  • 4.1.2 Alteration
  • 4.1.3 Explication
  • 4.1.4 Simile
  • 4.1.5 Addition
  • 4.1.6 Subtraction
  • 4.1.7 Omission/No translation
  • 4.1.8 Blending Translation Techniques – Summary
  • 4.2 Future of Game Translation
  • Concluding Remarks And Summary
  • References
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables

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Translators specializing in the rendition of video games are afflicted with a substantial deficiency of academic texts, as well as scientific texts for the general public, which would discuss the various problems of video game translation. Furthermore, it is also rather difficult to encounter monographs or even articles describing the very process of game localization, its assorted stages, persons involved (legal or natural), and the place translation ought to take there. Such a situation might seem surprising, especially when taking into account that the video game industry is developing at a dizzying pace. There are more and more players all over the world who are more than willing to spend their financial resources on video games, and they thus greatly contribute to the fact that today’s games generate more revenue than any motion picture ever created by the movie industry.

The following project will endeavor to fill this considerable gap in the existing knowledge and to explore the area of video game localization, or, to be more precise, the translation component thereof. In so doing, this book will concentrate on the translation of video games from the perspective of cognitive semantics, analyzing video game renditions with the assistance of cognitive linguistic theories – most notably Conceptual Blending Theory. It will mostly be based on observations of the Polish localization market and will focus on video game translation into Polish. Nevertheless, the localization process appears to be parallel in other European countries as well and, consequently, non-Polish translators and readers might find it interesting, too.

The work will commence with introductory information whose objective will be to familiarize readers with the subject of video games. I shall present the rationale for selecting video games as the subject matter of the project. Readers will be acquainted with various types of video game genres and will be encouraged to take their stance in the dispute over the artistic nature of games. Apart from that, the first part of the book will furnish them with an overview of the history of video gaming as well as an up-to-date review of the current and previous research conducted within the field. All the information provided here will lay the foundations for the following, more translator-oriented chapter.

The general knowledge of video games having been presented in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 will delve to a greater extent into the localization of video games, and more precisely, into the role of translators and translation within this intricate process. It will provide readers with information about the obstacles which ← 15 | 16 → translators might encounter during the task of video game rendition and about the manner of overcoming these difficulties. A discussion on the role which translation plays in every game will be presented, as well as the utilization of Skopos theory in the light of the aforementioned dispute over the artistic nature of video games. Chapter 2 will also be a source of information on the modes of game rendition, and will enumerate other translation tasks which must be performed in a full localization cycle.

In Chapter 3 the concept of video games will play a secondary role for the time being because the primary place will be reserved for various cognitive semantic notions and theories. Firstly, I shall ascertain what constitutes meaning for the purposes hereof. The adopted view of meaning appears to be fundamental to all who analyze discourse, and especially to translators who, after all, strive to discover and construe the meaning embedded in the original and to reconstruct it in their renditions. Secondly, three theories of meaning construction will be presented, namely Mental Space Theory, Conceptual Blending Theory, and Conceptual Metaphor Theory. Both the positive and negative aspects of these approaches to meaning construction will be discussed. What is more, they will be juxtaposed and compared with one another. This chapter will not omit the translation aspect of the dissertation altogether, and the implications of the abovementioned theories and notions for the work of translators will also be presented where appropriate. The previous three components, especially Chapters 2 and 3, will constitute the theoretical framework upon which the last analytical chapter will be based.

Chapter 4 will be the pivotal point of the entire work. Here, all the information gathered thus far will be utilized in searching for regularities and recurring patterns in the translation of various video games. Examples which comprise expressions indicating the distinct presence of the process of conceptual blending will be solely taken into account. Consequently, not all conceptual blending networks will be of interest to the author of this project, and, therefore, simplex networks which compose different roles and values and present no emergent meaning will not be included in this chapter. What is more, upon completion of the analysis, certain scrutinized examples will be altered in order to show the readers how the selection of particular lexemes might affect meaning construction in general and translation in particular. Last but certainly not least, a short discussion about the future of video game translation will be held, and an attempt to predict the direction of the development of the video game translation market will be undertaken. It is predicted even today that the gaming industry will not slow for years to come. ← 16 | 17 →

The research material for the following project consists of eight English versions of video games (PC versions) belonging to different genres and their Polish renditions. They are as follows (in brackets, the international and Polish publishers, respectively): Dragon Age II (Electronic Arts Inc., Electronic Arts Polska), Cyrsis 2 (Electronic Arts Inc., Electronic Arts Polska), Heroes of Might and Magic V (Ubisoft, CD Projekt), The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Softworks, Cenega Poland), Black Mirror III (dtp AG/Anaconda, CI Games), Tropico (Gathering of Developers, Play-It), Krater: Shadows over Solside (Lace Mamba Global, Techland), Dead Island Riptide (Deep Silver/Koch Media, Techland). The investigated material covers as many as 2 900 standard pages (1 800 characters including spaces) of English text, on the basis of which 439 examples have been selected for the final analysis. ← 17 | 18 →

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Chapter 1:  Introduction to Video Games And Video Gaming


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (August)
translation methods mental states interdisciplinarity games studies translation studies
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 157 pp., 21 b/w ill., 1 coloured ill., 15 tables

Biographical notes

Mateusz Sajna (Author)

Mateusz Sajna graduated from the Institute of English Studies at the University of Wrocław (Poland) where he gained his PhD in linguistics at the Faculty of Letters. His research interests include video game and audiovisual translation, as well as cognitive semantics.


Title: Video Game Translation and Cognitive Semantics
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159 pages