The specter of artificial intelligence (AI) looms large over the video game industry. While artists have begun to feel the chill of unemployment as AI-generated images become more advanced, a new crowd has begun to cry foul over artificial incursion onto their turf.
Video game translators and localizers, those tasked with converting unintelligible cultural differences into things understandable to a Western audience, are beginning to feel the squeeze as their jobs get outsourced to the machines.
American localizers for manga series The Ancient Magus’ Bride became incensed when the manga’s Japanese publisher announced it planned to use a combination of AI and human editors to create the English edition of the series.
Some translators and localizers tried to argue this was an example of “corporate greed” and that it demonstrated “disrespect for the substance of the original text.” Others claimed the use of AI would result in a “mediocre product.”
While, for the moment, human-AI teaming appears to be limited to this particular manga, it’s not difficult to imagine the process becoming more common with multiple forms of media. Anime, gaming, and manga have thus far been reliant on humans to translate cultural nuance. The shift to a hybrid model of translation would be a game-changer for the industry.
But for all the complaining on the part of these geeky interlocutors, their complaints about how AI will make an inferior product or disrespect the text don’t paint a full picture of the issue at hand.
While translation from a foreign language to English is undeniably important, localization has a much more controversial history in nerdom. In recent years, localization has gone from simply translating an awkward cultural difference into something an American can comprehend into full-blown revisionism, usually in service of the leftist hivemind.
For example, “NEO: The World Ends with You” saw anti-capitalism dialogue awkwardly shoehorned in, while “Fire Emblem: Engage” saw multiple references to the sexes removed. “Engage’s” predecessor, “Fire Emblem: Fates,” had such terrible localization that it earned the ire of legacy media with a scathing article in Forbes. And localizer shenanigans to “remove sexism” in “The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III” were so egregious that the game’s American publisher had to step in and issue a statement denying it censored content during localization. Fans rightfully called this out as a lie.
With mountains of evidence indicating localizers and translators are more than willing to meddle with the texts and stories of our favorite games, moaning about the integrity of human translation or the mediocre quality of AI translation falls flat.
It seems less like these localizers are concerned with creating a good product and more like they’re terrified of losing the ability to fill content to the brim with ideology. It is very much in the spirit of the “woke” left to cry foul when they’re forced to compete on merit.
Activist translators have already failed to compete with literal word-to-word translations in the past. “River City Girls Zero” offered players two options for dialogue. One was heavily localized, filled with “creative liberties,” and the other was a more faithful translation based on the game’s original Japanese text.
Much to localizers’ chagrin, the literal translation won out handily. Cue the waterworks about how this was another example of “ungrateful fans.”
That’s why AI should terrify these activist translators; it hastens their much-needed irrelevance to the game production process. Translators and localizers are supposed to enhance a player’s enjoyment of a game by crafting an experience that makes more sense for the Western gamer. Instead, they use their power and influence to poison games and twist them into yet another vessel for omnipresent leftism.
These woke infiltrators are realizing the jig is up once AI can do the job they were supposed to do but without any of the political nonsense. The “River City Girls Zero” debacle shows that gamers just want a no-frills translation, while “The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III” saga proves gamers will lose faith in a product if woke censorship is shown to have occurred.
The world of translation is about to undergo a radical shift. Activists should be shaking in their boots.
Douglas Blair is a producer and special correspondent with “O’Connor Tonight” on the Salem News Channel.