Translation, transcreation, and adaptation are, on one level, different amounts of textual manipulation from less to more. From this viewpoint, translation is a basic form of textual alteration from one language into another be it translating a book’s Japanese to English or a subtitling a Hindi into French. Further onto the continuum of alteration, transcreation involves the freer manipulation of a text to better target a local market. Whether this is through O’Hagan and Mangiron’s (2013) understanding of transcreation as working with the patron paying for the job, or Humphrey et al.’s (2011) more business oriented view of changing a product and its advertising to better sell it in a target market, transcreation involves a more aggressive re-creation of the original text that goes beyond general understanding of changing words and sentences. Finally, adaptation is on the far side of the scale, where a basic idea is held close, often the narrative, but the text is fully re-created within new contexts, usually temporal or spatial. So, Shakespeare is retold as inner city gang fighting, and Japanese horror films are remade with English speaking actors and actresses.
Technology can certainly influence translational possibilities. Digital movie editing suites like Adobe Premiere and Apple iMovie, available to the layman with a computer since the 1990s have made fan editing of movies and television shoes a breeze. Online translation API for sites like TED’s Open Translation Project and Facebook’s translation have opened the practice up even further, enabling average users to try their hands. Certainly, access has been massively changed by technology, and one might make a corresponding claim that the availability of digital tools makes it easier to transcreate and adapt texts. Following this logic, redubbing What’s Up Tiger Lily? was far more difficult for Woody Allen in the 1960s than redubbing is for fan dubbers of anime in the 21st century who have readily available home computers, recording tools, and dubbing software. There is a certain truth, then, that tools help us manipulate texts. However, I want to propose something different here, that the ability to more fully manipulate a translation comes less from tools, and more from relationships between people.
Video games are a good medium to show the importance of human interaction. Video games can be localized in almost exhaustible detail: linguistic, audio, graphical, and ludic elements can be adapted to help the text more from one locale to another. However, the technology used to adapt games to local contexts and markets is the same technology that is used to make the games in the first place. Yes, the technology allows us to make these changes (just as it enables us to make the original), but just having the digital tools does not equal the ability to use the digital tools in two connected ways.
First, using digital tools is a skill that requires a skilled user. Remodeling a character’s clothes to cover more body is a task for the design department, even if a localization expert calls for the change. Thus, video game localization is a complex, distributed practice that requires multiple people with different skill sets even if the tools they’re all using are available. Because of the distribution it is the relationships between the distributed experts that will ultimately lead to more complex localized elements. For instance, say the localization expert wants to not simply translate a game by changing words here and there and either subtitling or dubbing dialogue, but she wants to change a character because she thinks the changed character will be better received in her local market. If the development team trusts her they will take the time and effort to follow through and make those changes. If trust does not exist, the technology matters not: no changes will be made.