The Language of Games


RichWeil.Gamescom.Germany2015(Ready Player One… Uno… Un… Eins!)

After meeting and greeting gamers and game-industry professionals from all over the globe at Gamescom a few weeks back, it made me reflect on how games have gone global over the last decade.

Games have, for many years now, transcended international boundaries and languages. They bring together players from all over the world. The rise of online multiplayer / cooperative / PVP games have fueled the formation of international guilds, clans, and groups. This is clear to anyone with an eye on the past 15-20 years of gaming history.

However, the distinct broadening of frontiers from a player’s perspective has presented game makers with distinct choices on how they communicate and support their global communities. To be sure, English is an international language. But there are many benefits to communicating with players in their own language. Every situation is unique, however, based on the demographics of any given game. If you have 80% English-speaking players, 10% French, 5% German and 5% other, is it really worth quadrupling the size of your support team to accommodate?

Fortunately, there are many options available for game companies with an international reach. Nobody will understand a particular demographic audience as well as members of that demographic: native-language speakers. And you don’t have to open an office in a particular country to make it work. Many companies use remote staff to supplement capabilities in various languages. A native-language speaker understands things like context, sarcasm, and symbolic speech. That’s vital in communicating with customers. In addition, it’s sometimes possible to find native-language speakers who are local to your office. In any case, an hourly or contract model allows for staffing a language at less than 40 hours per week, if you don’t have sufficient need to justify a full-time position.

At ModSquad, years ago, one of our first native-language moderation/community jobs in the game industry was staffed by a German speaker in Vancouver, another in London, and a French speaker in Mexico City, all working about 20 hours per week. Globalization is practically a cliché now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It’s usually quite possible to find native speakers of many languages nearby, but, of course, skill set and experience are paramount.

Communicating with players and customers in their own language (and doing it fluently) remains a service and brand differentiator. There are many ways to do this outside of traditional “hire someone at the home office” models, but whichever way a company decides to undertake this, it tends to pay off.

Rich Weil
Sr. Vice President Global Operations