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سبتمبر 4, 2020 |

10 Golden Rules of Video Game Subtitles 

Video game subtitles matter, so when localizing video games, you should make sure your subtitles are available in multiple languages to meet players’ expectations. 

Subtitles don’t only benefit deaf people, but all players who prefer to read important information rather than wait to hear it during the game. They’re also useful when ambient sound interferes, making it easy for a player to get distracted. 

What’s the Deal with Video Game Subtitles?

Subtitles in video games are about more than helping the hearing-impaired immerge into the narrative. When done correctly, they contribute to the overall user experience and help users engage with the game. On the other hand, poorly written subtitles that are hard to read or include grammatical errors will only draw the eye away from the narrative. 

According to Ubisoft, 95 percent of “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” and 75 percent of “Division 2” players like to keep subtitles on. These numbers highlight why it’s important to pay attention to your subtitles’ quality to ensure an excellent game experience in all languages. 

Here are ten golden rules of video game subtitles you should follow to ensure that your players don’t miss anything. 

1. Say No to Google Translate

When you translate video game content, you should work with a team of translators familiar with the industry who understands the target markets and the local gaming culture. Simply running your original subtitles through Google Translate (or any other software) can’t help you get an accurate translation. 

Moreover, since you need to accommodate subtitles with a specific time frame, the texts often need to be rewritten to respect particular formatting requirements. This is not something that software can do alone–at least, not for now. 

2. Keep Lines of Text Narrow and Short

Translations can result in up to 300 percent expansion of the text, making it challenging to manage video game subtitles. Usually, it’s problematic when texts are very compact in original languages, such as English or Chinese, but it can occur in several combinations of languages. 

Ideally, you should try to transcreate the content and dialogues to have short line lengths as often as possible. Short lines of text cover less of the screen’s surface and make reading more comfortable for players. 

3. Use Standard Sentence Case

In many cultures worldwide, using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS can be seen as a sign of bad manners or perceived as “shouting.” Moreover, as most people aren’t used to reading this way, video game subtitles written with uppercase letters can slow players down and distract them from the story. 

When playing, gamers have less time to focus on the subtitles than people who watch TV, for instance. So, the lines should always be easy to read for the average player. Use the standard sentence case for regular conversations and capital letters only when you need to emphasize something. 

4. Change Fonts for Different Languages

The default font for your original text may not look good in other languages, especially when you work with different writing systems. Also, it’s good to remember that languages like Chinese or Arabic have fewer font choices than those using the Latin alphabet. 

If you set different fonts for each language, all players can easily read the words and enjoy the experience. Look for simple, nice fonts that help users concentrate on their objectives and milestones inside the game, instead of guessing letters hidden in the subtitles.  

5.  Insert Captions to Source Dialogue Lines

When it’s not easy to tell who’s speaking, players can lose track of the dialogue and get confused. To avoid friction, use captions to display the name of each character to source dialogue lines.  

Also, when you need to display lines from more characters, you should stagger the subtitles to make it seamless to understand who’s speaking. 

6. Use Center Alignment

Subtitles placed at the center of the bottom of the screen are easier to read and, overall, are less likely to obscure any vital part of the visuals. 

7. Include Important Sounds in Subtitles

Non-speech details are necessary to help users who play without sound feel the atmosphere of the game. At the same time, captions that transcribe the important sounds give hard-of-hearing people clues for understanding what’s happening in the background. 

As a guideline, these captures shouldn’t distract players from the narrative, so listing the subtitles for dialogues should have priority over the transcriptions of non-speech sounds. 

8. Ensure Subtitles Reflect What Players Hear

Often, voiceover artists improvise when registering the dialogues to accentuate some character features or make the conversation sound natural. It’s normal and, usually, results in better game experience, as the characters seem more realistic. 

Even if the voice artists remain close to the script, gamers will immediately notice the differences between the spoken dialogue and subtitles. While they don’t directly impact the story, the differences can be annoying for some, especially when they occur more than once during the game. 

Transcribe subtitles using the voiceovers to reflect what players hear, not what was written in the original script. It enables you to ensure consistency and improve the game’s quality. 

9. Make It Easy for Players to Switch Subtitles On and Off

Even if most gamers seem to like having subtitles on, they should still have the freedom to turn them off whenever they feel like. Developers should make it easy for users to get rid of subtitles or activate them while playing. 

10. Localize Slang in Subtitles

One of the challenges when translating video games is handling slang. In this case, localization can help you simultaneously keep the atmosphere of the game and make the conversation easy to understand by international gamers. 

If you get rid of the slang to facilitate translation, you’ll end up with flat characters who are less likely to generate high engagement.  

Work with professional translators who understand the video game industry and the local audience. This way, you’ll get high-quality translations that contribute to recreating the game’s original climate in a way that meets the public’s expectations.