Is it really narrative (and localization) not important when creating a videogame?
Few things I like more than being with a good friend and talk about miscellaneous topics, random conversations ... But when you meet a friend who is collaborating in a video game incubator ... , the chances that we end up talking about games is 100%
The project in which he is collaborating is an incubator of mobile games for indie developers. There, there are young entrepreneurs making their first video game. In that incubator, they are advised on the different phases that are needed to move a game forward, which are many!
Making a video game is much more complicated than it seems! this is something that usually surprised people that is not in the industry, but the truth is that making a video game is a complex, very complex task.
Since we start pitching the idea until we have it installed on our phone, many things happen.
For example developing the narrative, the storytelling with which we are going to hook our players ... and there, on that terrace with my friend while we were having a beer and a paella tapa, our fight (dialectic) started.
He told me that the narrative part of the video games that they were collaborating did not have much weight, that the key they were developing in the engagement with the players was based on creating an addictive gameplay, the effort was in the art and in the mechanics of the game.
Ouch! My friend saying that the narrative part was not very important to build player engagement; that's an uppercut to someone who has been his whole life dealing with words!
At that moment I had a deja-vu.
I will never forget when a few years ago I read an interview with John Carmack (creator of Doom and Quake) that he mentioned below quote
Interesting thought ... but I think I disagree ... When it comes to video games, the story is important!
I believe that whether it's a mobile game or a triple AAA console, a narrative is important, and I think it's important because it can make the game remains in our memories for many years, like a good movie, or a good book.
Going back to the words of John Carmack ... I understand (partially) his words; when I played Doom on that old computer that I had in the room of my parents' house I did not care much about the story. My goal was to destroy all those demons that came from hell... and yes, I spent a good time shooting ... but I have better memories of video games like the Indiana Jones in which the narrative played an important part. For me to focus on a video game paying attention only to gameplay is a possibility, but personally, I think it is not the best option to build player engagement.
I think we should make more games that are about narrative ideas instead of just games that are shooting.
That presents a challenge because the games industry has for years invested in the technical part of the gaming experience and much less attention has been paid to the narrative effort, and even less to the localization efforts.
So I disagree with my friend, and with John Carmack!
The narrative in a video game is important, translating that narrative is very important and involving the Globalization / Localization teams in such efforts is tremendously important!
After all, a Localization team is the key for many developers to increase the revenue.
Game content localization helps to:
- increase sales in target markets,
- build players community in local countries through narrative and engagement.
- also when we translate a game we show our players that we care about them.
A great game is a combination of different factors.
The game has not only to have fun mechanics, but also it has to be linguistically topnotch and it has to have a narrative that it is culturally adapted to our players so they feel engaged. And this is important because usually better player engagement leads to better monetization and it also leads to better retention KPI.
So, what is the perfect formula to create a suceful video game? I do not know, but I think that storytelling and glocalization can play an important role.
And although I do not know which is the perfect formula, I dare to make an attempt to discover the formula of success of a video game! Here we go!
This illustration that you find below is the formula of success of a video game IMHO
I believe the story in a video game is important.
I believe that localization is important.
And sure you can tell me that there are games that have no narrative, that you have a level of translation that is minimal and that those games have succeeded in becoming a blockbuster; but I prefer to believe that is an exception to the rule 🙂; I prefer to believe that the narrative part of a video game is important; in porn I do not know if narrative is important enough to "build engagement", in video games, the story is important, and the localization is super-important!
Which are your thoughts on this? do you agree with my friend and with Doom creator? or maybe you are at my side that narrative in video games is not as the narrative in porn? 😳Looking forward to your comments!
Have an excellent week!