The need for greater inclusivity in video game development

Despite the fact that playing video games has become an international phenomenon, there are still so many cultures that are very underrepresented in video game development. This is mostly due to the fact that it’s much easier to fall back on a “safe location” for a new video game, which bypasses the difficult task of localizing complex cultural elements and language nuances that are unknown to large populations around the world. For instance, awareness of United States culture is now a global phenomenon through its ubiquitous entertainment industry, so localizing a video game from American English has become relatively easy. But independent indie game developer Rami Ismail says, “I’ve been in Western boots too often. My feet are tired of them!” There are so many lesser known cultures and people whose stories should be told and portrayed through games, explains Ismail. 

While localization is an extremely challenging job, language is incredibly important, and cannot be overlooked or glazed over. If we’re a native English speaker, we most likely are not even aware of the many ways in which language becomes an invisible barrier to so many people around the world. From filling out forms online to speeches at conventions, there are usually none, or very few ways for people who don’t understand English to participate. 

In Episode 1 of Open World held on MultiLingual TV last week on January 12, Ismail shared his experience and advice as an advocate of greater inclusivity and awareness in video game development. He is a Dutch/Egyptian video game industry ambassador, and the strategic director and co-founder at Vlambeer, a Dutch indie game design company. In this episode, our Open World hosts, Florencia Fole, Loretta Mulberry, and Alexis Biro interviewed Ismail as their first-ever guest on the show. As per routine in each episode, they also shared a “LocFact” highlighting a video game and some gamer memes. 

If the Open World series doesn’t satisfy your game itch, MutiLingual‘s upcoming March/April issue is also on games in localization, so stay tuned.


Evelyn A Najarian
Evy is inspired by how learning languages opens doors to new cultures, perspectives and people. She holds a dual degree in French and Linguistics from UC Berkeley, and spent last year in Bordeaux, France teaching English in elementary schools.


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