The gaming industry has its fair share of problems. Too much DLC and not enough base game. Always Online DRM. Microtransactions. These are all issues that the gaming community is pretty vocal about. After all, nobody wants to pay high price for a game that's low on content, and then purchase DLC to "expand" their experience. Nobody wants to be connected to the internet just to constantly verify their single player game. Nobody wants to shell out $60 and then be immediately nickel-and-dimed at every turn. These are all reasonable, very vocal complaints across the gaming community and/or the internet.
But there is another problem, one that doesn't necessarily restrict itself to business practices: language.
Language is the biggest barrier in the industry, from a consumer, developer, and even publisher perspective. To the U.S., some of the best games such as certain JRPGs don't actually come out of Japan and reach North America. Heck, to many countries, all major games come from a foreign country, probably one which doesn't share the same primary language. So those who develop games have a much smaller market in return.
Their only remedy is to provide new subs and/or dubbing, attempting to translate virtually everything. Which is precisely the problem.
Different languages have different nuances, different puns, different means of thinking, and in the case of video games, different textures as well (i.e., when reading a sheet of paper that isn't supposed to be displayed in your HUD). This produces not only poorly translated jokes should the translation go wrong, but poorly translated meaning in certain situations. Now, from an artistic perspective, it makes sense that you would use a single language to convey a story, particularly if the dialogue is deep or inspired. You're going to want a particular language to convey a particular message or emotion. But when you consider things from a practical perspective, such as when certain dialogue or writing doesn't necessarily have to be considered deep or artistic even though the story may be, suddenly it doesn't matter what language you pick. It makes sense that perhaps it would be best to have it expressed in as many languages possible so everybody could experience it.
Or maybe just one language, one that can be recognizable by everybody in the world with no political boundaries or exclusion.
That language is Esperanto.
Esperanto is essentially a made-up language, composed of words and linguistic tendencies from a multitude of language. The idea behind Esperanto was to provide an internationally understood language while preserving the cultures around the world from being slowly engulfed by the ever expanding English language. By providing a language that can be understood by everybody while not taking over languages from any other country and thus damaging their culture, Esperanto was meant to kill two birds with one stone. Sadly, while it is still present in society, it never took off.
Perhaps everybody wanted to compete to have their language be the globally accepted primary language. Perhaps it was revealed in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe video games may end up being the right place, as now is certainly the right time.
Why does it matter?
To be fair, people can always just develop a game in one language and translate it into the next, especially if the writing didn't have any artistic or meaningful direction. The trouble is, you need new resources. Not only will certain assets of the game have to be changed, but you are probably going to need new Voice Actors, ones who can at least speak like a true native of the country you intend to voice for. While it isn't hard finding someone who can act out the lines in the particular language fluently, it is exceedingly difficult to get a hold of multiple people who can realize their character, moreso when you have to deal with multiple languages at once and moreso when you have a shoddily written translation and moreso when you're on a budget. It may result in the game either being shoddily developed, shoddily translated, shoddily voice acted, or even all of the above, on top of which games may not even bother being translated at all. At least when it comes to dubbing. Providing the game with alternate subtitles is a good alternative that doesn't cost nearly as much as it would to dub the games. However, it can result in a lack of immersion from having to take your eyes off the characters and pasted onto the little white text.
What's surprising is that often a game's subtitles can be very wrong. True, the overarching story will make sense, but the details can often turn out to be obscure. This doesn't happen too much, but it does happen enough, and if you were to ask somebody out of an English speaking country who plays a translated version of an English speaking game, they will surely admit running into a number of inconsistencies.
Why not Klingon?
At the risk of sounding insulting to the Star Trek fanbase, Klingon is a joke to the general public. Most people who glance at any work written in Klingon or any other fictional language dismiss it as nothing short of humorous, or ridiculous. However, by definition, Klingon is, in fact, a real language. Perhaps not one that has a real nationality of origin but it does have a wealth of words as well as its own grammar and linguistic nuances. It's biggest issue, however, was that it was designed for the sake of a fictional series, one that was forever labeled as the epitome of geek culture media, whereas Esperanto was designed for real life situations.
This is important to highlight, because it attacks one of the main controversies of Esperanto: It is a Eurocentric language. This means that its composition excludes words and grammatical tendencies from other languages originating from Africa or Asia. This brings about the question "why not just make another new language incorporating those other continents?" The issue circles right back to Klingon; said language would forever be labeled as part of geek culture due to being designed with video games in mind, preventing it from going mainstream, and thus preventing it from actually sustaining itself in the industry as a viable language.
It's important to note that languages are organic; there's no telling whether in time, when exposed to new cultures and situations, Esperanto won't grow to accommodate the other continents as well.
Why not Zoidberg?
Where do we start?
Esperanto could easily make a smooth transition as the main language in Sci-Fi video games. For those who have seen the series Firefly, you would have noted that despite the fact that the cast is largely European (And North American), one of the primary languages is actually Mandarin (though Mandarin is portrayed only in the background or via cursing). The premise is that when all of Earth had upped and left their home planet for uncharted space, the way politics works took a dramatic shift in lawless territory. New laws had to be formed under the influence of the Alliance, largely governed both by the Americans and Chinese.
A very similar situation could arise for Esperanto. In fact I'm surprised the possibility of it being implemented in Firefly hasn't been considered. If humanity's status quo had been completely reset, why wouldn't Esperanto be a logical language to learn? Nobody would have to fight to preserve their language and culture, and this is especially important because if something drastic had happened to reset human politics, I doubt humanity would have much left in them to start up a fight so soon over a means of communication.
Why Video Games?
Video games are possibly the best medium to begin presenting Esperanto, primarily because nearly all story driven video games are expected to at least have English subtitles to explain what is going on when somebody is speaking a foreign language. For example, in Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic is speaking in Serbian/Croatian with his cousin Roman, while the subtitles below are presented in English. Why this would work better in a video game better than a movie would be because video games focus primarily on providing great gameplay, meaning that more people would be willing to sit through reading subtitles to play the game if the gameplay is good enough.
Additionally, it's also considerably easier to provide an audience with an alternate language dubbing on a video game than it is to provide it on a feature film (particularly a live action one). Mostly due to the fact that a majority of the lines of dialogue in video games aren't always present during cutscenes; oftentimes characters will actually speak in game, and rarely will you actually see their mouths move.
Finally, video games is the best medium for bringing creativity to the masses. Hollywood movies very often have to follow a formulaic standard, forcing them to be monotonous in order to appeal to the masses. On the other hand, indie games which strive to be different in one way or another are often widely praised for not following the same formula, day in and day out. After all, titles such as Minecraft, DayZ, and as early as Resident Evil went so far as to generate new genres let alone new gameplay, and they all became successes in their fields just for being different. So isn't it possible that Esperanto would thrive in such a flexible environment?
What do you think? Is it time for Esperanto in video games to become a reality? Is it worth the time and effort to put it in video games at all?
Image Sources: http://elthalen.deviantart.com/art/Esperanto-…