A videogame is an interactive product. For the experience to be truly immersive, the player cannot afford to be distracted. Subtitling the dialogue in a game instead of dubbing the VO can have a big impact on the gameplay. I recently read a couple of comments from players about this on Meristation, at the thread about the Localization Summit at GDC 2009. They all agree that dubbing is essential in certain games, especially those that rely heavily on action scenes.

“No doubt GTA IV would be a better game had it been dubbed into Spanish. I barely read the [subtitled] comments during a mission, especially when I am on the run. If I am driving against the clock,dodging through traffic with the cops on my heels, if I try to read the comments [what other NPCs say], I will crash. Guaranteed! It’s a shame.”

User > dmy on Meristation (20092203)

More and more, Spanish magazines include in their reviews a couple of lines on the quality of the localization of a given title. Some even take┬áthis into consideration as a key factor that can lower the rating of the game in question. Here’s a comment of another user to this rather recent practice.

“I understand about the rating [lowering the rating because the game is not localized or because it is subtitled, but not dubbed]. If the game is in English, that affects playability, especially if you have to read the text and interpret what it means. You don’t pay attention to the images, so you miss parts of the game and, as I said, this affects playability and you don’t become so immersed in the game’s world. So I think it’s fair that it deducts points from the total rating. And this doesn’t apply only to Spain: what would happen in the UK or US if big titles were released with subtitles or not translated at all? What would the specialist press and the users say? Or are we just cry-babies for demanding what is our right as consumers?”

User > bulubi on Meristation (20091909)

In my opinion, if we accept the fact that a game can immerse the player in its universe, it is obvious than the language is a key factor in order to attain such an immersion.”

User > kasun on Meristation (20092009)