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Film Subtitling And Game Subtitling:

What's The Difference?

As far as I'm aware, subtitling research dates back to 1957, when Simon Laks released his pioneering work Le Sous-titrage de films: Sa technique, son esthétique. Since then, this academic field has seen a massive increase in popularity and acknowledgement as a separate branch of translation studies that explores various aspects of subtitling audiovisual products.


One of the relatively novel types of such products is video games. Enjoyed worldwide, they play a prominent role in today's popular culture and society. Just like other forms of multimedia, games are subtitled for the benefit of the deaf and hard of hearing as well as those not fluent in the game's primary language.

Yet, video game subtitling remains woefully underresearched — so much so, in fact, that I could only find several related papers.

This article's purpose is to call academics' attention to the medium and stimulate more research by outlining the fundamental differences between film and games in terms of subtitling.


So, here they are:

​​​1. Game subtitling is multimodal


Cutscenes + gameplay + menu (?) = multimodal (and different modes require different approaches)

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Star Wars Battlefront II

2. Games are interactive

games are interactive, so less time for subs

3. Games can offer controlled presentation rate

Some games have text in bubbles = let you control the presentation rate

4. Stronger space constraints

the interface is there, so can't obscure it

5. There's no timecoding

Subtitles appear not at a predetermined time in gameplay. Audio files are played separately, so the process is very different (ask Ian Hamilton)

6. Game subtitle translation is not audiovisual

The translators don't get to see the game, let alone play it

7. More creative liberty

what remained of edith finch blah blah

8. Completely different technology

Subtitles displayed on event triggers rather than timecodes, generated by the game engine.

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