Granty IDUB #UniLodz – elementy nietłumaczone w grach wideo

How much can we miss from the original when we rely solely on its translation? Would we have experienced more, if nothing had been left out of the translation? Often this issue depends on translation conventions and limitations of the medium itself. One could assume that translation of a book, poem or instruction manual should serve us as a close equivalent of the source text. What does it look like in the media, which apart from words, can also translate... an image? Dr hab., UL Professor, Mikołaj Deckert, the project manager and winner of this year's grant competition IDUB for experienced researchers, is interested in this phenomenon in video games. The researcher will analyse differences between various language versions of audiovisual media, as well as the related consequences in reception of a given work and experiences of the recipients themselves ("On-Screen Language in Video Games: a Translation Perspective").


prof. Mikołaj Deckert
prof. Mikołaj Deckert

Lodz pioneers - innovative research in its field

In numerous films or series one can find (often very interesting) elements of the presented world that remain untranslated. This is the title "On-Screen Language", that is simply text on the screen in the form of an image (or texture when talking about video games).

It is an ambitious, interdisciplinary and multi-faceted project. It oscillates around examining significant and relatively unknown asymmetries in the reception of various language versions of the same work. Thus, the project fits in the dynamic direction of cognitive analysis of translation and the broadly understood accessibility initiative. The research is highly innovative and unconventional, and its effects will not only be scientific and methodological, but they will also potentially find use in localisation practices and even in the production of interactive media in Poland and around the world.

The clear content of a newspaper held by the main character, which may suggest new ways of interpreting the plot may serve as an example. Or billboards constituting background for the action, but often containing funny allusions and details addressed directly to inquisitive viewers, from the creators. A sample illustration / visualisation (screenshot from the game "Tom Clancy's The Division 2", 2019):

Tom Clancys The Division VVC OSL

However, there are many good reasons why this (often very important) visual information often remains unexplained in Polish (and not only) to the enthusiasts of foreign films, series and computer games. However, this may lead to disproportion in the reception of allegedly the same work. The project gives hope for finding a compromise and minimizing this phenomenon using multimedia techniques. However, far-reaching research is necessary.

This research is completely innovative in its field. Despite the fact that the text will draw on traditional achievements and the most innovative works in the fields of translation studies, media and cognitive studies, and that a related study on a similar phenomenon in the film media was already published in 2019 (thanks to the work of dr hab. Mikołaj Deckert and Patrycja Jaszczyk), the text based on interactive media is unique in its niche.

It was in our interest to get to the works which we could base our research on. Therefore, it turned out to be all the more surprising that the issues raised by us seem to be unfathomable so far - at least based on works from our cultural circles. Therefore, we believe that this study has the potential to initiate new paths, even for the entire English-speaking scientific environment – says Krzysztof Hejduk, the co-author of the publication and contractor in the project led by prof. Mikołaj Deckert, MA in English Philology with a translation specialisation and an active member of the Science Club of "Video Game Researchers" at the University of Lodz.

He adds:

– At first it may sound like an oxymoron to seriously analyse ludic experiences, like playing computer games. However, it is important not only due to their growing popularity, but also to the still rarely discussed topic of the unprecedented potential of games-art and artistic depth in ambitious games – also from the perspective of combating unpleasant stereotypes and stigma associated with this hobby.

Apart from the problem itself, the publication will also stand out due to the subject matter it undertakes, which today is becoming more and more important, and not only in connection with self-isolation. Gaming industry is slowly surpassing other sectors of the market and the global number of gaming enthusiasts is growing every month. No wonder, then, that the relatively modest interest in this medium among scientists is quickly fading into oblivion. A study from the heart of Poland on the Polish language in the media and dealing with Polish players is, therefore, needed not only to use the known to everyone paths, but perhaps even to set new ones.

Specific examples

The research material will include, among others, a translation of the Warsaw sequel to the cult Shadow Warrior series, shooting games inspired by Asian action cinema. The second example is the multiplayer role-playing game entitled Tom Clancy's The Division 2, based on the motifs of the criminal prose and technothrillers of this American author. A player in the game takes on the role of a secret agent, whose task is to restore order in the US capital experiencing an epidemic of a deadly disease (at the same time the player is discovering the deep roots of a political conspiracy).

The authors also intend to refer to elements of translations of other popular titles, such as titles of adventure games: Life is Strange (2015) or Sam and Max (2007), the arcade and logical game Portal 2 (2011) or Fallout from 1997, which is famous for its multi-threading.

Hundreds of unique illustrations from the Polish versions of the two games, which were mentioned above, will be captured for the study, with particular emphasis on graphic elements containing texts left by the translators in the original language. The assumption is that this will make the phenomenon more probable and will highlight the hypothetical problem of leading to certain asymmetries between the experiences of players who know the language and those who do not know the source language (which is why they can reach for translations).

The consequence of this assumption is a careful attempt to justify and motivate the position of a translator, and their not translating these elements, e.g., due to technical, functional, educational, legal and even qualitative reasons. The authors of the text will seek confirmation of this thesis from the game developers themselves and their locations.

Researchers emphasize that an equally important topic is the planned consultation of possible ways to solve this problematic phenomenon, which may even allow inspiration to open a new market niche in Poland or in the world.

Dr hab. Mikołaj Deckert, UL Professor works at the Department of Translation Studies and Language Pedagogy at the Institute of English Studies of the University of Lodz. His research interests include interlingual translation, with particular emphasis on audiovisual translation, and the relationship between language and cognitive processes. He is an author of the monograph "Meaning in subtitling: toward a contrastive cognitive semantic model" (2013), chapters in collective volumes and articles in international journals, as well as a (co-)editor of collective publications, recently "The Palgrave Handbook of Audiovisual Translation and Media Accessibility" (2020, with prof. Łukasz Bogucki). A contractor and manager of grants financed by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, National Science Centre (NCN), National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR), FP6 and COST. He is the co-ordinating editor for the Journal of Specialized Translation.

Krzysztof Hejduk, currently a MA student at the University of Lodz, will act as a research contractor throughout duration of the project. He graduated from English studies at the University of Lodz with a very well-assessed linguistic BA thesis on topics closely related to the research within the project. He also delivered a presentation on topics relevant to the project in 2021 at the international conference Professional Communication and Translation Studies organised in Timisoara. By integrating his passion for art and technology (which is of key application in the project), he also combines the plans of the master's thesis with deepening of the subject matter. Since 2020, he has been also working for prestigious CLARIN research projects and as the only student at the University of Lodz, he has been a winner of the competition for a scholarship of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education for significant achievements for students for this year.

At least two English-language publications of international scope, published in accordance with the open access policy will constitute the result of the work. It is also planned to present the results at international conferences and to take part in research workshops, filling the niche of this innovative subject on many levels of (still growing) interest in the scientific community. The first effects will be visible by the end of this year, and the next ones will be available no later than in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Internal research competitions of the University of Lodz are funded under a subsidy that was increased by 2% for the universities that took part in the Excellence Initiative – Research University (IDUB) competition. University of Lodz, as one of the participants of the first edition of the IDUB competition organised by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, obtains additional funds, which will be allocated entirely to science.

Source: Prof. Mikołaj Deckert, Krzysztof Hejduk

Edit: Promotion Centre, University of Lodz