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The 4 game-overs of culturalization


OK, so you’ve got a seriously great game that blows people away in the US. It’s bound to have the same impact in China, Japan and South Korea, right? Wrong. What makes a good story in one country may not work so well in another, worse still it may even cause offense – call it what you wish, a ‘culture clash’, but this is where culturalization comes in.

Culture

When approaching culturalization, there are four major potential pitfalls to consider:

History, beliefs, cultural/ethic friction, and geopolitical perspectives. Run afoul of any of these, and your game might well be banned from the most sensitive markets.

Let’s look at them one by one:

History
Victors may write history, but rewrites may be in order before that history is presented to foreign markets. Past events are among the most sensitive topics when entering into foreign markets since most (especially non-Western) cultures are very protective of their historical legacies.

Religion, Customs & Beliefs
When entering into markets with strict religious codes, any problematic content can cause backlash. Consider the dominant religions of your target audience. In Indonesia, Malaysia and the Southern Philippines, Islam is the most widely practiced religion; in Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, it’s Buddhism; Christianity and Catholicism in the Philippines and eastern Indonesia and East Malaysia.

Cultural/Ethnic Friction
Ethnic conflicts in Asia abound (at least 24 ethnic minority groups with potential for conflict have been identified in Southeast Asia alone). But mostly, conflicts arise when there are ethnic or cultural stereotypes within games, or plot points that reinforce negative bias towards specific groups.

Geopolitical Perspectives
Wars are generally fought over three things: Religion, resources, and land. Geopolitical problems arise from the latter as nations vehemently defend their borders and geopolitical perspectives. Usually, these issues result from a nation claiming a territory and requiring that territory be shown as part of their nation in game world maps.

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