The Worst Raid Boss of All: Language Barriers .

TIME :2022-06-06

It’s 2014 and a long way from when MMOs first started hitting the mainstream market, and the landscape has become far different than it was a decade ago. If you can remember the 90’s or even the early 2000’s, MMO’s were restricted in their place of origin: Western MMOs stayed on their side of the fence, and Eastern MMOs secluded near and around the Pacific Ocean, with the diverse races and ethnicities interacting only with their own countrymen, the world being far smaller in perspective. And while some opted for worldly releases, like WoW, barriers are erected to separate cultures from one another. But in our modern MMO times, we no longer find ourselves in that position as the industry has globalized our gaming over the internet. Everyday, with every MMO release, more of us find it far more preferable to join a a server that maintains a grand diversity of people, because opportunities abound with the rest of the world in front of us. However, we also find ourselves with that one single detail we keep forgetting: Language.

 

Communication

While there are some online games around that require little to no real communication, in the vein of shooters like Verdun or Hearthstone, with the latter removing any form of actual chat itself, the party-forming, dungeon-crawling, raid boss-destroying MMO, the standard MMO as we know it, needs it more than anything else.

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There isn’t any video game that exists in this world that has the same need for an understanding of language like MMOs do. Key words being “Massively Multiplayer” lend to the fact that the social aspect of our favored genre is quite a big factor in our everyday experience. Certainly, if you can’t understand what your raid lead is saying, you’re going to have a bad time when the fight starts, or you can’t really sell your items if no one else can understand what you’re barking at. This is one aspect of life that we normally take for granted, and I, for one, was one of those people.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is one of those games that strives to solve the issue of language in our games. For those not familiar, Auto-Translate, a function unique to the game and it’s predecessor, host a large number of statements and lines that are automatically translated on the chatbox of the player in his or her region’s native language. “Konichiwa!” is seen on the screen of a Japanese Player, but “Hello!” is what an English Player sees on his.. Ranging from the simple Hello to raid names, it had greatly helped in tearing down the language barriers, though, not well enough. It still lacked the capabilities of actual social interaction and couldn’t really help with much more complicated expressions, like explaining a boss fight to a first-timer or even just trying to get to know a lot of the amazing people you get to meet. But, at least, it’s a great attempt, thinking past the hazy google translate features of some games that can be more of a hassle than real help

With all that said, will we ever get to the point where we can finally and truly take down the secret boss that is Language? Will we ever get to play with others without ever worrying if they’ll understand us?

 

Oh Dear, Words!

In SWTOR, I often found myself playing with Russians and native Spanish speakers, in Guild Wars (the first), I had the wonderful experience of often playing with various South East Asians and Europeans, and in WoW, who hasn’t gotten into a party with a Brazilian or two? What these experiences had in common was that the diverse races and ethnicities I played with either could not speak a lick of English, had but a semblance of understanding of the language, or it was I who couldn’t speak theirs. Well, most of the time, it was all of the above.

But perhaps the biggest trouble I’ve gone through in trying to integrate into a society that is not my own was when I played FFXIV:ARR. When a friend of mine decided to invite us to play the day-old game, we took to Durandal, a Japanese server, one where this friend of mine got randomized in and had no choice but to play in it as server transfers were still months away. But it didn’t matter, it was wonderful; we still had a grand time playing the game, but it wasn’t easy at all. Getting around FFXIV in a server like that was exactly like being a foreigner. The start of the game wasn’t really a big deal, given that six of us played and dungeons were only up to four players. We took turns clearing dungeons through coin flips and rolls out of a hundred, and we pretty much kept to ourselves. When we finally reached end game, that’s when things got a little bit more complicated. We would soon find ourselves in the company of the very polite, but non-english speaking, Japanese players.

THE GARUDA TANK JUST CALLED ME A WANKER

THE GARUDA TANK JUST CALLED ME A WHAT!?

Surely, you could be saying that we didn’t have to queue for Japanese only Duty Finder (DF) and cross server queues existed from the get-go, but it was pointless to craft relationships with players from other servers. Kind of lame to not being able to raid with them specifically for exclusive endgame content.

The first ever Garuda Hard we entered, back when it was current, took a decisively bad turn when our hapless, albeit tremendously geared, Japanese tank and healer decided to chat what apparently looked like a deriding speech on how we stinky foreigners were messing up their game. At least, that’s what I think he said, because he left the raid group after the nth wipe.

Without being able to communicate properly, the difficulty of trying to make some friends was just as difficult as timing DF pops with a player on another server. But, we loved the game at the time, and we loved how high the skill level is with the Japanese players, and need I mention their legendary tact? For a few weeks, I had forgotten that part of the internet where harsh words are flung over the slightest of faults, sometimes even for no reason; a starkly massive difference from how the Japanese players treated each other, even when interacting with us foreigners.

Of course, it wasn’t all cake and roses for us. There were those that just didn’t like the idea of us being foreign. “If you play in Japan, you speak in Japanese!” was a line I read often, but not often enough to ruin my fun. Though, with the form of communication being chat and English not being their primary language, they may have meant it as advice in a way they thought would be the least offensive. I believe, from experience, is that if they wanted to insult you, you’d know it.

“HEY HEY F— U [email protected]” – from an angry guy in Crystal Tower. Yes, the “@” symbol was in there.

Besides, it’s not like this minor form of xenophobia is unique to Japan. A lot of cultures feel that way, especially more vocal in America. It’s understandable, but it can be a harsh experience at times, as you can end up being ostracized by simply growing up somewhere else.And with this attitude, you could possibly miss out on a chance of making it with who could have been a good friend and amazing player. Believe me, you can find genius anywhere and in the places you least expect.

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FFFFF~~~~~!!!!!!

Finding ourselves constantly in a sea of unknown characters, left and right, above and beyond, disorienting to the mind of the english-speaking heathen, we finally realized what we had gotten ourselves into. Through a couple of trials and errors, we adapted to the situation, making use of stock knowledge of Japanese, as well as picking up on context clues in certain situations. Some of us even went so far as to have kept translated transcripts of previous Japanese conversations between some folk we’ve ran with in the past and using snippets from them in the past as macros that automatically designate Hi’s and Hello’s, or even a complex sentence like, “Veterans looking for 1 knight, 1 damage for Dhorme Chimera”. Eventually, we learned to memorize certain characters and, to our surprise, we could even read simple sentences.

Soon enough, we found a group of great players that cared little for the difficulty in communicating. We met each other half way; my group tried to speak, as much as often, in Japanese, even in romanji or macros, and they tried their hand at English the best they could. When we got closer, sometimes, we didn’t even need words! Through a bit of trial and error, we learned these little things about each other, signs and tells that signified a variety of things that only friends could understand. We conquered Bahamut Coil together, levelled alternative jobs in fates, and supplemented each other with gear through crafting. Words soon meant nothing to us and they were only used on occassion where we just had to clarify something specifically. It was an experience that I couldn’t even think was possible. Our static continued on for months, up until we all had other things on our plate, and we just knew it would end at some point. Parting on great terms, we all just hoped to play another game together in the future.

 

Possibility: More Real Than You Think

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It was patience, determination, a love for the game, and a well meaning approach to people; that was what made it possible. To be honest, we don’t even need anything like translators to play with other cultures, though they help a lot. We, as gamers speak a universal language: gaming. That’s all we really need and nothing else past a being a good person. As they say, actions speak louder than words.