New ideas to address games' language barriers


There are many ways to address the insularity and perceived inaccessibility of game creation. We continually insist that games are a massive global phenomenon, but many best practices are only available to the Western, English-speaking world.

Rami Ismail is out to change that. Dutch studio Vlambeer, where he works, is prolific with the hits: Just check out Nuclear Throne, Luftrausers, Ridiculous Fishing or Super Crate Box on whatever device you happen to own, for some of today's greatest arcade experiences.

Ismail is also a tireless developer advocate, constantly traveling the world to work with indies and students, and frequently releasing free tools to help them create and promote themselves. Last week, he announced his latest much-needed initiative: The upcoming, an effort to collect game design learnings and resources in one place — where they will then be translated into many languages: is a curated repository of content foundational to creating the discourse and conversation about game design, all aspects of development, and game theory and culture. Every piece of content will then be translated into a number of languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Simplified Chinese and, as the intiative expands, more languages around the world.

Ismail frequently speaks about the limiting effect language issues can have on our discipline — I once watched him teach a small room full of curious conference attendees how to read and say an Arabic phrase within minutes, whereas multimillion-dollar commercial shooters set in the Middle East can't get the words on the signs right in their "realistic" settings. Often they end up using the wrong language altogether.

"The goal of is to elevate the discussion about games worldwide to an equal level, and allowing non-travelers and non-English speaking countries to explore perspectives that are currently unavailable to them due to cultural, economical, linguistic or geographical limitations," Ismail says of the upcoming project.

Interested in or want to help? Keep an eye on this landing page.

Full disclosure, the Sarah Elmaleh Rami describes working with on his site is one of my absolute best friends. She gifted me with a fake fur cape that makes me look like a stuffed owl.