The Broken English wiki last edited by Gamer_152 on 03/11/16 05:33PM View full history

Overview

While Broken English is a phenomenon found across a breadth of media and other consumer products, in video games it is most commonly associated with early Japanese titles. This is due to the domination Japan had over much of the early video game industry and inherent difficulties with translating between Japanese and English.

Significant differences between the languages, as well as the complexity of Japanese mean that an in-depth understanding of their rules and structure is necessary for successful translation. Although localization standards have drastically improved, many early games companies had small localization teams with limited budgets and so severe mistakes in a game's English were not uncommon. Additionally, technical differences between how Japanese and English characters are typically stored and rendered within a game's programming often resulted in limitations pertaining to how many English characters could appear per line, as well as per instance of dialog. Compression methods and rerouting text locations within game data can mitigate the issue somewhat, but the limitations are still an ever-present issue in localizations to varying extents, including those produced in modern times.

With the influence of East Asian countries on modern pop culture, Broken English has also become a niche interest and speaking style in internet culture. It may be referred to as "Engrish" due to a pronunciation phenomenon sometimes exhibited by those attempting to speak English as a non-native, as some other languages present difficulties in differentiating between "L" and "R" sounds. However, it should be noted that examples of Broken English extend to games made in all territories, not just those of East Asia. Often, the unintentional use of Broken English in video games is seen as a source of humour and has led to the creation of some of video game's most well-known memes.

Examples of Broken English in Games

Metal Gear for the NES is well known for its Broken English dialog.
Metal Gear for the NES is well known for its Broken English dialog.

One of the most infamous examples of Broken English comes from Zero Wing's European Mega Drive release. Containing an introductory cutscene which is meant to set the stage for the proceeding gameplay, its numerous language errors became far more famous than the actual plot it was supposed to convey. At the height of its prominence, Zero Wing's text was a widespread Internet meme that took precedence in both message boards and comedic videos. Its opening cutscene is most known for its line "All your base are belong to us" and to a lesser extent "Somebody set up us the bomb". Another prominent use of Broken English is in the original Metal Gear which famously uses, among other phrases, "The truck have started to move" and "I feel asleep", both examples of the common translation mistake of switching a word for a similar-sounding one.

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