Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

7 January, 2007

Weekend Design Challenge: Cultural differences
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:57 AM

Sometime it’s easy for us Americans to get bogged down in our own little world and forget that there are other countries outside our borders besides Canada and Mexico. I’ve written before about cultural confusion when you’re in a country that is very alien to your way of life.

So, in the interest of making these challenges a bit more active, here’s your homework: Describe a cultural difference and how it relates to games. My own bit after the break.

One thing that most people find surprising is that there is a huge board game culture in Germany. In fact, most modern board games are printed in Germany and if they do well then they come to the U.S. The game pieces are printed in the abstract, so that all you have to do is reprint the instructions for most games. One of the reasons why I’ve started taking German classes at the local community college is so that I can appreciate some of the board games better. One interesting game is Bohnanza, which has been brought to the U.S. but keeps German names for the cards.

Lately I’ve been spending some time playing Silkroad Online (requires IE for whatever reason). This is one of the “free” MMORPGs where you can play for free, but can buy items and upgrades to your character with offline currency. Since it is a free game, there are a wide variety of people playing it. Without having to worry about a central billing system, you get a lot of people able to play your game. In the game, I’ve seen people speaking English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian. I’ve also seen people speaking Polish and Hungarian. All in a Korean game. :) Note that most Asian countries have local servers, whereas the rest of the world plays on the “International” servers. But, the game also has some interesting quirks (such as misspellings and unusual grammar mistakes) common for a game made by a group with English not being their primary language. One of my favorite quirks is that you turn in some special event items to a character named Su-OK, even though there is a useless NPC named “Su-Ok” also in town. But, it is interesting to see how different cultures interact in the game like they do.

So, what’s your cultural observation? If you don’t have one, go find one. The world, especially the online world, is becoming more multi-national. No more hiding in your comfortable American ignorance. Or European arrogance if you can’t think of anything cultural to share with us hicks over the pond. ;)







4 Comments »

  1. Several years ago I wrote a paper about Ultima Online for a Multicultural Communications class. I don’t remember many of the details, but I do remember the main points. Part of the paper was an exploration of the Socializer/Killer/Explorer/Achiever divisions and how they’re essentially different cultures within the game world. Another part was about how I regularly played with people from all over the country and from Germany, Brazil, and other places around the globe. The final part of the paper was an observation about how when you put the virtual and the real-world cultures together, I could find myself identifying with and sharing an in-game culture with someone from the other side of the globe, while having almost nothing in common with the PK anti-roleplayer who lived across the hall.

    Comment by Vargen — 7 January, 2007 @ 1:27 PM

  2. The best boardgames are from Germany. I suggest you check out Puerto Rico (very popular, and rightly so), the biggest gateway game for a lot of people to get into German style games is Settlers of Catan, and my new favorite is Power Grid. Some of the highlights of German games are the integration of bidding into many games as well as the excellent wooden pieces.

    As far as cultural observations online, I’ve often found it odd that many people in other countries will read a lot of websites in english, and link to them and talk about them in their native languages. The only reason this strikes us is weird is that the majority of us don’t do it. It is kind of unsettling finding a link to your site and having no idea what is being said about it because you don’t speak Russian.

    Comment by Bartoneus — 8 January, 2007 @ 12:34 PM

  3. I’m reminded of what Tom Abernathy said at the AGC about humor being so difficult to translate. Precision is important in humor, and everyone’s probably familiar with how explaining a joke can kill it. So there doesn’t seem much hope of avoiding the situation where this joke is for the American gamers only and that joke’s for only the Aussies or the English. Verbally, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of culturally-neutral territory for humor. But I bet there’s a good amount of non-verbal and situational humor that could speak to everyone simultaneously.

    In the end though, I think games with cross-cultural acceptance are enjoyed despite cultural limitations, rather than for having overcome such limitations. Individual elements of a game can be made neutral or commonly acceptable, but any game as a whole can’t avoid a strong cultural leaning. And the game elements with the strongest cultural association tend to be those at the core of the game: setting, themes, graphic and audial presentation, character concepts, goals of gameplay, etc.

    Comment by Aaron — 9 January, 2007 @ 11:55 AM

  4. Weekend Design Challenge: Evaluating your local culture

    [...] difficult to identify what makes your culture unique in the eyes of others. We have looked at culture issues in other cultures, too. I’d recommend taking a look at another culture in terms of gaming before [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild’s Blog — 16 August, 2008 @ 3:12 PM

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