Navigating the Translation Terrain of Jubensha: Insights from Criminal X

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Criminal X

2/3/20242 min read

As pioneers on the path of introducing Jubensha to a non-Chinese speaking audience, we at Criminal X have journeyed through a labyrinth of challenges and discoveries. The venture into translating and adapting these intricate narrative games has been both a profound learning experience and a passion-fueled pursuit. Here, we share our insights and considerations for those looking to embark on a similar quest.

Translation vs. Adaptation: A Delicate Balance

Not all Jubensha games are cut from the same cloth when it comes to translation potential. Much like the film industry, where some movies seamlessly transcend language barriers with mere subtitles and others require complete cultural adaptation, Jubensha games demand a nuanced approach. For instance, adapting a game could range from subtle adjustments to a complete overhaul to resonate with different cultural contexts, much like the adaptation differences between "A Man Called Otto" (U.S.) and "A Man Called Ove" (Sweden).

Cultural Sensitivities and Selection

A significant aspect of our journey has been navigating cultural differences. The original Chinese audience of Jubensha shares a common cultural background, values, and history, aspects that many games inherently assume. In translating these experiences, we've tread carefully around sensitive topics and cultural nuances to ensure that games are both respectful and relatable to a Western audience. This cautious approach has meant selectively choosing titles that can cross cultural divides without sparking controversy.

The Devil in the Details: Workload and Complexity

One of the most substantial challenges has been the dense, detail-rich nature of mature Jubensha sets. The intricacies of the games, from puns to cultural references and the significant meanings behind names written in logograms, present a formidable task for translation. These elements often require extensive footnotes or adaptations to preserve the game's integrity in English, a phonogram-based language. Our advice to those considering this path is to start with simpler, facilitation-light games that are more straightforward to translate or adapt.


Navigating Copyrights and Market Realities

Engaging with publishers for the rights to translate or adapt their games has been another hurdle. The stark reality is that many publishers are hesitant to venture into unproven markets without a clear cost-benefit analysis. Our strategy has been to demonstrate potential demand to encourage collaboration on a co-share model. Despite the initial lack of an English-speaking Jubensha market, our passion led us to invest in copyrights, a significant financial commitment that underscored our dedication to this cause.

Funding the Dream

The financial outlay for translating Jubensha has been substantial, not just in terms of copyright costs but also in the investment in translation and adaptation work. Of course, when the community grows and maturing, the cost could be lower and benefit the whole community.

A Call to Future Translators and Creators

Our experience has illuminated the complex landscape of bringing Jubensha to a new audience. It's a journey filled with challenges but also immense satisfaction in bridging cultural divides through gaming. For those inspired to take on this endeavor, whether through translation or original creation, we welcome collaboration and offer our accumulated insights to ease your journey.