Culturalization or What Happens When Content Meets Context
When my colleague first introduced me to the term culturalization, I thought it was yet another synonym for localization. I wanted to believe I wasn’t completely wrong, but the facts showed me I wasn’t right either. My spell checker, too, thinks I’m definitely wrong as I’m typing this. So, to educate myself, I did a little research on the enigmatic term and what I found really stuck with me.
I started my journey with an online dictionary, which defines culturalization as the process of adapting to one’s cultural environment. Exploring further the land of Internet, I found out that it’s mostly used in context of video games, or perhaps it’s just the easiest way to explain it to the wider audience.
So it isn’t all about language, huh?
Sure, the term grew from localization, but it’s more specific and apparently goes deeper into the problem. The focus is on symbiosis of content and context, meaning that one cannot exist without the other. The problem with the context is that it is subjective and in most cases it will differ from the one game developers / content producers had in mind. Which, again, can lead to the suspicion of “personal” attack or the attack on the one’s entire culture.
It’s true! Some games, such as Kakuto Chojin, were banned in certain parts of the world because of their offensive nature. I reckon developers didn’t really mean to offend anyone, but they didn’t take that possibility into consideration. We may also be positive that the producers of The Simpson Movie didn’t want to support rebel groups in Burma, but that is exactly how the movie was perceived and what got it banned in that country.
Culturalization includes everything that defines a culture – spanning from history (perception of historical figures and events) and religion to beliefs, geography and interpersonal relationships, often stepping into the slippery realm of politics. Knowing that, a serious research on these elements for every market of interest should be obligatory.
Everyone has an opinion
Audience is always the key factor for deciding the destiny of a product / service, so it has to be made and presented in a way that will please them, preferably even leave them speechless. Because in a world of free speech, it’s really hard to avoid criticism and possible negative reactions.
Speaking of freedom, I couldn’t help but wonder, does this entire process provide more room for producers, designers, marketers and other stakeholders to explore and test the boundaries of possibilities, or does it limit their creativity? Because, as a creative person, I can tell it’s really frustrating to be careful what you’re going to say. But if the main purpose is to place a product into the world, one has to exclude his/her ego from the equation. It’s all about the wider picture and satisfying others, not ourselves.
Okay, but is it really that important?
Yes, it is. Everyone wants happy customers and to accomplish that, the product must meet the criteria of the culture it is intended for. If it means sailing away from your primary idea, so be it. Just like any other relationship, this one requires compromises. They always tell us change is a bad thing, but it really isn’t. If a minor change to your product will make the end users recognize, like and trust your product/service, just do it and enjoy your positive outcome.