I would say that it sounds better in French
Some years back, I don’t exactly remember when (maybe it was 2018?) there was this game called A Plague Tale: Innocence. There wasn’t much spectacular to say about the game; it played generic the story wasn’t all who-knows-what. Something about a plague during the Inquisition or something, with a lot of rats here and there. In terms of gameplay, you manipulate the rats to solve puzzles and manoeuvre between levels. The game didn’t particularly strike me as “distinct” in any way. But there was one reason why I remained until the end, and it wasn’t for the gameplay or the story.
It was for the French. You see… every game I have played, I have played it in English, and I believe most people do the same (in English-speaking countries, at least). But this game takes place in France, but they speak English, albeit with a French accent, and modern English no less. Complete anachronism right there, and I would not have stayed for such historical inaccuracy. The game was already tedious enough, so they might as well make it more authentic, so I switched the speaking language from English to French. And THAT right there made it all worthwhile.
Suddenly, the game reminded me of all those French movies I saw as a kid for no reason, just because I was bored and I was looking for anything to kill some time. There was something very “fun” about listening to people speaking French. Maybe it’s the short syllables, but the language sounds beautiful (interpret that whichever way you want). So I remained to play the game for its entirety, even though things got boring quickly by the end of it. By the way, I think they spoke in modern French, but I can’t be sure.
The dilemma is either immersion or convenience, but it shouldn’t be this way
The feature to have the game in French is not the default option (again, in English-speaking locations). There’s clearly an issue of immersion in the game since game developers are used to players taking their games in English since it’s the most convenient matter, even when the game in question takes place elsewhere than America or Britain or any other Anglo-Saxon country. But that’s only because of what game consumers are used to since, when it comes to the movie business, each country has its own, so French movies will most likely not be in English. But with video games, it’s like America and Japan monopolised it completely, so if it’s not in English, it’s in Japanese and vice versa.
But my point is that I am caught in a situation where I can have English, the default language, and have the characters speak English for my convenience. Or, perhaps, have the characters speak French for immersion. How is it that I can’t have both? Because it takes place in France, but they need to speak English because that’s what people are used to.
In the film-making business, each movie comes in one language and one language only. Anything else is just a dub with no lip-sync. Still… it doesn’t feel nearly the same with video games, especially in the cultural aspect.
I say, why not both?
It goes like this, design-wise the game should take place in a country with a dominant demographic of English-speakers. This way, the language argument is pretty much moot. Unless, of course, the game doesn’t take place on Earth, in which case I don’t know what languages there will be since I don’t alien.
Alternatively, suppose the game insists on being in France or Italy or Spain or some other European country. In that case, the default language should be the native language of the game’s primary setting. It might be weird at first for players, but all great things started from places nobody expected. So I say, just take it and enjoy the game for what it’s worth.
Now you have one or the other, but either will give you both. I prefer the second choice; it seems like the better choice.
But what say others?
There are groups of people that need to be asked, for sure. First, game designers, about how this works from a gameplay perspective. Second, gamers, about how they would perceive a game if they got it first in a language other than language.
Frankly, their answer is almost predictable, as they would all agree that nobody really cares too much about “immersion” or whatever it is. But that would be missing the issue since the issue is regarding the authenticity that a game set in a particular location should speak the native language.
In any case, these two groups are the ones to ask, do it.
I do not recommend playing the game since it didn’t stand out as noteworthy at all. But if you want to play the closest video-game equivalent of a French movie, then it’s probably this game. But the question is, will it be interesting enough to keep you through to the end?
Regardless, I think that there should be some kind of new take on video games where the default language isn’t English and show people how it’s like when all they can hear is gibber-gabber, but the subtitles are very much understandable. It would be interesting to see how people react to that.
Anyways, if you play a game that takes place in France, then change the language to French. Similarly, do the same with every game: If it’s in Italy, then Italian; if it’s in Spain, then Spanish; if it’s in Kiribati… you get the idea. Because this way, you just might view video games from a different perspective.