How Gaming Language Tags Could Improve Diversity

More than just accessibility

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft recently added the ability to see whether or not games support different languages.
  • While these new language labels are accessibility features, experts also see them as a way to embrace diversity in gaming.
  • Putting support for different cultures and languages in the forefront could help improve how users experience video games in the future.
Over the shoulder view of someone using an Xbox controller.
Alex Carmichael / Unsplash

While language tags help gamers determine which games support their home language, experts also say this feature goes beyond just offering additional accessibility.

Microsoft recently added language tags to its store, allowing users to see whether a game’s user interface, audio, and subtitles include support for various languages. Localization is a big deal in video games, and enjoying a game in your home language is important for users. The addition of language goes beyond just making games more accessible; some see it as a more significant push towards embracing our world’s diversity.

"The importance of language labels is not only of economic value, but a social justice movement because it shows we value linguistic diversity," Dr. Aradhana Mudambi, the director of ESOL, bilingual education, and world languages at Windham Public Schools, told Lifewire via email.

"Even better, of course, would be to additionally ensure that all the games were available in multiple languages."

The Accessibility Issue

Localization has long been a point of contention in game development. Sometimes developers get it right, gaining praise from users on Twitter and other social media.

Other times, they get it wrong, as detailed by Walid AO in an article on the history of Arab video game localization. Whether they get it wrong or right is only half of the equation, though. Users also need to know that games support their home language.

"You can't enjoy a game to its fullest without understanding the plot, the story, and the characters," Luat Duong, an SEO lead at Scandinavian Biolabs and an avid gamer, told Lifewire via email.

"There's nothing worse than paying for a game you can't play and can't understand."

According to Duong, knowing what kind of support a game has for your language can significantly affect how much enjoyment you get out of it. By offering a way to filter through games that support your home language, Duong says storefronts like Microsoft will be able to reach more users and, thus, get more games in the hands of those who want to play them.

Screenshot of the language options on Tales of Berseria.

"Currently, non-English-speaking gamers are tied to domestic platforms and domestic games. Having that [language tags] means you are erasing the language barrier that stops them from buying from you." Duong said.

Language tags can certainly help remove that barrier, but Dr. Mudambi says there are other things at play, too.

Embracing Our World

Some might see simple accessibility features, but Dr. Mudambi sees a push towards a more significant change—something that she says the country and world are greatly in need of. By offering labels that allow users to see which games support their languages, we’re showing others that we support those languages and want to share them with the world. 

Over the years, localization has improved greatly in video games. This is important because gaming has such an international appeal. By offering these games in different languages, we’re not only allowing users to experience the game in the easiest way possible, but we’re also opening up the world to additional cultures.

Two young adults playing console video games sitting on a couch in a small apartment.
10'000 Hours / Getty Images

"It’s great for people who speak other languages," Dr. Mudambi said later in a phone call.

"That is their home language, and to be able to access games in those languages is great. It’s also great for people who are trying to learn an additional language, whether it be English or one of the other languages offered."

As we see more games expanding to focus on other cultures, offering a clear way for users to see which languages are supported is a must, according to Dr. Mudambi. It goes beyond providing additional accessibility and becomes a push towards social justice.

With over 7,000 languages currently documented worldwide, offering games in a way that caters to each of those languages is essential and something that we should strive to do better in the future.

"When you look at games—or I guess any kind of media—the more that we can expose people to different cultures and different elements of identity, the better." Dr. Mudambi said.

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