Bcm215 DA – “Detention” How localizing a Taiwanese game for Western audiences? & Why it is significant to Western audiences?

For this week blog post, I am mainly talk about How localizing a Taiwanese game for Western audiences through ‘Detention’? and why it is significant to Western audiences?

As I had mentioned in the previous blog post about the game developer had flattened the cultural element to get Western players to understand Taiwanese culture through this game, they paid extra attention to the level design and translation such as visual – puzzles, pieces of note and audio – background music, the setting etc. those can lead the narration and creates the ambient in the game.

Symbols – cultural elements

Due to I was playing the Chinese version, so I screenshot some pictures that are in the English Version from Youtube video.

The notebook is the tool that can keep track of the game progress and to help players reach the next level, and most importantly, it can show the cultural background by the cues and notes. During the game, players will come across pieces after pieces of notes. Some of them are cues that help players to solve the puzzles, the other major purpose of the notes are helping shape the general cultural and storytelling of the game.

The above images are the cue in the journal which give the gamers the information and survival skills when facing the Lingered. As you can see the difference between Chinese and English version are text from the Chinese version are written from right to left in vertically which mean that it is written from top to bottom. However, in the English version, the text is written horizontally from left to right. The graphic design is totally different in these two versions but the content and meaning are the same.

The folklore and local belief that applies in the game mechanics.

The Lingered is a well-known ghost spirit appearing in various Asian folklore. To give an additional touch to the game mechanism, the developer materialises the Lingered’s characteristics in the game can attackers the player encounters.

Besides, food offerings and the folklore of “Holding your breath” when you meet the jiangshi – Chinese hopping vampire , those are originating from Taiwanese folk culture are added. In Chinese folklore, you can hold your breath so the jiangshi – ‘Chinese Vampire’ cannot see or detect you if you hold your breath. Likewise, in Detention to escape from the Lingered, the player must do the same and quietly walk away.

Traditionally, food offerings are served for the dead as a farewell, so that they have the power to go to hell. Ghosts are offered cooked meals, as for the food prepared for the offering to the ancestors. In Detention, food offerings are the tool that helps distract the Lingered from chasing you.

The Heibai Wuchang, or Black and White Impermanence, are gods appear at the deathbeds of the recently deceased to guide their souls to the realm of the dead. Even today, people around the world worship these Chinese Grim Reapers and consider them an essential part of Chinese religion. Legend says that each of them holds a feathered fan and wooden sign in hand, and these items become the tools to solve the puzzle, holding the key for players to reach the next level. (Liu, 2017)

The Religion rituals embodiment in-game

Ritual is a part of the culture. In the folk belief in China that if you burn paper money and make offerings at the graves of your ancestors, the deceased will receive them and benefit from a happy and prosperous afterlife. The game developer transformed the process of burning the spirit money it into the game narration.

The Ying Yang Poe, in the Taoist temple, the wooden pieces ying yang Poe can often be viewed as a tool to ask directions from the god. For Detention, they utilized ying yang Poe as the plot to pinpoint Ray’s concern about love, prospects and family.

There are a difference between Chinese and English version. In English version, you can see the sentence “I, Fang Ray Shin invoke your guidance…”. However, there more descriptive words on it. It had mentioned that the name of God and the temple that Ray is asking for advice, but it did not show on the English version. The whole sentence in the Chinese version is… “I, Fang Ray Shin invoke City God for giving me the guidance…” The City God Temple in Hsinchu is one of the country’s most important temples. The City God or Cheng Huang Ye is an interesting figure in Taoism and is an important god in the hierarchy of deities within the religion. (Ellis, 2020)

Pop culture engaging to the level design

Music & Sound

Music playlist: “Red In All Four Seasons”, “Moonlight Sorrow”, “Bang Chhun-Hong”, “A Flower on a Rainy Night”
For songs in the game (Wu, 2017)

In games, it asks the player to explore to Ray’s 3 different memories, the developer designed a radio as the transformation gate, with the musical set “April Rain” which acting as the connection for players to slip to different period and space. In the game, these 4 song are represent Ray’s four different kind of feeling by changing the songs on the radio channel.The electronic lo-fi music played with traditional Asian music instruments is used as the cultural atmospheric creator. (Liu, 2017)

April Rain is based on the combination of widely-known Taiwanese songs but those had been all banned songs under the Taiwan Martial Law. — “Red In All Four Seasons”(Sù-kùi-âng) although the happiness melody is the implication of flirting but it represent to reveal Ray father’s unfaithful affair towards her mother. “Moonlight Sorrow”(Goat-iā-chhiû) it represent broken heart, along with the melancholic melody of the heartbroken people, “sorrow”, means Chang turned cold on Ray. “Bang Chhun-Hong” is about “hope”, and tell us how Ray’s broken family is like.“A Flower on a Rainy Night”(Wu-yia-hue) that is a girl leave her hometown and move to Taipei, she fell in love with a guy who dumped her after in love with another girl. (Wu, 2017)

Each song is purposely set in the specific time zone to indicate the emotion of Ray’s towards her family and lover. For the western gameplayer may think that the songs are foreign and fresh. Although they may not really understand the background story of the songs, but through the melody they could feel the emotions implied. (Liu, 2017)

Puppet Show

Puppet show is is a type of opera using cloth puppets that originated during the 17th century and the important recreation in the early days, and even in nowadays. However, starting from the 1950s, the authority has spread its force to the hand puppet show and turning it into one of the government medium to promote the “patriotism.” (Liu, 2017)

In the game, to take in this pop culture to the level design, hand puppets are served as the tools for puzzle solving. In the execution, the hooded puppet is Mr. Chang, the upside down puppet is Wei. The meaning of this plot is Wei was caught in accident. (Wu, 2017)

Why it is significant to Western audiences?
It is significant to Western audiences because Detention had a real impact on people in and outside of the countries they represent and it wasn’t just a video game for player to enjoy, but also it can drive the Western audiences to have a deeper look into Taiwan, it provided with an insight that they never gotten anywhere else. If a game that can break off the language and cultural barriers and deliver the message to the players around the world or even got their attention to know more about White Terror, the most important thing is to educate the not only the Chinese audiences but also tell the Western audience about the history of it.

As Khonsari says that “People come out of it not only having played a great game but feeling that they’ve walked away having a much deeper understanding for a part of history that, especially if you live in the West, still has an impact today”. Every game have their meaning behind, through this game it can remind Taiwanese audiences of this period of history, and show to the global that the scars of the past in Taiwan also realize how difficult it was to gain the freedoms that people can enjoy today.


Ellis, J., 2020. Josh Ellis Photography Blog — Josh Ellis Photography. [online] Josh Ellis Photography. Available at: <https://www.goteamjosh.com/blog/?offset=1449371564995&category=Photo+Post&gt; [Accessed 13 November 2020].

Liu, T., 2017. Detention Postmortem: Localizing A Taiwanese Game For Western Audiences. [online] Gamasutra.com. Available at: <https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TiffLiu/20170802/302285/Detention_Postmortem_Localizing_a_Taiwanese_game_for_Western_audiences.php&gt; [Accessed 12 November 2020].

Wu, P., 2017. Taiwanese Horror Game “Detention” Explanation And Metaphor (Element And Symbol). [online] Peterpaperwu.blogspot.com. Available at: <http://peterpaperwu.blogspot.com/2017/01/taiwanese-horror-game-detention_28.html&gt; [Accessed 13 November 2020].

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