Translation and identity in The Red Strings Club

The aim of this conference will be to study the Spanish translation of The Red Strings Club in order to argue that, for cultural productions deeply concerned with the notion of identity, the language in which they appear affects their explicitness, both intradiegetically and extradiegetically.

Set in an undetermined future, The Red Strings Club, by the Spanish team Deconstructeam, follows the story of three main characters and their quest to overthrow an allegedly evil corporation whose goal is to implant an algorithm that might endanger individuality and freedom in exchange for happiness and social stability. One of these characters, Akara-184, appears as an android in search for their identity that, given their artificial nature, questions their degree of humanity. Unlike Larissa, a trans-woman who self-identifies as a she, Akara does not identify themself with a particular gender; While other characters feel the need to accommodate them to their gender perspectives, given Akara’s androgynous appearance, the android always let the character to whom they are talking to assign them one.

This process, however, has a different development depending on which version of the game players are experiencing. While English can easily resort to gender-neutral expressions, Spanish is traditionally built around gender binarism, which forces the translator to make decisions regarding gender-marked expressions that would not occur in English. In that sense, we believe that the particularities present in both the Spanish and the English version of the video game modify the way in which characters are depicted, not only from a grammatical point of view, but also from a pragmatic perspective. In other words, even when attempting towards a more gender-neutral translation, the way in which the Spanish language traditionally works requires players to culturally reconceptualize the gender-neutral body. In fact, would the translation have opted to use the neologisms that are gaining relevance nowadays (“elle”, for instance, as a gender-neutral pronoun), it would have tampered with the depiction of certain characters who are intradiegetically conservative enough not to use more progressive linguistic formulae.

Furthermore, the fact that a native Spanish team first developed this video game in English and then translated it poses the question of how much their cultural and linguistic assumptions affected its development. While it is true that the game was reviewed by a native English speaker before being published, there is a question regarding how much of their cultural baggage and linguistic tools affected the cultural conceptualization of identity and gender within the game.

In conclusion, since this video game explicitly tackles the issues of identity and gender, as well as their interconnection, for both Larissa and Akara express their concerns regarding these, this conference aims to offer insights regarding the way in which different cultures attempt to solve the intersection between identity, gender, and language.

Palabras clave

Gender Identity The Red Strings Club Translation Video Games

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Los autores de la ponencia

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Jaime Oliveros García

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Alejandro López Lizana

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Preguntas y comentarios al autor/es

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      Miguel Ángel Albújar-Escuredo

      Comentó el 20/05/2021 a las 19:06:18

      Dear Mr. Oliveros García and Mr. López Lizana,

      I enjoyed a lot your presentation and I found it to be particularly interesting. I think that I agree on the importance of the game and its responsibility when it comes down to the representational complexity of identity, in this case, gender identity. Would you admit that translation is a field that tends to not receive the scholarly attention it deserves in cultural projects?

      If you have the time, I would like you to share with us your take on the nuances that characters that do not follow a cisnormativity assumption present on fictional creations.

      Also, I come to realize that sometimes video games tend to be closer to poetry than prose, and I wonder if that could be one of the factors that make it so fascinating to review the way we translate these products, created most of the times in English but thought to be translated in multiple languages.

      Thank you for your presentation.


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        Jaime Oliveros García

        Comentó el 21/05/2021 a las 11:43:38

        Hi! Thank you for your questions. We both agree that the translation of cultural productions requires further investigation. We feel that, while it is understandable that the original product has more prominence in terms of research, its translations can, potentially, be as interesting as the original itself.
        As for your second question, in The Red Strings Club, we think that there needs to be an explicit, linguistic mention of non-normativity for each of the characters that do not conform to the norm, whereas other characters tend to be assumed as one gender or another, and are not necessarily mentioned as either. If we were to extrapolate, we would say that most of the nuances related to their gender normativity are similar to the ones that happen in our world, where people tend to assign a binary gender to other people unless otherwise specified.
        Finally, thanks! We think that the separation between prose and poetry serves as a good metaphor that applies in game design, having video games that are more narrative and others that are more mechanic-centered. In that sense, there are video games that require more care when choosing specific words or linguistic constructions than others, as there are video games that have more narrative complexity than others.

        Again, thank you for your questions.
        Jaime and Alejandro


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