A Legends of Localization reader asked about a phrase that often appears in Japanese video games: “Game Set”. Here are some examples from familiar games:
I always just assumed this “Game Set” thing was related to the “game, set, match” phrase that you hear in some sports like tennis. But now that I think about it, “Game Set” by itself isn’t something I normally hear in English.
The reader pointed out that most of the examples above were made by or somehow involved Masahiro Sakurai, a famous Japanese game designer, and theorized that “Game Set” was a directorial signature of his. Still, I know I’ve seen the phrase in plenty of other Japanese games, so I don’t feel it’s a Sakurai-only thing.
So what’s the deal? Why is “Game Set” in so many Japanese games?
First, it’s indeed possible that “Game Set” first came from the English phrase “game, set, match”. But regardless of its origin, “Game Set” eventually took hold in Japan as wasei eigo, a type of English phrase that was created in Japan.
Some other examples of wasei eigo in video games include:
Second, in Japanese, “Game Set” pretty much just means “the game is over” or “the match’s outcome has been decided”. The phrase has permeated the Japanese language and is used all the time when talking about competitive sports, primarily baseball:
In the first video above, the announcer even shouts “Game Set” like the announcer in the Super Smash Bros. series.
I never found “Game Set” particularly awkward, but I’m guessing that’s because it’s been around in English games for so long. It appears that opinions about “Game Set” differ, though, as some Japanese-to-English localizers prefer to keep it as-is, while others prefer to change it slightly:
This has all pretty much been a long-winded way of saying that “Game Set” is a set phrase that’s used all the time in Japanese sports to indicate that a match is over, and that’s why it appears in so many Japanese video games. So “Game Set” isn’t particularly unique to Masahiro Sakurai’s games, he just happens to specialize in making games centered around competitive matches. Hopefully that makes sense.
Anyway, I know I’ve seen “Game Set” in a bunch of other games before, so if you can think of any, please let me know. And if you can think of any other silly phrases like “Goat In” or “Shine Get” that you’ve seen in video games, let me know that too. I think it’d be fun to look at more stuff like this in future articles!