If you’ve ever played Japanese-language or Japanese-made video games, you’ve probably noticed that Japanese video game credits are usually written in English. And, as we’ve seen in previous articles, the unpredictable mixture of Japanese and English sometimes leads to surprising – and amusing – results.
Many of these Japanese credits quirks aren’t well known, so I thought I’d share some common patterns I see all the time and explain why they happen.
There are a number of reasons why Japanese game credits are usually written in English. It’s a longstanding tradition that’s been around since the very first Japanese video games, for example, and using English this way also lends Japanese credits a solid, professional feeling.
Here are some examples of English in Japanese credits from a variety of companies and systems across several decades:
This heavy reliance on English writing is another example of why you don’t need to translate everything when localizing a game into Japanese.
Of course, this isn’t to say that all Japanese game credits are written in English, though. English is more common, but Japanese does get used:
Whenever I play a Japanese video game, I always look forward to seeing the credits and trying to spot the following patterns. Try looking for these the next time you play a game made in Japan!
It’s extremely common to see “programmer” written as “programer” in Japanese games. It’s an understandable mistake, but it’s one that everyone seems to make, whether they’re a zero-budget hobby programmer, a mid-tier development studio, or even a billion-dollar company.
This “programer” phenomenon is less common these days now that game companies are more internationally minded, but the next time you play a Japanese-made game, keep an eye out. You just might spot a “programer”!
Naturally, the word “staff” appears a lot in video game credits. But the letters A and U are notoriously problematic when switching between Japanese and English, so it’s common to see Japanese video games say “stuff” instead:
The word “produce”, as in “to produce something” entered the Japanese language at some point, but its usage changed ever so slightly. As a result, it’s common to see “produce” in Japanese credits when you’d normally expect “produced by” or “producer”:
The Japanese language also absorbed the English words “hardware” and “software”, but they’re kind of clunky in Japanese. In English, they’re two syllables each, but in Japanese, they become five Japanese-style syllables each: ハードウェア (hādowea) and ソフトウェア (sofutowea). So most people just use the shorter words “hard” and “soft” instead.
As a result, it’s common to see Japanese games talk about “hard” and “soft”:
Another common sight in Japanese game credits is the word “congratulations”, but misspelled in some way:
”Congratulations” is an understandably easy word for anyone to misspell – I even remember a native English-speaking classmate spelling it “congradulations” and insisting it was correct. But this “messed-up congratulations” phenomenon is so widespread in Japanese games that I felt it deserved a mention here. It happens so often it probably deserves its own dedicated gallery someday.
As we’ve seen, Japanese game credits are kind of unpredictable, so there are always new linguistic surprises in store. Here are some examples:
”Special thanks” sections are a common sight in video game staff rolls, regardless of the country of origin. But I’ve noticed that Japanese game developers sometimes used these “special thanks” sections to share behind-the-scenes messages or even to gripe about other development team members.
In the early days, Japanese game companies were always concerned that rival companies might try to steal their top talent. So it was pretty common for developers to go by pseudonyms or nicknames in their games’ credits. This phenomenon led to some unique names that remain memorable around the world, even decades later.
Lastly, we have one of my favorite things to look forward to in Japanese credits: the final “send-off” message. Usually you’d expect something like “Thanks for playing!”, but Japanese games tend to use amusing variations or unusual English grammar.
Some phrases like “thank you for your playing” and “see you next” even appear with regularity. And sometimes the send-off is perfectly correct English, but just seems out of place in the context it’s being used.
Japanese game credits are always something I look forward to, because I never know what to expect. Sometimes the credits will be written in Japanese, sometimes they’ll be written in English, and sometimes they’ll be in a unique mixture of both languages.
As we’ve seen in previous articles, mixing Japanese and English can lead to unpredictable results, so whenever English is used in Japanese credits, there’s no telling what unique surprises are in store. It’s an aspect of Japanese games that I just really enjoy for some reason.
Anyway, hopefully this was a fun and enlightening look at a topic that gamers don’t normally consider. If you happen to discover any good “programer” examples, funny pseudonyms, or other interesting Japanese credits, let me know – I might add them to the site sometime!
Many thanks go to VGMuseum for many of the screenshots in this article - it's such a great resource that I can't recommend it enough. Also, if you enjoyed this article, I think you'd like my article about English filler text in Japanese entertainment too. Check it out!