New Quebec law turns Lara Croft into francophone

Sale of English-only video games prohibited if French version exists

Le français — la dynamique du déclin

Andrew Chung QUEBEC BUREAU CHIEF - MONTREAL – In Lara Croft's latest action adventure, part of the wildly popular Tomb Raider video game series, the lithe heroine can demand of her evil doppelganger either, "What the hell are you?" or, "Qu'est-ce que tu es, exactement?"
And that's exactly the way Quebec wants it, from now on. French language rules on video games come into force today prohibiting the sale of new English-only video games in Quebec if a French version is available.
It's causing a lot of consternation among retailers and gamers alike, who fear the rules will lead to delays in video games arriving in the province, and may not accomplish what the law intends, which is to promote and protect the French language.
Ronnie Rondeau, co-owner of the eight Game Buzz stores around Montreal, said he even fears bankruptcy.
"I'm afraid it's going to cost me my business," Rondeau said. "If it really was going to make a difference, I'd be for it, but only a small number of people want to play in French. The rest don't care.
"And money-wise, it's going to hurt."
Rondeau said gamers are notorious for wanting new games the minute they come out. It's why he has had numerous midnight sales with lines stretching around the block.
It's why he even carries Japanese games that won't be available in English for months.
If there's a delay of even a few days, they'll find other options, such as buying online or across the border.
Raffy Boudjikanian, who writes a gaming column for the West Island Chronicle, agrees. "Why am I going to wait for five more months when the next big game is right there in Plattsburg?"
Rondeau cites the example of the popular Rockband game. The distributor didn't ship the English-only version for the Christmas rush, and a French version didn't arrive for six weeks.
Delays can happen because translation can lead to game "bugs," such as text not fitting into graphic boxes on screen, said Haig James Toutikian, a professional Montreal game designer, who has dealt with such bugs, which can cause a game to underperform.
"I know how much of a pain they can be," Toutikian said.
"They take up a lot of bug-tracking time."
Toutikian, who said he has friends who learned English playing video games, added, "I don't think it will encourage people to buy the French version."
In the past, technical aspects, such as different game console versions sold in North America versus Europe, prevented even games released in France from appearing in Quebec. The result was that Quebec had mostly English games available.
The gaming industry adopted deadlines to comply with the province's language charter and the "language police," the Office québécois de la langue française.
Danielle Parr, executive director of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, said that because of the population size, it's possible a game publisher will decide it's too costly to release a French version for Quebec even if it has one for France, thus depriving the province of its game in either language.
But overall, she said, "they will see more games available in French. And that's good news."

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