Modern Warfare 2: Arabic = Urdu, right? (Kotaku link because it’s actually the original, as far as I can tell. Believe it!)

Pakistani reader Saad was thrilled when he heard that Infinity Wards Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was getting a multiplayer map set in the city he calls home, Karachi. That is, until he played it.

“I, being a Pakistani, was so excited at seeing a Karachi map and then immediately so disappointed when I played the map,” says the Karachi resident. The map has Arabic written all over, even though that isn’t the country’s language.

The country of Pakistan has two official lingos: English and Urdu. With somewhere between 60 and 80 million speakers of the standard language, Urdu has more speakers than, say, Italian, Korean or Polish.

“Infinity Ward probably thought, ‘Oh hey its a Muslim country so Arabic is the language,’” says Saad.

While Arabic and Urdu use the same script, the words are completely different. For example, the noun “people” is “al-naas” in Arabic (الناس), and “log” or “loug” (لوگ) in Urdu.

“To someone who doesn’t know urdu won’t be able to tell the difference,” Saad explains. “It’s like Spanish and English, I guess. Some letters are same, some are different but the words are completely different.”

There isn’t a single Urdu word on the entire Karachi map and no one writes in Arabic in Pakistan.

Shock and awe, Infinity Ward showcases their insensitivity again! Every time this game goes on sale, I seem to get reminded on what a silly spectacle the whole thing really is.

That is pretty bad. Should be able to afford a little due-diligence with a cool $500M to go around.


Yeah, that’s one of the first things I noticed when I played that map.

“Hey! That’s not Urdu! Is it Arabic? I don’t understand Arabic, so maybe it’s Arabic”.

Of course, in the end I’m too busy shooting people when I’m playing that map to really care that they put the wrong language in. So as far as just this one customer is concerned, Infinity Ward probably made the right call not to bother. It’s not as if it’s part of the single player game anyway. The only time people are playing that map is in the heat of multiplayer battles, and frankly, it doesn’t really matter that they got it wrong to me.

That’s crazy. It’d be on par with making a level set in Madrid with writing shown anywhere on the map to be french words and phrases. The guy is right to be disappointed, as should anybody else looking for a modicum of respect towards authenticity.

I’m not sure that authenticity has ever been amongst the things promised by a Modern Warfare game, though. Spectacle, bombast, conspiracy, action - but authenticity?

It’s really really lazy, and they should be called out on it. I wouldn’t call it “insensitive” though.

I guess it depends on what kind of authenticity is important to your customers. 294832391 varieties of guns, yes. Foreign languages that aren’t European (even if they are Indo-European), I guess not.

What I thought was really funny is that the big bad in CoD is a guy named “Imran”, which is a Muslim (Arabic) name, and Russia is not the most racially tolerant of places these days. Did they try to lampshade that at least?

Man…confusing Arabic and Urdu? What a farsi.

I grinned and facepalmed at the same time.

Thread. Over.

Also, couldn’t they just rename the map, and everything’d be fine?

my thoughts as well

Do we have confirmation that it’s even Arabic, or did they just slap some characters on the buildings?

Also, those people have different languages? How cute!

I didn’t read anything during my playthrough of MW2.

It is slightly worrying that the developer pays more attention to the guns presented than the cultures and politics, but then it’s quite obvious that the game appeals to the discerning neo-colonialist with a penchant for automatic weaponry rather than his Mohammedan quarry.

Call of Duty is aiming for Tom Clancy-dom, and his work has never (to my knowledge) been particularly concerned with portrayal of the other in cultural or military conflict. In fact, I suppose his audience might expect their opponents to be uncultured and uncivilized, with little squiggly lines for language instead of our proper, monolithic alphabet.

You’re talking about a game that has Russian paratroopers landing in Fairfax County.

I don’t think accuracy was what they were aiming for.

It’s a bone-headed mistake, to be sure. If, say, a Japanese game developer made a game set in D.C. with, say, German written all over the place, we would mock them for it, too. What I find funny is Infinity Ward presumably went to the trouble of hiring someone who could put actual Arabic in the game (unless it’s just random gibberish), without bothering to check if Pakistanis spoke Arabic - something they could’ve figured out in about 10 seconds on Wiki.

It doesnt look like they pay that much attention to guns either, atleast from the russian side, i mean what the hell are they doing with AK-47s? doesnt the russian army have Ak74 and newer versions?

This is a game made for and by Westerners, does it really matter? What is the customer base of the Modern Warfare series in the mideast and Pakistan? Or people who speak Urdu? The comparisons between a Japanese game and Spanish/French/English are not apt because English is the dominant language of mass media, business and entertainment on the planet. No one who owns a PC, 360, or PS3 would confuse English, the language of Coke, MTV, and MCDonald’s, with anything else.

If someone’s going to bother to set their game (or book or movie or whatever) in a real place, I kinda prefer it when they put forth a certain measure of research to make it look & sound like said real place. It kinda ruins the immersion and verisimilitude when there are errors like this. I admit I couldn’t tell the difference between Arabic or Urdu writing either, especially since they use the same script. OTOH, if MW2 had a level set in, say, Hong Kong and everyone spoke Japanese, you can be sure that would set off my cognitive dissonance alarm.

I think you’ve made my point exactly. Your immersion is not ruined because you don’t know the difference. Neither do 99% or more of their customers. Why spend any money solving a problem that doesn’t effect sales or the game itself to 99% of your customers? It’s like getting the ejection port or cocking mechanism right on an esoteric gun model. Most people won’t be able to tell. Was the cocking mechanism right on the Kriss? Who knows.

Whereas, there are probably enough people who would be able to tell the difference between Japanese and Chinese to put forth some effort in your example, plus ample resources (a lot of games and game developers have at least been exposed to Japanese and probably know something about Japanese culture) to get it right. Urdu and Arabic? Not so much.

If I was a producer at Infinity Ward, I wouldn’t worry about this or care at all. It’s a funny story but I don’t blame them.