Here at MoGi, one of our most important resources is our incredible team of professionally trained, native speaking localization agents. Each one as passionate about gaming as they are about language, they put long hours and mammoth work into helping bring a huge range of great games to wider markets globally: no deadline too tight, no game too big. This week, we decided to sit down with one of our localization agents, Marion Hernandez, and find out just what it’s like to work in video games localization. Enjoy…
How would you describe an average day in localization?
Fun but intense. We work on several projects at once so things can move pretty quickly. Big projects can keep us busy for several days or even weeks at a time while smaller ones we work on in between so it requires a lot of flexibility and focus. Many senior translators also handle systematic proofreading and occasional modifications as games are updated, so a lot of diversity is involved.
Have you always wanted to work in the games industry?
As a gamer myself, I was naturally drawn to the video game side of the localization industry for sure. I discovered localization during my Master’s degree and I immediately got hooked. For me, it is the perfect mix between most types of translation, and I even get to engage my creative side since games are so full of cultural references and puns – we have a lot of fun with those.
What makes for a difficult translation?
Cultural references, certainly. Cultural references and puns are definitely a challenge. They require much research upfront, and then a lot of brain-scratching to come up with something as powerful and funny as the original. It’s trying, but rewarding. Other challenges include staying gender-neutral when faced with words that don’t denote gender in English but might in other languages (for instance “adventurer”, “hero”, and past participles – my own private nightmares). The handling of variables and tags can also be tricky since we don’t always know what they will be replaced with (gender, plurality, etc). We need to account for all possibilities in the most natural way we can. Plus, there’s always character limits to take into account.
What do you think are the most common mistakes people make when translating games?
Most mistakes in localization come from a lack of context. We always try to use a solution we think is best-suited to a game but in some cases context can be a little lacking. Other mistakes may be related to consistency, for instance capitalization of words can be tricky and can vary depending on anything from the style of the game to a particular inflection in in-game dialogue a character might be using. With so many variables, it’s possible for things to be overlooked. We always have to be on top of that!
How does video games translation compare to other forms of translation?
It’s a very complex and comprehensive form of translation. It allies a bit of everything: literary, audio-visual, technical, marketing, didactic, etc. The fact that the text is non-linear due to the interactive dimension of the product makes it very different to other forms of translation. For me, the fact that we work in such an amazingly multidisciplinary medium that can be viewed from so many angles is what makes video games localization so special and great to work in.
What qualities/skills do you think a person needs to work in localization?
Apart from the usual skills necessary to work in translation, I would say versatility and flexibility. They definitely help while handling various types of translations and game genres at once. Resistance to stress is useful since deadlines are always tight, especially in the games industry. Of course, knowledge about and passion for gaming is essential, it certainly helps in translating specific terms more accurately and spotting obscure references to other games. On top of that, I think it is very important to be a team player since it’s very rare we work alone on a project.
Why is localization so important for video games?
It’s a symbiotic thing. It enables games to reach new markets and it allows players to access new titles. Some games like arcade or casual games might not need a lot of explanation or translation to be understood and played, and that’s fine, but for others (like MMORPGs) it’s virtually impossible to play, let alone to be immersed in the story, if you don’t understand the language. Good localization can enhance user experience and contribute greatly to the immersive dimension of games. Even tiny details like currency or time format can break the immersion if you have to pause for a while to convert them into your own system. Localization is there to remove those barriers so gamers can focus fully on playing and enjoying themselves.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I positively love the fact that we get to work on so many projects all the time. It can be tricky sometimes but you never get bored. We’re always looking for new ways to improve and get better at what we do, so things are changing and updating constantly. I also find it amazing to think that we help make so many great titles accessible to more people all over the world through our localization work.
What do you see in the future for video games localization?
Localization is a big business and enables companies to reach far wider markets so I think the future will see a lot more awareness raised and a lot more invested into quality localization. Indeed, following a trend which has already started with Brazilian-Portuguese and Québec French translations becoming more and more readily available, I believe there will be an increased fine-tuning of niche locales offered. On top of that, since the games industry is on an ongoing quest towards greater immersion through VR equipment and simulators, they might, and definitely should, not neglect the impact of (good quality) localization in their games.