Video game translation - A beginner's guide (II)


Second part of our series on video game translation: getting into character

Pick up your controller, grab a snack, and pop an energy drink because it’s time for the second slice of our video game translation tips. If you’re a complete beginner that plans on diving into the industry, or you have already made your first steps translating games, there’s always some room for a bit more knowledge. Or should we say experience points?

Getting into character

As we all know, getting the right feel for every character in the game you translate can be a tricky business, especially if the game was originally created for market with considerable cultural differences. When translating western video games, it’s fairly easy to pull from the stereotypical tropes we all know and love. Dwarfs are always drunk, loud, and speak with an exaggerated Scottish accent. Elves are posh, soft-spoken, and impeccable masters of received pronunciation and correctness. Then you have the classic military guy with a deep American accent and straightforward attitude that’s always ready to kick some ass.

However it’s not always so black or white, and as video game narrative has allowed for far more complex interactions as it has evolved, far more nuanced personalities that stray away from the old clichés can be explored. It’s very easy to see a character with a pirate hat and automatically switch to the “Arrrr me laddie bring me some doubloons” discourse, but we no longer live in the days where one could judge a book by its cover and sail happily ever after.

The answer is always research. While there always will be a reference point from where to start that might include the personality staples we are accustomed to, make sure you get to know other less popular manners of speech and behaviors that often go under the radar. Maybe there’s a region in Alabama where folks speak in a particular way that suits the character perfectly. Or a town in the Swiss Alps that captures a certain way of life that resonates with the personality you wish to convey.

Whatever the choice, a key characteristic of a memorable translation is to avoid portraying characters as one-dimensional and predictable. If you succeed at giving a unique twist to a character in a game that enhances the experience for the player while also being faithful to the original text, you can be certain that the developers are going to come back for more.

Coming soon

Stay plugged in for our next article on video game translation. Feel free to save game and exit to Windows ;)

Leave your comment!