Oisin M.

Copywriter

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

07-05-2018

If you’re thinking about entering the world of video game translation read on and soak in the tips in our next series of articles!

In the past two decades, the video game industry has grown from an obscure hobby into a multi billion global phenomenon that the public can’t seem to get enough of. To anyone who has been playing games since the early days, the fond memories of poorly translated Japanese import titles are the reason why professional translation has won its place at the core of the industry. The huge budgets allocated to massively successful video game franchises can now afford great translations that connect with a worldwide audience, but cannot afford to slip up and have a subpar translation damage their product.

The huge budgets allocated to massively successful video game franchises can now afford great translations that connect with a worldwide audience.

If you’re thinking about entering the world of video game translation and taking advantage of the huge opportunities within, read on and soak in the tips in our next series of articles!

Play the game

It seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it isn’t as straightforward as it seems. There are various reasons that can hinder one’s attempts at diving right into the game world and getting all that precious inspiration fuel that will evolve into a great translation. Perhaps the developer has very strict rules on who can play the game before its release, or maybe the current build is so barebones it’s almost impossible to get the feel that the game is trying to convey. Then we have the age old arch nemesis of translators: Lack of time.

It can be rather complicated to overcome the first barrier, as large publishers tend to have very strict non-disclosure agreements tied to their products. If the case is that a game is too early in development, it’s always worth a shot pressing a client to send as much information as possible in addition to a playable build. If the problem comes down to a lack of time, it’s better to add a few hours to your budget and give the game a thorough checking rather than losing time and money relying on guesswork because of a lack of context.

And let’s be honest. Playing video games is fun.

Squeezing everything in

There will always a point in which the translated text won’t fit into the limited space it had for the words in the original language. That’s due to how games are built, and translators can’t really do much about it except listen to the muse and try to rework the message so nothing important gets lost (in translation!).

While some games may work in a way that allow translators unlimited space, user interfaces in general have hard coded restrictions that will force one to adapt. Try cutting out redundant information as much as possible while retaining the flavor and personality of the original text. If in doubt, drop a line to the developers to find a reasonable compromise that makes everyone happy. Certainly easier said than done!

Coming soon

Stay tuned for our next article on video game translation, at the Kobalt Blog near you ;)

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