Gambling translation and videogame translation often get grouped under the label “Games / Video games / Gaming / Casino”. But how similar they really are? And what sets them apart? To shed some light, today we are joined by Catherine Christaki and Curri Barceló Ávila.
Hi Catherine, hi Curri, and thank you for accepting this interview! How long have you been involved with online gaming translation? And with gambling titles?
Gambling texts came first in 2005; at the time, I hadn’t even considered this specialisation, but when I received the first request I asked my partner (Christos Floros, also a translator) to help with the terminology (he was an avid gambler in both Greece and the UK before even becoming a translator) and the rest is history. I got into gaming translation in 2008, mostly for Xbox games.
I started in the gaming industry in 2005, when I got a job as a localisation games tester for a publisher in London. But that was just the beginning in games and games translation. Online gaming translation and gambling titles didn’t arrive until the end of 2008, when I finally turned onto freelance translating. In November that year, a new agency I started to work with, begun sending me small projects for one of their clients: localising the online betting games within their website. This is when I had to start searching for glossaries and terminology of betting games, such as roulette, Big Top Tombola, Slots, Poker, etc. That same company also provided me with projects to translate Facebook games, which I entirely loved. I got lucky and another of the agencies I was working with, also sent me some Facebook games to localise (it seemed just like an illness spreading out all games developers).
But I have also some experience within the gambling industry itself, but as a tester: In 2010, I spent about 6 months testing my client’s website, testing all gambling games and, well, making sure the whole system would work fine and the customers would get their money. Being “on the other side” of the industry helped me to understand even more how everything worked throughout.
While most online games are original creations, the majority of gambling titles track back to very codified games like craps or poker. How do you select your terminology for each?
The terminology for gambling sites is available in Greek given that most of the games, like poker or craps, have been played here for quite some time. However, this terminology is part of an “underground” culture, so in order to select the correct terms for every game you have to dive in a totally different world. You have to talk to players, read newspapers and magazines on the subject, watch appropriate TV programs etc. This is a never-ending process. You have to be familiar with the games you translate. The more you are, the bigger the chances of selecting the correct terminology for every game without problems.
To me, this was the hardest part of it all. Unfortunately —for some strange reason I don’t really understand—, most of the betting companies out there have decided to leave most of the terms in English, making it hard sometimes to find the exact Spanish term for each English term. I have played many times poker and some other cards games, and I would not use so many terms in English when talking to the people I was playing with, which makes me think that those companies are just lazy to use he right terms or even to make their clients getting used to the proper translated terms. Once I was even told for a new potential client that I shall leave most of the terms in English, “as their customers were used to that”… The “translated” text, ended up being some sort of Spanglish gibberish harder to understand than the original English text altogether.
However, for these new agencies I was working with, I did some research at the beginning, trying to find websites of Spanish casinos (in which they use as many terms in Spanish as possible) and, from there, I started building a glossary of terms. Thankfully, once you have translated one type of each game (one of slots, a few cards games, roulette, bingo…), they are all the same.
How adding a gambling element transforms a game? How different would it be for you to translate the Facebook version of Bejeweled against its gambling counterpart? Which areas would require a different style, or approach, or simply more attention?
By adding the gambling element, in essence the game opens to another market as well. You have to make it attractive to the new market, the gamblers, so a different style is required. That style doesn’t have to be too technical but has to be attractive to both potential user groups: those who play for fun and those who stake their money on it. Usually the Facebook version of a game would be a bit more informal in order to adapt well to its specific audience; the version on a gambling website would be a bit more formal.
I quite agree with my colleague Catherine here: just adding the gambling “bit” makes the whole game to belong (as well) to another different market. Gamblers tend to be a bit more impulsive, as they have their money at stake. That makes them to even ended up being hooked to those games (you know, “the last chip I bet”). Facebook players, however, are more casual gamers and will play the game just to have some fun during a small period of time. In Spanish, the language used is very similar, as in both cases an informal approach is needed, and very commercial and catchy sentences are used to attract the player onto keep playing even more. However, it is true that the way the texts address to their audience is slightly different, being gambling a bit more formal than other types of games.
But what happens when you have a Facebook gambling game? I am now working on a Facebook gambling game and, well, this time, the client decided to use a very familiar and “slangy” language, which made it closer to a Facebook game than a serious-money-staking gambling game. I feel that, this way, the game reaches to a wider audience, thanks to their less-serious approach.
How having money prizes changes the audience and the style they expect? How different is it to translate a standard gaming portal from translating a online gambling portal?
The money prize changes both the audience and the style; the new audience, the people who gamble, risk their money. In doing so, the least the translator (or the gambling website) can do, is to respect them. The style has to be more formal, straightforward and diverse. You have to keep in mind that most online gaming portals are available to minors (under the age of 18) so your translation targets a different, more casual audience. On the contrary, gambling websites are available to persons over 18; the style of the translation has to be different because the users expect different things and risk their money. A bad translation and a potential loss would result in a client loss.
I totally agree with my colleague: from the moment the gambling websites have restrictions of age, the target audience has to be different and your language has to change. For the fact that their users are risking their money, they ask for more respectful language, just as if they were the bosses and the website, theirs. Very much like many rich people feel they are above anybody else just for the fact that they have the money 😉
In the first case, there is no age restriction for the users, and probably not even identity check, such as the ones gambling sites have (and, believe me: they make sure you are really who you say you are). I think just for this, the whole concept is totally different, making the language used in it also different.
Finally, which type of translation do you find more challenging and interesting? And why?
I believe that translating gambling texts/websites is way more challenging and interesting. There is a great variety of games; the quest of finding the correct terminology for every single game is exciting. The thrill of card and table games has, in a way, to be present in your translation in order to attract the players. On the other hand, you have to love those games yourself. One can find the terminology, but if s/he doesn’t like the things s/he is translating, or if s/he cannot understand the rules of a game, the translation will reflect that. I’ve come across many gambling translations from well qualified colleagues who don’t even know what a casino is, so the end result was not that good. You don’t have to be a doctor to translate medical texts, but I think that you must have some experience with gambling before attempting to translate a gambling text.
I prefer normal games: as they are all different, each game is a new challenge. Betting games, on the other side, are pretty much all the same, so you will have to use the same language, addressing, terms, etc. all the time. Of course, the latter are easier: once you have translated one version of each of them, you only need to repeat them again and again. Also, non-gambling games pose a challenge in the sense that you never know what specialisation you will be asked to translate: a war game, a basketball game, a hospital game, a fashion game, a music game… Every project is a surprise and you learn loads with each of them, and that makes it exciting.
Image Credits: Ultima nuvola