This last Saturday the 17th we met in Hatagaya for the first Loctalk networking event with the Tokyo videogame localization community.

How did it go? I’d say pretty well! Ten people attended, mostly videogame translators (both in-house and freelance), but also three project managers and one game developer. Most of the event was held in English, but we had a couple of questions in Japanese too.

All the participants sat at the same, large, table and chatted along, making their own question or picking one of the “rants”, humourously aggressive statements meant to spark controversy.



Do translators use Computer assisted translation tools? if so, which one?

In the majority of cases, attendants did not use any CAT tools, as they are not considered efficient in gaming, where the same term may need different translations depending on the context. Also, the fuzzy matches/Trados split rate pricing system is seen negatively. Two attendants, however, do use and recommend them. One has used Dejà-vu for many years, the other one is Alain, who waxed lyrical about memoQ’s term extraction for a good ten minutes.

“‘Are you a fan?’ Sure, I just wrote a Fanfic, would you like to to read it? that’s how you make a great translation, isn’t it?

Again, mostly a monologue by Alain. If any of you listened to the Outcast.it podcast, you know how easily it can happen! Anyway, the point was that some clients sometimes approach translators asking first if they are a fan of a specific topic or series. A legitimate question, but one that somehow negates translation as a profession. The translator is not seen as a specialist in the craft of translation itself,  but as an interchangeable “fan” whose real skill is simply to be already knowledgeable in the topic at hand.

Some rightly argued that this kind of “fan” knowledge is vital for some titles, like a long-standing RPG series, where the jargon might even go against the usual norms of the language. However, assuming a professional cannot interiorize this kind of styles and terminologies into his workflow opens somewhat disheartening perspectives, like sidelining older and more experienced translators simply because they cannot really be part of a specific fanbase anymore!

Community translations are a different matter. While the idea of a large AAA title relaying on amateur translations was unanimously frowned upon, and seen almost like a fraud, most attendants didn’t mind about micro-niche titles, that might otherwise have no translation whatsoever, being translated by their own audience.


“What is the usual background for a Japanese to English translator?

In most cases, Japanese to English translators seem to be bilingual that for a reason or another got in touch with game developers. Former teachers, creative writers, programmers… The paths are many but almost never direct, as Japanese to English translation courses and schools are very rare.

There is a higher number of FIGS localizers with an academic background in translation but, even in this case, few have a specific preparation in narrative.


Project managers

“Why are translator doing this job?”

One of the project managers enquired about the typical schedule of freelance translators, for example if it was better working on long or short projects. The answer was that it doesn’t matter that much, because long projects might give a steady income, but freelance translators still have to accept shorter ones on the side to keep in touch with future clients.

As an aside, a translator working at a major Japanese developer mentioned that’s one of the main benefits of their current situation, as they receive a salary for working in-house, but they still keep the freedom to carry freelance activities on their own.

The project manager sincerely wondered what motivates people to become a freelance translator despite this general feeling of uncertainty, and one of the answers was the perspective of improving conditions in the coming years, brought upon by the growing influence of gaming as a mainstream media.

“And what makes a translator prefer an agency or another?”

This tied to the following question, which was about the main qualities freelancers look for in an agency. Besides the obvious desire for timely payments, one of the requests was for educating clients towards a more collaborative approach towards translations or, at least, some sort of protection against the most disrupting situations.



Do you usually know who is translating your game?

While in-house translators usually get mentioned in the credits, freelancers generally aren’t. Provided reasons vary from the “black box” effect of agencies withholding the name of their providers, to the common trend of external vendors being forbidden to link their name to the projects they worked on, to the extensive editing game translations receive before reaching the last version making it difficult to give a clear authorship.


“Why are developer files so messy?”

The localization process often seems to lack planning, starting with poor directions (non-translatables, character limits, context) and finishing with a constant and unmanageable drip of one line edits weeks or even months after the last delivery.

One translator mentioned the interesting paradox of working on a text supposedly “Final, but subject to changes”.

Unfortunately, in the complex world of game development, this really makes sense as a text may well be finished as far as the writer is concerned, but may still need to be tweaked by the legal department. After all, with the spread of iterative and incremental agile software development methods like Scrum, everything is in a state of flux and small, daily edits are here to stay.



After the event, we shared an anonymous feedback form with the participants, 50% of which responded, In their opinion:

  • The base of the event is good, it just needs to be developed further (80%)
  • It would be nice having more people, but it’s not essential (80%)
  • The next event should be more structured, with longer prepared talks (40%) or stay as it was now, with a mix of prepared talks and spontaneous chatting (40% SPLIT VOTE)
  • The next event should be two hours like this one (60%)
  • The next event should either be in two months (40%) or in more than three months (40% SPLIT VOTE)
  • Expenses for the next event should be paid by each participant, up to a fee of 1000 JPY (80%)



Did you find this report interesting? Are you based in Tokyo or know someone who does? Then why not attend the next event? To know the dates, keep an eye on this website or that of IGDA Japan, or enter your email address in the form below to be notified directly.




Loctalk 1:2012年11月17日

参加者は合計10名、その大半がビデオゲーム翻訳者 (社内/フリーランス) でしたが、プロジェクトマネージャー3名や開発会社の方1名も参加していました。会話は基本的に英語で進行しましたが、質問の幾つかについては日本語で進められました。






参加されていたプロジェクトマネージャーはまず、フリーランス翻訳者の一般的なスケジュールについて質問しました。短期と長期、どちらのプロジェクトがいいか? という問いには翻訳者から「あまり気にしない、収入が安定するから長期のほうがいいこともあるけれど、将来的に仕事が来るように短期の仕事も受けなければならないし」といった回答がありました。




ローカライズのプロセスというのは計画性が欠落していることが多く、指示も足りていないことが多いです(翻訳対象外文字列、文字数制限、文脈情報など)。それに手に負えないくらいの頻度で最後の最後まで (1文字列単位の) 修正が繰り返されます。



イベントの基本は良いので、これから膨らませていけば良いと思う (80 %)
イベントの規模が大きくなるのはいいかもしれないけど、このままでもいい (80%)
次回は長めに講演みたいなのがあっても良いかも (40%)、ベースは今回のようなままで、講演や雑談も追加してほしい (40%)
時間は今回と同じように2時間がいい (60 %)
次回は2ヶ月後くらいがいい (40 %)、3ヶ月以上の間隔がいい (40 %)
会費は 1000 円未満で参加者負担がいい (80 %)

Alain is the founder of team GLOC. Want to read more stuff by him? You should probably try this blog’s Best of, which has a few dozen of his best articles ready to read. Or you could head over to IGDA – Localization SIG on Facebook, where he shares new stuff almost every week.

Image Credits: Ultima nuvola