Videogame translators: 72 hours you should spend to stay updated


The videogame industry is remarkably fast moving and, in order to stay marketable, you need to dedicate part of your time to keep updated on the latest trends and developments. Luckily, this is easier and cheaper than ever.

3 minutes per day: online news sites

As mentioned in our style guide article, gaming websites used to be amateurish and unreliable. Not anymore. Online magazines are increasingly taking the role once reserved to their paper counterparts, and can now boast the same level of professionalism and support from publishers.

With  online readership constantly on the rise, websites tend to multiply and diversify. On one end of the spectrum, we have official pages like Inside Xbox with obvious promotional aims. On the other, trade magazines like Develop geared towards professionals. Anything in the middle will have a different balance between hype and information.

With time, you will probably find your favorite news source but, as a translator, you should try and read a bit of everything, both in your language and in English. After all, the vapid copy of that promotional website could prove a goldmine the next time you need to translate some packaging, while the jargon in that trade page could allow you to decode the latest puzzling instructions from the developers!

10 minutes per week: let’s play videos

Let’s play videos are an increasingly popular form of playthrough. Very dedicated fans with screen recording systems play one game from start to finish and offer their running commentary while doing it. The result is then split into small episodes and uploaded on Youtube. Nowadays it’s fairly easy to find videos for all major titles, even in their localized version. All you need is quick Google search like +"call of duty" +"let`s play" +ITA or +"pokemon" +"gameplay" +deu.

I will not hide that some of these videos are absolutely cringeworthy, but the benefits still manage to outweight it.

- While they can't replace playing a bit on your own (more on this later) these videos are the easiest and fastest way to know a title, especially if you aren't very skilled with its genre
- You will have an insight on how the game is played and enjoyed by its audience
- If you are (un)lucky enough to find a title you have localized, the video can turn into a focus group of sorts, with your solutions constantly tested (and commented) by a real and unaware target.

Obviously, the opinions in these videos belong to a dedicated minority but, taken with a pinch of salt, they can help you building a better text for everyone (and will allow you to say, with a pained sigh, that you really do listen your audience).

Note: if you feel that hearing one more whining teenager voice might sink you into madness, try watching professional videos like Unskippable or Eurogamer’s gameplay captures.

2 hours per month: playing demos

As a videogame translator, your text is not only meant to be read, but to be used . Your words will become cogs of the game mechanics and it is your duty to have at least a basic understanding of how they work.

Playing a large number of full game is not always feasible for a full time translator, but with an Xbox360 or a Playstation 3 and an internet line you can simply download hundreds of localized demos for free, from all makers and genres. Each takes at most two hours to finish, and will give you a clear insight on the mechanics and terminology of that genre.

one day per year: attend a game show

Freelance translators tend to have busy and hectic lives. Making it even more hectic just to attend a game show seems hardly worth it.

We know;  every year we make an effort to attend our local show (E3 for Elisa, Cologne for Matteo, Tokyo Game Show for me) and every time our quality of life plummets.

Why do it, then? To be part of the industry. For the whole year you will be just a tiny speck in the far borders of gaming. For one day, go to the core and soak up the culture. It will make the rest of the year much much easier!

Game localization macros: auto-insert hard line returns◀ ▶Writing for videogame translators (1) – Basic Story Structure

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