When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually say I’m a translator. The fun part is when they ask what kind of translation I do and I say ‘I localize games.’ Of course it always depends on the ‘audience’, but try saying that to a group of young boys and prepare to hear the ‘wooow! She translates videogames!’ Yes, localizing games is fun and I love it! First, because I am a gamer – I like playing videogames, board games, RPG, Live Action… Second, because it’s a growing area in the localization market and people are finally realizing how much money, technology and jobs games involve.

Some fellow translators come to me once in a while asking how they can start working with games. The first thing I say is ‘you must like games’. There’s always discussion around this topic, whether a game localizer should be a gamer or not, and I tell you: game reviewers can tell if the localizer is a gamer or not. It’s not like reviewers need to take some magic potion and get super powers to know it. It´s like someone is talking about your religion and suddenly there’s a mistranslation of the name of your sacred temple… I’ll give you an idea of what I mean.

A while ago I was requested to translate the back of the cover of Assassin’s Creed – Revelations. I knew AC and had seen the game before, but have never played it, have never been a fan. However, I know how important this game is to its fans and how important this chapter of the game is – this is the third chapter of a series and the main character is 50 years-old. Imagine now the gamer has played around 30 years of this character’s life. He or she saw how the beginning of the whole thing, they saved his life tons of times and now he’s there, old, ready to what could be the final chapter of this thrilling story. When I got the content, one part of it was a speech of Ezio Auditore – the main character – and there was also some Marketing and PR material about the game talking about his weapons, enemies and this whole universe I wasn’t familiar with. So I could either translate it or localize it – meaning, here, localize it not only into Portuguese, but into “Assassin’s Creed in Portuguese World” – and that’s what I did. Here’s how:

  • Gamers: They’re your most valuable source of information about a game. Browse the Web and read forums, pages about the game, comments in the target language, etc. See how players call this or that weapon and features in the target language.
  • Characters: Who is this guy Ezio and why has he became an Assassin? What is the Assassin’s Creed? How was it translated into my language? Go deep into the story, use the (sometimes little) time you have to search about the game and understand what is it that makes so many people crazy about it – even if it doesn’t tick you.

Remember: you don’t have to share the gamers’ feelings about the game, but you must respect it.

So I dived into Ezio’s life and read his story and I loved it. I even bought the book “Assassin’s Creed” – very nice story, by the way. In the end, I became Ezio’s fan! And that’s what I mean about liking games – not only playing games, but the entire universe around it. You’ll like one style better than others, but keep your mind open to all genres. If you’ve asked me a while ago if I would enjoy translating a game about zombies, I would’ve said “Gross!” but I did it recently and it was one of the funniest jobs I’ve done. It’s very liberating translating about a non-existing world! You should try it sometime! :)

Okay, now you know how to walk in the gamer’s shoes, but…

In case you would like me to write an article about localization to your company’s website or blog, please contact me.