Getting started as a professional game translator is a bit of a catch-22 situation. Everybody wants you to be experienced before sending you projects, but you need to work on translation projects to gain experience.
One solution can be to build your own portfolio of sample translations & projects. To help you with this, I have a gathered a list of games you can freely translate right now and add to your samples. I have also put together a number of tips to help you find small translation projects and gain that all-too-important mileage in the localization industry.
I am planning to update this page regularly with new packages ready to be translated as well as links to other useful resources.
Translate Previous LocJAM Packages
LocJAM is (was?) an online contest for game translators. A short open source game in English is published on the official site and everyone has a couple of weeks to submit their translations.
The future of the contest is on standby at the moment, but you can still download and translate the games that were shared during previous editions.
If you translate from English
All translation packages for previous LocJAMs are available on the IGDA LocSIG’s GitHub repository.
Read README.md for special instructions. The translatable file is in the bin/locale/ folder
The Republia Times is an indie game created by Lucas Pope, released in April 2012. In the game, the player takes the role of the editor of a newspaper torn between personal opposition to the government and threats to the lives of the editor’s wife and children if the editor doesn’t generate loyalty among the population. Character limits, humor and puns will give translators a good run for their money. An excellent game to show your craft.
Read instructions in readme.pdf
Grandpa is an interactive story about Emi and her Grandfather trying to find his hat. The game ends on a twist. Translating it while keeping all of its subtleties and hints will allow you to show your attention to details and creative writing skills. Here is my post-mortem about it.
LocJAM 3: https://github.com/IGDA-LocSIG/locjam3
Simply translate the .docx and .xlsx files.
The Hotel of Madness is a board game openly inspired by The Shining. For this edition, we tested translators’ ability to write accurate, consistent and unambiguous rules – essential qualities for this type of game. Not a video game, but a good title to add diversity to your portfolio.
Instructions in the Readme file.
Ikinari Maou is a puzzle game dressed up as an old-school RPG. With several plot twists and tons of hints hidden between the lines, the game is an excellent challenge for translators and a pleasure to play.
If you translate from Japanese
Try you hand at one of the winning Japanese entries of LocJAM 2 and translate it to the language of your choice.
The original Japanese game’s package, used for LocJAM Japan.
Other Ways to Gain Experience
- Offer free translation to indie devs: To gain experience, it can be a good idea to offer your help for free. Rather than helping big companies for peanuts, I suggest starting with indie developers who really need help and don’t have the finances to hire a professional translator.
- Browse the Indie Game Localization group on Facebook. Devs regularly post help requests there. Just be careful with whom you offer your help to, as some are taking advantage of the community to get free translation for their many games. Find a game that seems nice, from a dev who genuinely seems to need help. Make sure the word count is reasonable and go ahead.
- Translate mods: Translating mods is a great way to earn a little experience. Most mod devs will be happy to receive a little help, and they’re usually not creating mods for profit. They also typically have a localization budget of 0 (does currency matter here?), so you’re not stealing anyone’s job. CurseForge is an excellent place to start browsing. Help requests for mods/games also occasionally pop up on GitHub.
- Contact indie devs directly: you can use social networks to find interested devs. I particularly recommend Facebook and LinkedIn groups for indie devs (there are too many of them to list!) where people like to share information about their upcoming games. Once again, see what you like (you want good games on your CV, don’t you?) and get in touch.
- Offer to translate articles, fan sites, game guides, reviews, etc.: let your imagination do the work here, there’s so much to explore! Just make sure you have the permission of the original author.
- What about crowdsourced and amateur translations? They surely give you relevant experience, but you may not want to write about them explicitly on your CV. Rightly or not, crowdsourced translations are not associated with quality and professionalism. As for amateur translations, they’re usually on the wrong side of legality.
My advice: write about your general experience (“I’ve been translated for xx years“, “I have translated a total of xx words of game-related texts“) and only mention titles you are allowed to. Have a small list of projects you’re proud of, with sample files if you are allowed to share them. It’s fine not to have a ton of titles to mention. I have translated well over a hundred games in my career, but I’m credited in a grand total of 4 of them. Give general information, and only informally tell about details if you are asked to.
WARNING: Whatever your translate for free, do ask to be properly credited and keep word counts reasonable – be willing to help, but don’t let people take advantage of you. Anything over 1,000 words is too much for a free translation, unless you are extremely passionate about the game in question AND the dev clearly doesn’t have the funds. When necessary, politely explain than you can only handle a few hundred words for free. An App Store description, menus? Why not. A whole set of dialogs? Probably too much.