“What are your favorite types of game text to translate”

Game localization is a much broader specialization that it may sound at first. Localizable texts come in all sorts of flavours, all with their own specifics that make us love or hate them. Here’s my general feeling about a few types of text you’ll typically meet as a translator. Let’s assume we’re talking only about games with at least a decent level of writing.

Game lore/Background info/Descriptions

That category would be my personal favourite. I love translating anything that provides extra information about a game’s characters, places, history, etc. I enjoy both the reading and writing part of it. For well-written games, it can almost feel like like literary translation. Learning such background information can help better understand what is going on in the rest of the game, so it can be interesting to translate them before, say, dialogs between characters you’re not yet familiar with. Such parts also rarely suffer from lack of context and tend to have generous character limits, if any. I find them quite relaxing.

Dialogs

Dialogs can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster as a translator. They’re usually the most creative part in game projects, so they are stimulating as they really allow you to express your style, but they also come with many challenges. Character limits and lack of context are the obvious suspects here. Even when developers are kind enough to mention who is speaking at a certain moment, you rarely know to whom, or to how many people for that matter. It’s also where you get the bulk of the slang and jokes – fun parts to work on again, but filling query sheets (even worse: waiting for the answers!) to sort things out can get tiring quickly.

Menus

Ugh. Here comes the productivity sink. Short strings with little context and crazy character limits. Tolerable when devs properly organize the strings so you can easily understand what menu item does what. Still, rarely the funniest part to translate, and huge pressure as mistakes here can make the game extremely frustrating for players.

Tutorials

Tutorials are one of most relaxing parts. You do need to translate them accurately and with enough care to make the game easy to understand for players, but usually you’ve got all the context you need and won’t meet any major linguistic difficulty. You’re in control and can make a positive impact on user experience here, so I rather like tutorials, as tedious as players may sometimes find them.

Achievements

Unleash memes, inner jokes and obscure references! Achievement names can be super hard to translate, although descriptions may help you figure out what the devs tried to convey. That’s one of the bits where you can truly get creative and original, so I rather like them… in moderation. Expect more time filling those query sheets.

System messages

IT-ish stuff with no creativity nor room for imagination most of the time. Any system terminology mistake here and you’re toast. Doesn’t sound too sexy on paper, but they let your brain breath a bit between two more stimulating chunks of text. I don’t mind them as long as they’re not the only thing I get to translate in a given day.

The quality of the source text matters, too…

Bad text is bad no matter where it belongs. Descriptions can be dull and confusing, dialogs overblown or cringe worthy as hell when writers try to stuff memes every two lines, menus impossible to figure out even with the game in hands, tutorials undecipherable or just stating the obvious, etc. I never mind “difficult” projects when the copy is compelling. As for the ones where writing is boring, embarrassing or outright offensive, I’ll check the time more often than I dare to admit, whatever the part I’m translating.

Anthony Teixeira

Anthony Teixeira - Professional English to French IT/Software/Video game translator
E-mail: contact@at-it-translator.com

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