12th Leeds CTS Professionalisation Talk - Games Localisation

Belén Agulló Garcia gave a great introduction to the world of games localisation.

For the 12th Leeds CTS Professionalisation Talk of the academic year we were joined by Belén Agulló García, who gave students and staff, along with students and staff from universities in Belgium and Germany, a great introduction to the world of games localisation. She covered topics such as what it is, what processes are involved, and even some of the challenges that localizers face!

Belén started in games localisation in 2011 in Madrid before starting her own company and then selling it on, so she was more than qualified to show us the ropes. Simply put, games localisation is the act of adapting a videogame to suit different cultures, not necessarily just on a purely linguistic level.

Games localization is a very young branch of translation studies, and Belén compared it to a blend of audiovisual translation and software development in which you are trying to replicate the game-playing experience in another language and culture. It was interesting to learn that it does not start and finish with localizing the game and that a lot of the work extends to marketing materials, updates for mobile applications, magazines and promotional videos about the game, and even support forums centred on the game.

 Belén explained what to do if you’re interested in getting into games localization. She recommended:

-       Playing video games - you don't need to be a hardcore gamer but some familiarity helps!

-       Reading about and keeping up to date with games industry news (she recommended this blog: http://www.gamasutra.com/ )

-       Catching up with, or even following along with, as many gaming events and launches as possible, which is especially easy because most are streamed online for those who can’t be there in person.

 The process of localisation itself was then addressed, with Belén outlining the seven stages involved in localising a game:

1)    Internationalisation: this involves preparing the game to be localised from a technical point of view. For example, if a game is being localised from Japanese to a European language, the text boxes within the game will need to be much larger, and any additional characters that are required will need to be added.

2)    Familiarisation: this is possibly one of the most exciting stages of the process as it offers the localizers a chance to play the game and become familiar with what they will be localizing. Unfortunately due to Sim Ship (simultaneous shipping), where most language versions of the game will launch at the same time, this doesn’t happen all that often.

3)    Glossary and Style Guide Creation: the localization process is so fast-paced that many translators will be working on the same project, so a glossary of the most important terms and character names is created to ensure consistency throughout. A style guide helps ensure that the whole game sounds as though it was written in the same voice.

4)    Translation: as mentioned above, there will likely be many translators working on the same project, but it will then be reviewed by only one reviewer to ensure it all fits together. Belén mentioned that the deadlines tend to be very tight, and that translators are expected to translate between 2000 and 2500 words a day, which can be tough as a lot of the work is very creative!

5)    Voice Over Production: Belén explained that sometimes the localisation process will even extend to writing scripts and recording voice overs with voice actors.

6)    Linguistic Quality Assurance: this is a chance for the team to fix any bugs that were identified through the testing of the game. Belén said at this point that a lot of these processes will overlap because of the fast paced nature of the projects!

7)    Master Up and Sign Off: the final stage takes place when the platform who is publishing the game (Xbox, PlayStation etc.) will check that the localized game meets their guidelines for terminology, style and that it meets the age rating the game has been given.

 Did you know?

-       Many companies will be intentionally ambiguous with the information they give localizers for fear that details of the game will leak before it’s released.

-       English and Japanese are the main source languages for video games.

-       Whilst blood is red in most war games in US and other European countries, it is green in Germany due to censorship against violence.

The session then ended with some audience participation for suggestions on how to overcome common issues in games localization, such as restrictions in the number of characters you have available to say something in. Belén told us that abbreviations of words are a last resort, which means that localisers have to seek very creative solutions to problems. She explained that, once, she thought she had found the perfect solution for saying ‘electronic gun’ in just six characters. The solution she found was to say ‘taser’ but unfortunately this didn’t work either as often brand names are unacceptable as they cause legal problems…  

Thanks to Belén for a great talk on a field that many of us knew nothing about!

You can find Belén on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Belen_Translate

and on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/belenagullogarcia/

Written by CTS Students Emma Tamlyn (@EmmaTamlyn), Fred Zhuang, Anwen Roys (@anwen_roys) and Bethan Attwood(@francobethan).