How to translate video games?


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If you are somebody who is aspiring to enter the very profitable video game translation industry and looking to gather information regarding essential skill accumulation, we have got you covered. In this article, we will share the nuts and bolts of how to translate video games.


The video games industry is a vast and ever-evolving one that has graciously spread its wings across the globe collecting an estimated 3.4 billion consumers or gamers. The billion-dollar industry accumulated an estimated amount of 37 billion US dollars in revenue from the PC gaming market in the year 2020. The recent surge of growth has consequenced tech giant names like Meta, Google, and Apple mapping their way into enjoying a slice of the cake.


In the future, we are going to see widely accessible streaming services exclusively for video games that will be easily availed by worldwide customers. Nowadays, if a game is to achieve success it has to do well in the global market. And for this, localization is necessary.


Any game with inefficient localization or faulty translation is bound to receive a negative word of mouth – made much easier by virtue of social media discussions. Thus, it may not be possible to collect as much revenue as intended. These added pressures enhance the importance of quality video game translators and their ability to internationalize the game.


How to translate video games?


The translation process of a game majorly includes translating, contextualizing, and localizing two types of game-related assets – in-game and marketing ones. In-game assets include texts, audio, and visuals. Marketing assets include marketing materials and ads, product packaging, websites, and social pages.


As a professional, working on a translation project, one has to have proper expertise and comprehension of the regional dialects of both the translated form and translated languages. They also need to have a clear concept of the cultural nuances and their surrounding references. This is crucial in localization which attempts to bring alive the creator’s vision and help the gamers receive a resembling taste from the game, as they would if they played it in the language it was originally made.


A team of translators’ diligent hard work by having meticulously followed several steps as explained below, come together to form a quality translation of a video game.



Content Analysis


The process of translation includes translating texts, audio, graphics containing text in them, and other graphics or visual content referenced in dialogues.


First and foremost, an in-length business discussion is to be held with the game developer and their project manager. They will have a vision and certain targets set for the project emphasizing the region, market, or sub-market they are approaching. The translators are then to conduct an all-inclusive inspection in congruence with the client’s vision to determine the particulars of the translation process.


Content Management


In this step, administration and coordination of the translatable content are conducted. The team leader copies assemble and entrust translators with their respective materials (codes wherein texts are inserted).




The step of translation consists of two aspects. Translation of written texts and translation of audio files. Written dialogues are translated, edited, and later proofread. Vocal dialogues are carefully examined after having been translated and obscure speeches are corrected if found.


Standard examination


At this stage, the standard of the translation is examined to unearth the certainty of whether the translation is error-free and of high quality. Any discovered mishappenings of the details are corrected.


Reverse conversion


The format of the translated files may not resemble the format in which they are found in the video game. In video games, texts are embedded in codes. The translated and edited texts need to be integrated into the code of the video game.


The audio files are to be reverted to the original format used by the client. As a mark of professionalism, a translator team should perform an overall quality examination of the code of the video game to figure out it is well functioning in attachment with the translated texts.


Final demonstration


The last step is the inspection of the final and finished form of the video game after translation, to thoroughly demonstrate the whole game to see if everything is right where it should be.


Hurdles and obstacles in translating video games – guidelines to overcome them


The process of translation is no small feat. It is a tedious and meticulous process with several complexities to be overcome all the way. Read on to find out what are those and what you can do about them.


Not enough space for texts


Alphabets of different languages do not take up a similar amount of space. The alphabets in the English language as an example are larger than the pictographic Chinese counterparts. You will have to creatively approach the situation when translating the texts in dialogue boxes. Some textboxes will not adapt to a translated text that is longer than the original one. You should copy-paste the translation onto an excel sheet to see if it fits the pixel length.


Getting bugged!


Sometimes there can be a bug in the code from the developers’ side which may lead to the appearance of texts in wrong locations, typos, and other such issues. At this point, you have to make an executive decision to leave it alone and not mess with original source or fix it on your own. Whatever you end up doing, consult with your team leader at first.


Being inconsistent with glossary terms


Names of characters, items, and locations are known as glossary terms. When you are translating thousands of words, it’s easy to forget and mess up some of the glossary terms or texts written on menus. Consistency is to be maintained. Otherwise, it may confuse gamers and degrade their user experience. To avoid this from happening take help from the Computer Assisted Translation tool or CAT. It will keep tabs on previously translated words and will remind you of them if needed.


Final thoughts


Mimicking any other step or process included in the creation of a video game, the work of translation is rather tedious, technical, and intricate. Mere interest or passion is not going to cut if you are to make it as a professional. You will require the correct skills, in-depth training, and patience to achieve that.


However, as mentioned before, the video game translation industry is huge and will only get bigger and better. If you are someone who possesses fairly well knowledge about the video game industry and is willing to professionally associate yourself with it, this is the right time to receive proper training on how to translate video games.

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