In the fall of 2013, NCTA members attended a unique workshop that led them through the challenges of localizing videogames.


Presenter David Lakritz guides attendees through the challenges of game localization.

Presenter David Lakritz guides attendees through the challenges of game localization.

On June 22, 2013, the NCTA hosted a workshop on videogame localization in downtown San Francisco, and the event was a great opportunity for translators from the Bay Area to get an insight into this fascinating and growing field. Sponsored by Kilgray Translation Technologies, the event was run by David Lakritz, President and CEO of Language Automation Inc. With his experience and specialization in videogame localization, David was the perfect person to guide translators of all backgrounds through the pitfalls and peculiarities of this industry.

The workshop was attended by around 20 translators, with source and target languages as varied as English, Spanish, Japanese, French, German, and Polish. Despite the variety of languages present, the workshop was very much language-neutral, and focused on the processes and strategies used in localizing videogames. While many in attendance were avid or casual gamers, quite a few of the workshop participants had little gaming experience, and the event provided valuable insight into this field.

Pressing play
The workshop started off with an overview of the localization process, discussing a typical project and the need to be agile and think on your feet. David then talked about the wide range of terminology involved in game culture, with everyone learning a little about terms like HP (health points), PvP (player versus player), and grinding (engaging in particularly repetitive tasks over and over again within a videogame). David then talked at length about the skills required in order to translate for the videogame localization field, outlining the need for a combination of literary translation skills and gaming experience, familiarity with CAT tools, the ability to multitask and, surprisingly to some, comfort with asking questions. This latter skill is invaluable in this field as it is common for little context to be provided, resulting in the need for a lot of communication to ensure a successfully localized game.

Overcoming obstacles
Once the basics had been covered and the various challenges discussed, it was time for the participants to have a go at localizing their own version of a videogame. The initial plan was for everyone to localize strings from a game using memoQ, providing the full videogame localization experience. However, due to unforeseen technical complications with the server, access to this CAT tool was unavailable. The organizers didn’t let that stop them though, and in no time at all everyone was working on translating text into their own target language using an Excel document provided.

The texts chosen presented some of the challenges typically faced by those working in the industry, including names of mythical beings, videogame jargon, strings with little or no context, and other similar obstacles. After localizing the texts, the group discussed the various challenges that came up, as well as the strategies translators used to overcome them. A common problem that arose was gender in certain non-English target languages, and how to deal with this issue as a translator when faced with limited context. One of the workshop participants also discussed the challenge of trying to produce a translation that matches the original in terms of character numbers and segment length, a result of space constraints when the text is uploaded to the game itself.

Despite the technical difficulties that arose during the workshop, David promised to build each participant a localized version of their game so that they could perform QA on the final version before sending it off to the Language Automation review team for feedback. This will give everyone the chance to see their localization efforts in action, and was a great added value to this workshop. As with all NCTA events, the day was not only informative and a great learning experience, but also gave everyone a fantastic opportunity for networking and meeting other translators from the Bay Area. A good time was had by all, and this taster on videogame localization afforded everyone a unique insider view of an industry that is sure to continue growing over the years. PL