In this episode of LocaLAIse This!, we interview Carme Mangiron, an experienced game localizer and chair of the Master in Audiovisual Translation program at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, where she developed the localization curriculum. In this podcast, Carme talks about the skills needed to break into the game localization industry, her perspectives on the industry, and new developments we can expect to see in the days ahead.
Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!
David: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse This!, a podcast in which we bring you interviews with industry experts on topics of game localization and global game publishing.
I’m your host, David Lakritz, President & CEO of LAI Global Game Services.
Our guest today is Carme Mangiron, an experienced Japanese to Spanish game localizer and chair of the Master in Audiovisual Translation program at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Carme is also the co-author of Game Localization: Translating for the Global Digital Entertainment Industry. Carme will be sharing her perspectives on game localization with us today.
David: Carme, welcome to the podcast!
Carme: Thank you, David! Thank you for having me.
1. David: Carme, your work in academia teaching game localization to aspiring students along with your prior work in the industry localizing popular games such as Final Fantasy must give you an interesting perspective on game localization.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to break into the industry about the skills that are important to have to be a successful game localizer?
Carme: I think that game localizers must be very passionate about their job, and usually students who want to become game translators or localizers are avid gamers, but it’s not essential. But I think an interest at least in the industry and some knowledge about the game industry and global pop culture are essential, as well as of course any skills that any translator should have such as good competence in the source language, target language, intercultural awareness, and good creativity because it’s very important to be very creative and I also think good writing skills. So, a good game translator has to be a good storyteller.
2. David: Can you talk about some of the challenges that game localizers face when translating a game and how they can most effectively work with the rest of the development team?
Carme: I think one of the most – the biggest — challenges we face is lack of space, and also the lack of access to the context, like sometimes you’re translating the game without actually seeing it and this is what’s known as “blindfolded translation” can be very challenging, especially if translators are not very familiar with the game medium or the genre that they’re translating. I think for that reason communication with the development team is essential especially if you don’t have access to the original game because it’s being developed at the time or because it’s been outsourced, that you don’t know if you’re translating from Japanese, you know it could be a male or female, it could be 1 or 2 gender, and number agreement issues, so I think that it’s important that developers try to provide as much information as possible about the game, about character limitation, about gender, about for example if a string, if it’s a verb or it’s an order, etc. So I think communication is very important and also the localizers have to be good with dealing with space constraints, also time pressure, etc. things like that.
3. David: And have you seen those issues improve over time? In other words, has life gotten easier for game localizers compared to what it was maybe 10 years ago?
Carme: Yes. Yes, I think so. I think developers are getting more and more aware of the importance of localization and also trying to make it easier for them. For example, using variables for gender. Or even when we started, with the Final Fantasy series in 1998 into Spanish, we had to ask for all the special characters, to be able to see them in the game without them being corrupted, and now all these things are being accounted for. I’ve been very lucky because as Square – Square Enix now – we always had access to the context of the game, and I also think that some translators who work from home it’s getting easier because most companies are becoming aware of the importance of context, character limitations, etc. and they’re providing this information in the localization kit. So, I think it is getting better, and I think the work of the Localization Special Interest Group has been very important for this, within the International Game Developers Association, to promote and raise a bit of awareness about how important good quality localization is, and that you need a certain amount of information, walkthroughs, style guides, etc., screenshots if possible to be able to provide the best quality translation.
4. David: Now, Carme, I want to ask you a question on a completely different topic. You know, one of the trends we’ve seen in the last several years is more developers using agile methodologies and moving towards a more agile project workflow. And I know that one of the pillars of agile is that change is the norm rather than the exception. That of course has implications on the game localization team.
What has been your experience with agile and how have you seen that impact game localization?
Carme: Yes, that actually makes your life harder because you’re working with text that’s in a constant state of flux, and maybe some particular fragment that took you a long time to localize, then it’s kind of left behind, and it’s replaced. So basically, you need to be also very agile translating…and be ready to let go of your translation and change it, and revisit it and also I think that means that you do not have access to the context or the game because it’s being developed and that also implies that you need to have more intuition or sometimes, apply, ok, what’s the less risky decision here, is this likely to be, a group of people talking, or is this likely to be, a fighting technique, or sometimes then you need to be more quick and also a bit more adventurous with your translation and be ready to change it as well. Sometimes, we don’t like it because it’s taken us a long time to come up with a nice translation, or a ?, or the name of a weapon. I’ve worked a lot with RPGs, so you have to be ready to let go and also ready to maybe make it shorter, change the scene. I think we need to work very quickly as well and respond quickly to the changing needs and the changing working process.
5. David: I know exactly what you mean Carme. It is very challenging not compromising creativity or quality when too many constraints are imposed. Well, since we’re talking about future trends, I think our listeners would be very interested if you could gaze into your crystal ball (laugh) and tell us what you see are some of the changes on the horizon for game localization.
Carme: I think we’re going towards more and more interactive movies, especially for some genres like RPGs or action/adventure games and I think if that happens, game localization is going to need to look into more seriously like dubbing practices, or subtitling practices, more like it’s done in movies, for example, lip-synching, and all these things I think they’re going to be taken into account much more and that might be an issue and might be challenging when you don’t have access, because if you know if you have a close up of a character speaking it would be nice if it was perfectly synchronized, but if you don’t have access to the image. So I’m hoping as well, that localizers are going to have more resources to have access to the product and be able to localize it better and take into account dubbing and subtitling practices.
And also, there is a trend now which and I don’t know how this is going to affect professional translators, but also crowdsourcing. It’s here, especially indie game developers sometimes are resorting to that because they cannot afford or do not have the budget at the moment, and I think it’s a trend that might be here to stay but I don’t know how and of course I don’t think the quality can be comparable at all but I think it’s something else that we need to look at and how that’s going to develop.
6. David: One last question – can you tell us about any other interesting projects you’re currently working on?
Carme: You know, we organize a game localization conference in Barcelona every 2 years. It’s called “Fun for All” – well, “Fun for All” video game translation and accessibility. We actually also cover a little bit of game accessibility. We’re going to host the 4th edition in June, the 9th and 10th of June.
It’s a great forum of discussion for academics, and practitioners, and we try to bring people from the industry as well. That keeps me busy. We’re organizing on that, and then, I also try to do research on game localization, what’s been done and from what aspects. And I’m also very interested in the concept of quality. Quality, and immersion and reception of the localized version. So that’s all things that I want to look at in the future.
David: Sounds like you’re going to be pretty busy, Carme. Good luck with all of your endeavors! And thanks again for being on the podcast.
Carme: Thank you for having me.
David: And I would like to thank our listeners for tuning in. If you have any comments or suggestions on topics you’d like us to cover in future podcasts, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us at @LanguageAutoInc. We look forward to hearing from you!