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Computer game localization – a dream job? What does it involve?

The work of a translator does not only involve translation of documents or interpreting.  A translator’s duties include many more tasks, along with localization. This is definitely a challenge that can only be faced by an experienced and skilled language expert. What is game localization and can it be a job for you?

Localization: what is it?

A literal translation is a very bad translation. Such an approach is a proof of the fact that either the translator is not really a translator or the translation was made by a complete amateur. In both cases, it results in a lack of respect towards the recipient and drastically reduces the chances of using the services of such a company or buying a product from it.

What does localization involve?

Marketing slogans, phrases, and even individual phrases: each has its own equivalent in a different language. If you want to reach a foreign recipient with your message, you have to offer your product or service in the most attractive way, but also ensure that the translation of the content relating to such product or service is prepared professionally. Localization is one of the most important marketing elements. Without it, entering the foreign market is not possible.

Localization does not leave room for even a single, smallest error. The recipient must feel that the company takes into account their needs and really wishes to meet their expectations instead of making them just another random customer. Translating the content of websites, leaflets, manuals or hardware specification documents into the recipient’s language must take into account the culture of the country and the way people communicate in it on a daily basis.

Game localization in brief

Game localization is also a type of translation, but it is much broader than a regular translation. Computer games, applications or software are the most striking examples of why localization is highly essential when it comes to marketing. Localization of games makes them more linguistically and culturally attractive to a foreign audience.

What does game localization involve?

Translating games is a very demanding task and definitely not made for everyone. So how should games be translated? Not only do you need to be a language expert, but also have a good sense of marketing and know its rules, as well as know something about the culture, beliefs, behaviours or habits of the target audience. The combination of all these ingredients will result in success. 

You will also need a lot of intuition to translate games. This task is way more demanding than the usual translation process. The above is due to a simple fact: there are many components to every game. Each of them is more or less important. The most important, however, are the following three elements:

 • the plot (characters, weapons, interface), so everything that the player sees;

• marketing (online communication, including website, social media profiles, promotion methods, packaging);

• technical (whatever is in the background, such as code).

It should also be kept in mind that most game scenarios have a hidden message that the player “catches” between the lines. Without localization, such metaphors or references would make no sense at all and the whole game story could fall apart completely.

Computer game localization: a job you’ll love!

Working in the field of computer game localization is certainly a big challenge, both for a publisher, as well as a translation agency or a freelance translator. However, it is also a very satisfying job – the effects are visible on all levels, from the localization of the game content itself, through the translation of the website and social media channels, to communication strategies with the client.

Game localization is also usually a long-term and multi-stage project, which requires the cooperation and coordination of activities of many people representing various roles. Translator, publisher, proofreader, marketer, SEO specialist – close cooperation is the key to success in this case.

Localization of computer games: full-time or freelance work?

The work of a translator involving localization of computer games is a job more for a full-time employee than for a freelancer. This is mainly due to the aforementioned necessity of cooperation with several or even a dozen or so people.

In fact a good freelancer with an excellent command of the target language will undoubtedly cope with a linguistically and culturally appropriate translation. Nevertheless, in some cases the translator will need to consult other team members, for instance in matters relating to UX or the goal of a given feature of a game.

Is a freelancer completely out of the question when it comes to game localization? Although in the vast majority of cases such translation is done by translation agencies, it should be remembered that they often cooperate with freelancers. If there is no full-time translator in a given office who would have the appropriate competences to undertake such a task, the agency will use the services of a freelance translator who specializes in a given field.


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