On his blog “How to Japanese”, Daniel tries to discourage all future translators out there from becoming videogame translators.
SO YOU WANT TO TRANSLATE VIDEO GAMES, EH? WELL, FIRST I’D STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT YOU PURSUE TRANSLATION IN OTHER FIELDS. PATENTS PAY WELL. SO DO CONTRACTS. AND THEY’RE BOTH EASIER TO TRANSLATE THAN VIDEO GAMES. […] GAMES ON THE OTHER HAND REQUIRE THE C-WORD – CREATIVITY. GAMES LIE IN AN AREA BETWEEN LITERATURE AND TECHNICAL WRITING; THERE ARE TERMS THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW AND KEEP CONSISTENT, BUT YOU ALSO NEED TO BE CREATIVE AND FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR ENGLISH.
PEOPLE BLINDED BY THE SEXINESS OF VIDEO GAME TRANSLATION […] FAIL TO REALIZE THAT CREATIVITY TAKES TIME, HAS A LARGER SUPPLY, AND OFTEN REQUIRES YOU TO READ EXTREMELY POORLY WRITTEN JAPANESE (TO WHICH I ADD: OR POORLY WRITTEN/TRANSLATED ENGLISH) AND MAKE SENSE OF IT.
I couldn’t agree more with Daniel about the complexity of videogame translation. If any type of creative translation is time consuming and involves a good amount of brain-racking -translating the claim of a publicity campaign can take hours, and we are talking about one single sentence here- the restrictions and technicalities of videogame translation make it an even more intricate task.
The übertight deadlines are often the main obstacle to creativity. Just like the writer chose carefully the name of a place, character, weapon or special ability, the translator needs time to come up with a translation that conveys the meaning behind words.
But time is not the only constraint: length restrictions, glossaries with endless lists of terms and no context, and bad planning also get in the path of creativity. More often than not translators have to discard brilliant solutions because of space limitations and the lack of context adds to the difficulty of understanding the source text and delivering a suitable translation.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that videogame translation is sexy, but it is definitely a fun rollercoaster!