Greater than 5 minutes, my friend!
How do you break into video game localization?
So, Nicolas Caink asked me a million dollar question: “How one can break into video game localization?
I've been playing video games since I could use a controller basically. It's such a pity now that I lack of time to play with all the work I have. I miss them so much, that would be a dream come true to localize my first one! Any advice to break into the field?
— Nicolas Caink (@Nicolas_Caink) March 24, 2018
I first took it to Twitter and started this Twitter thread:
But since I ended up tweeting my thoughts away for 2 whole hours, I figured it would make sense to post this on my blog too (with some edits and additions, of course). 🙂
Ok, first of all, I hardly consider myself a guru or someone who made it, so I always recommend to take any kind of free advice with a grain of salt.
Some things that worked for me might not work for you. Even after 7 years in the translation and localization game, I’m still learning something new every single day.
Second of all:
Just good old hard work multiplied by time invested into professional and business growth.
If you want to transition into video game localization expect your journey to be slow, full of obstacles and probably not as exciting and glamorous as game localization sounds.
So, before you jump head-first, do a reality check: is this something you want to pursue?
There are probably a lot of much better (and higher-paying) fields out there (legal, medical, military, government) that will probably result in much higher income and sometimes less stress.
However, if you live and breathe video games like I do, here are some things that you might find useful when it comes to “breaking into the industry” (or at the very least getting your foot into a slightly open doorway).
First things first: be active and proactive! Things don’t just land magically on your lap. You need: social media presence, some sort of website or blog, a solid business and marketing plan (so, yeah, the usual boring stuff of any business venture).
You will also need a lot of TIME and PATIENCE. Remember: there are no quick results here. Just the grind that pays off over time. The length will largely depend on your efforts and ability to analyze, change and adapt.
You will also need (surprisingly) THE SKILLS. And they better be O.U.T.S.T.A.N.D.I.N.G because (again, surprisingly) gamers don’t like mediocrity and they can be pretty vocal about it (for example, in Russia we have a YouTube show dedicated to bashing poorly localized games with hundreds of thousands(!) of views, which means that gamers DO CARE about localization and they want QUALITY). So be sure to hone your craft at every opportunity you have.
Video game localization is a wild fusion of literary, technical, marketing and sometimes legal translation, so you’ll need to master all of those types of translation if you want to succeed. And it’s a very long process that takes years of practice.
Experience and love for video games also play a key role in what’s considered as “making it” in the industry. Getting your first experience might be hard, but not impossible. You can check out game localization jams, for example, where you can showcase your talent and creativity and snag a first place or an honorable mention with a link to your website or online page.
Or you can reach out to #indiedev folks who don’t have much of a budget to localize their game and offer your professional services on a pro-bono basis (for a testimonial for your website or a mention in game credits and possible referrals in the future).
This will help you get your first experience and really see if video game localization is something you’d like to pursue full-time.
You should also participate in the life of gameloc community when you have some free time. IGDA’s localization SIG should be your go-to place for interesting news and discussions (be sure to subscribe to their hand-crafted newsletter too because it’s epic).
I’m ashamed that I don’t actively participate in their activities on account of busy family life, work and running The Open Mic, Translators On Air and #LocalizationMatters (sorry, Alain!), but I always refer people to them. Check out their Facebook page and web.
Just remember if you’re doing volunteer or pro bono work: it should be ON YOUR TERMS, so be sure to have that in mind before you start your adventure. And, of course, steer clear off people who’re demanding or manipulative. 🙂
Another constant in your game localization business should be sales (once you get a bit of experience and master your translation skills to a good level). It’s the most daunting task for me, but it’s impossible to grow and to succeed without sales.
Be sure to dedicate as much time to it as humanly possible (even in the busiest of times). You’ll thank me later. The nature of the job means that sometimes you’ll have clients that have one tiny game in years, so I’d recommend you to somehow secure a more constant flow of work.
You can love or hate translation agencies, but the fact is: about 65% of my income last year was from game localization firms (agencies that specialize exclusively in video games). They offer multiple ongoing projects and can load your work schedule pretty quickly.
While my direct customers (game developers and studios) only appear in my inbox once in a blue moon (which is obvious because, well, they spend most of their time making their games before localizing them).
So, yeah, keeping the variety and an open mind when it comes to choosing your localization clients can be a tremendous help in growing and scaling your video game localization business.
Just don’t sell yourself short! Our skills are always in demand and quality costs money 💵💵💵
And remember: ALWAYS BE LEARNING! I’m just some random guy off the Internet, so don’t rely on my advice alone. It’s YOUR BUSINESS.
That’s about it. 🙂
If you enjoyed reading be sure to share this article on social media. And, as always, you’re very welcome to share your thoughts or add something in the comment section below.
There are approximately 452,238,566 great articles and localization resources out there (this number is just my approximation based on the sheer volume of information available on the Internet).
Since I’m notoriously bad at rounding up links, I’ll leave it to people who’re much better at that than me.
Check out this tweet with more helpful tips, posts and resources that will help you in your journey in this awesome industry.
Other links of interest for aspiring game translators:
-And the 300+ links in this bibliography https://t.co/3HKEvNZDWW https://t.co/QxptLGPA1D
— gloc.team – game localization team (@glocteam) March 28, 2018