become videogames translator - credits: gstudioimagen

The job of a videogames translator is exactly what it sounds like: the dream come true for everyone who grew up on cookies and StarCraft.

But there’s more to it than just that. Like in any sector of specialisation, a videogames translator is a skilled professional who is able to manage all aspects of videogame product localisation, whose main goal is to provide players with the best possible gaming experience.

As you probably know, our team is composed of a group of gamer-linguist-nerds, and this month we have decided to come up with some tips for any of you who might like to become videogames translators yourselves.


1. Study translation at university

Translation is a job that you learn by doingin which you can also achieve a good level of expertise without necessarily having a formal educational background.

Nevertheless, degree courses in translation are structured in order to provide all the tools necessary to immediately enter the world of work, with practical courses teaching how to translate various types of texts and how to use the most common CAT tools.

2. Know your own language well

We can only convey the sense and meaning of the source text if we have mastery of the full range of tools provided by our own mother tongue.

For this reason, it is always a good idea to have a good selection of books on the topic to hand in order to expand your own knowledge, or for reference when required.

3. Read, read and read some more

Reading a lot in your native language will help you avoid creating translations which are too direct and stiff, which you often encounter in dubbed films, videogames and published materials.

It can also be useful to spend time reading the works  of some of the most important authors in a given culture, like those of the great writers who helped shape the language in question.

4. Always be in the know

Translating videogames requires you to be well-informed on current events and culture.

Videogames are, indeed, more reactive than other products at representing the world‘s evolution, and language is a vital, living tool which has always reflected our world’s changes.

5. Know the target culture and language

Through their semantic power, languages can express a series of meanings and give life to different outlooks on the world.

Moreover, and above all in the case of videogames, it is important to know the world represented within the product and make choices which will help the target audience understand it.

A good example is correct localisation of the number of floors in a building for an American game, where in Britain and Europe we will use the term ground floor to mean what Americans call the first floor. Overlooking such details could have serious consequences for the gameplay!


6. Take a master’s in pop culture

“So long, and thanks for all the fish.” Guida galattica per autostoppisti

Localisation of videogames is divided into two main areas: translation of the user interface, and translation of the dialogue and narration.

Often the dialogue is the most interesting part, because it is filled with wordplay and references to popular culture, and only those who really deserve the title of pop culture geek are able to succeed in the arduous task of creating a good translation.

So, how can you expand your knowledge of pop culture? Here are some tips:

  • Watch TV shows
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Participate in discussions in that language on the Internet
  • Watch and read some of the most important pop culture films and books in that language

7. Play videogames

“Names are for friends, so I don’t need one.” Agent 47, Hitman

Do you know what lag means? Or how to translate Pet Wisp?

This last tip might seem a little banal, but having spent hundreds of hours exploring Skyrim or defending humanity in X-COM can make the difference in terms of expertise for a videogames translator.

In the worst-case scenario, a mediocre translation could ruin the gaming experience for players, and that’s why, when faced with pieces of text which seem incomprehensible, ourexperience as gamers can come to our aid in helping us understand the context of a given expression.

It is also essential in localisation testing, the technique used to find translation errors directly in the game.

We at Team Wabbit place great value in training, and for this reason we regularly take on interns, both university students through university partnerships and recent graduates, who wish to train to become videogames translators for the Italian market.

Find our more about our linguist-nerd nature from our biographies, or read up about inclusive language in games in our dedicated article.

If you are looking for videogame translators, get in touch.