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Game Translation and Localization You Can Do From Home

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If you love playing games and you’re bilingual, this one’s for you. Anyone who speaks two or more languages can earn extra money from home, or even started a home-based career translating and localizing games. We’ll show you how to get started in game localization from the comfort of your home. The localization of games, or gameloc as insiders call it, is growing super fast, and employers and clients these days often prefer to hire resources ready to work remotely. We’ll get you off to a running start!

What’s the Difference between Localization and Translation?

Translation and localization are often used interchangeably, but in fact, they’re quite different. The translation is converting a text from one language to another. The literal translation is trying to stick as close as possible to the verbatim meaning of a text, word-for-word. Transcreation, by contrast, gives the translator more freedom to render what is thought to be the author’s intent. Either way, translation is only about words.

Game localization is about much more. It covers everything that makes content come across as authentically local. Sure, the natural language translation is a part of that. But localizing a text also means adapting number and date format as well as converting currency and measurement units. Most importantly, localization means accounting for cultural preferences and sensitivities. What is said loosely in one place may be insulting or inappropriate in another: one can easily imagine words that are OK in one location or context and offensive in another. A good localizer will take these factors into account.

According to industry expert Slator in 2019, gaming is a $138 billion industry worldwide. Game localization is generally believed to have a 1-2% share of that pie, adding up to $2-3 billion. Game loc is a technical function as applied to the game is highly technical. These days, all gaming companies and localization agencies use dedicated localization tools to adapt game titles to target markets. For starters, it’s enough to focus on what you already know: games and a language pair that is in demand for translation.

Do you want to be a freelancer or an employee? What do you need to know?

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The first basic question is: are you going to work as a freelancer or as an employee of a company? There are hundreds of game localization companies out there. Some hire to work in-house but most work with freelancers. Corona has made the choice easier: it’s definitely easier and more attractive to work from home!

Assuming you want to take the freelance option, the first step is to learn on your own. It’s not hard to research. Just search for “game” and “localization” plus whatever game genre is most of the interest. You will quickly find articles and even courses that will help you improve your game. Typically, neither translation nor localization gigs will require certification, but it never hurts to have a certificate that shows you’ve put in the hours to complete a course. But, as in most things, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

“Eating”, in this case, may mean submitting to a test. The test may check your ability to translate gaming terms from one language to another, or it may relate to more technical aspects of the localization process. We have two pieces of advice here. First, be honest: this is not one profession where you can fake it till you make it. The truth will come out sooner rather than later. So don’t take the chance of being caught in a lie or exaggeration. Second, be prepared: each time you approach a company, check out their websites and portfolio. Know what they do, what they value, what they’re looking for. And then do your best to be that person!

Which gaming genre is your primary localization target?

The gaming industry is vast and diverse. As in most things, it’s a good idea to specialize in a particular niche or two at first and become master of your own domain. Then, after establishing mastery in an area, expand to additional ones. The gaming industry is made up of development studios, from the largest like EA to small. Some are one-hit wonders, just getting started in the gaming biz. The former will treat you as an interchangeable part, a new guy or gal who can learn their system and fill in the blanks. The latter may give you more freedom but less guidance: at first, you may be a fish out of water. You’ll need to learn to swim – or sink — on your own.

Getting Your Foot in the Door of the Freelance Localization Marketplace

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There are a few paths to finding your first gigs into the gaming industry.

  1. Get into gaming and then using your language skills to localize

Many people who know specialize in localization started as designers, developers, marketing and sales, or SEO specialists. Once inside, colleagues will learn of your bilingual skills and recruit you to help localize in your mother tongue. 

1. Join a translation company and focus on language first

Localization is more than just translating from one language to another. But translation companies do their fair share of localizing, so if an agency approaches you, it’s safe to assume that sooner or locator you will have game localization opportunities.

2. Reach out to service agencies that specialize in game localization.

These days it’s like that localization agencies are going to be looking for freelancers, but you don’t need to wait for them. Do your homework, find their jobs/freelance page, and send an email with your CV, portfolio examples, and references. 

How to Get Started as an Independent Translator or Localizer?

Generalized online freelance marketplaces like Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr are go-to places for clients seeking out relatively low-cost resources as opposed to contracting with a game localization company. Follow help-wanted listings at SourceForge or Facebook groups for independent game localization. Sign up free and try getting game translation work.

To get your first gigs, an important tip to set your prices low. See what other wannabe translators and localizers in your country/language are offering and bid a little less. As you get positive reviews and ratings, a good reputation and references, raise your rates.  In short, think about getting a loc job as a game. Approach it strategically: persistence and patience are the keys to winning rather than getting lost in translation.

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Game Translation and Localization You Can Do From Home

If you love playing games and you’re bilingual, this one’s for you. Anyone who speaks two or more languages can...

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