– Welcome to ROAR: Deep Dive—a podcast produced by the Middlebury Institute’s Translation and Localization Management Program, bringing together global voices from the Localization industry. I’m one of your hosts for this episode, Rebecca Guttentag.
When asked about how I was drawn to the Localization industry, I think back to the Ace Attorney games, a fairly niche series that I first played in High School. Published by Capcom, the Ace Attorney franchise is a series of games following a team of lawyers as they attempt to prove the innocence of their clients through text-heavy murder-mystery puzzle scenarios. Over the past two decades, the series has overcome its understandably bland-sounding premise with well crafted mysteries, engaging writing, and a wacky cast of characters. Dialogue is rife with word play, pop culture references, and eye-roll inducing name puns that my early high-school self ate up like candy. Sure, many of the lines felt corny, but they were the right kind of corny, from characters like the circus performers Acro and Bat Dingling as reference to the Ringling Brothers, to a main character sarcastically commenting on a witness’ feminine wiles by referencing the song Milkshake by Kelis. These were silly references perfectly tailored to a mid-2000s American experience.
So imagine my surprise when, stumbling upon an article about the game, I learned that none of these references existed in the Japanese source material. And for that matter, the vaguely-California setting of the English release had been adapted entirely from an original setting that was steeped in Japanese culturalisms. This was something that obviously made sense when I took a step back to think about it, but if not references to flesh wounds from Monty Python or characters yelling out a startled “Zoinks” from Scooby Doo, what did the Japanese version have? And for that matter, what had other language versions referenced?
These questions started me on my Localization journey, and I’m not alone in that experience. ROAR’s Mateusz Sasinowski sat down with Ainara Echaniz, a Senior Localization Producer at CD Projekt Red, the studio behind the award winning Witcher series of games to talk to her about the gaming industry at large, her gateway into it, and the role she now plays in leveling up Projekt Red’s internal practices.
– Mateusz (M): Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of deep dive.
– Ainara (A): Thank you so much for having me. It’s our pleasure.
– M: First thing first. I see you’re very amazing LinkedIn profile right now in front of me. I’d like to give you a chance to introduce yourself and please give us your elevator pitch.
– A: I think all the profiles look amazing on LinkedIn.
– M: That’s the point of having LinkedIn profile, right?
– A: Exactly, but I will tell you how I reached that point because it’s like, I think it’s a cool story. Anyway, my name is Ainara Echaniz. I’m a senior localization Product Manager at CD Projekt Red, which is a Polish video game company. I’m based in Warsaw but I’m from Spain. I’ve been working here as the project manager for six well, six, seven years in between six and seven. I joined right for the production of “The Witcher III”. Before that, I work at Blizzard for four years. And that was basically like my first big job in video game localization I’d say because before that I was you know doing kind of like different things out of things. I think a lot of people see me an intruder actually because I didn’t study anything related to, you know, translation, you know, the philology, or any kind of things like that. But somehow, all the things I did were somehow related to what I’m doing now. So that’s what I think that I ended up doing this actually. But yeah, but that’s basically like, let’s say like the summary of everything.
– M: It’s very interesting the way you phrase it, because it seems that most people who work now in the localization industry actually come from a very diverse, sometimes a bit strange backgrounds, right? So there’s not like one path to get there.
– A: True. Actually, nowadays, I think it’s more common. Maybe because nowadays there are more, maybe there’s more awareness of what video game localization is or localization in general, not just video games. Also for movie series, whatever, streaming services out of those things. So people is more aware of that does exist. There are more maybe studies related to translation and localization is even mentioned in translation studies. You know, all those things in my times when I actually started studying, for example, at university, I didn’t even know what I mean, again, my role my life, and I didn’t even think about someone is translating these games for me. I have been playing in Spanish and these games are Japanese or American. So someone actually did translate this for me. And I actually never thought that it was an actual job to know like, it never occurred to me until actually I saw it live. You know, nowadays, for example, my experience also when I read my resumes or curriculums and things like that, I do see people is, I will say more prepared than I was, for example, when I started out this career.
– M: Yeah.
– A: So, so yeah, but it’s true. Like you can find people from everywhere, all kinds of backgrounds. But nowadays, I think the people is more maybe chooses that more consciously than before. Before maybe you would end up in localization by chance, which is like my case.
– M: Hold on. You said you did play computer games when you were younger.
– A: Yeah, from the start.
– M: Very, very much a preliminary.
– A: No, no. I started paying games when they even didn’t have pictures. It was just text and you had to type text like go south, climb this wall, and exit and things like that. So yeah, that side of the job is covered from the beginning.
– M: Did you have any favorite games, favorite genre you ever played?
– A: Oh, yeah. Adventure games, like totally. I was totally a fan of like Lucas Arts games, that was like dub dub dub dub. The games that make you think and those times we didn’t have the internet and I did need to wait for the monthly magazine to actually publish the walkthrough of your game that maybe will never happen.
– M: Yeah.
– A: You could be stuck in somewhere like for a year. Those kind of games.
– M: Also it’s interesting enough (in that it’s) very text heavy, just like the games you’re working on.
– A: Yes. Yes, yes. Stories, basically stories. That’s why I also studied communication, read relative studies. Then I went to film school. I studied screenwriting, I read a lot. I worked in TV series. So storytelling is my thing. I would say. I would say that’s been there from the beginning. And even now, localization, I’m storytelling in Spanish or other languages or taking care of that the storytelling goes on, you know, from there in our language into other languages, so other people can appreciate the story. So yeah, it’s about stories, I would say.
– M: Do you think all your experiences in theatre, visual media, and playing story-based games. Does it all help you right now in your work? Can you give us a perspective of a storyteller not just an engineer?
– A: It totally does. Actually, it helped me to get my first job in localization because when I first started in localization, I would say like proper job. Because first I do like, everything in localization tester, which is when I discovered while there’s a thing called localization, but that was just very brief. So my actual first job in localization in Blizzard, I wasn’t hired because I was a translator, because I was not. I did have experience in translation, not in games, but I was translating novels back then. But they were looking for someone who would be able to translate but also deal with recording scripts, and with actors in the dubbing studio, and I had all that experience. So basically, yes, all that actually helped me to get into the localization world. And after that, it totally helped me because I’ve been always related to dubbing. So I did a lot of translation in-house translation, freelance translation, but from the beginning, I’ve been very attached to the dubbing process. And all my experience definitely helped my screenwriting background helped me to translate dialogues, which is like a very tricky thing. You’re not translating texts. You’re translating something that people is going to say. So I definitely think it helps. It helped and still helps a lot. So yeah, dubbing is the part that I like most in all the things I do in localization, which are a lot. Yeah, it’s my favorite part.
– M: So your first formal localization position was with Blizzard, right?
– A: Yes, yes. And I was hired as a translator, but that was immediately sent to the recording studio. So it was like grab the script, you know, look into it. There were a lot of things to improve for recording. Then, go to the studio and learn how things work. And from that very moment, I was spiritually responsible for all that part. So basically, in the team, which we were like several in-house translators, and of course, we will need to split the game content, but usually I will take care of everything that end up in the dubbing studio. And then even after that, after a couple of years, I think they even decided to create a team because well, dubbing is a full- time job. So it took a lot of time translating and taking care of the dubbing, so they decided to create just another team, and then I stopped translating and just only took care of the dubbing part of everything.
– M: And then at some point, you move to CD Projekt Red, right?
– A: Yeah, exactly. Then the opportunity here appeared. I was already there which are fun. I read the books, of course, it’s in Spanish. And not like in English, their books were translated earlier, because they and they were translated directly from polish. So they were published all in Spanish earlier. I read the books and I played Witcher one and two already. So I was already familiar with everything. It’s not just like I moved to Poland just like that.
– M: I don’t know what kind of people go to Poland after reading the Witcher. The image of that part of the world presented in the book is not extremely hospitable and welcoming.
– A: Hey. No, come on. Sapkowski has a very weird sense of humor, but..
– M: Oh, yes, he does.
– A: So yeah, no, no. I definitely, I definitely wanted to work in that game because I thought it was going to be good, because I saw how Witcher two was an improvement from the first one. And I really thought the third one was going to be awesome, which it seems it was awesome, thankfully.
– M: Yes, it definitely seems to be the case. Okay, so now with all this rich experience in the business itself, what do you think are the likely prerequisites, the most essential skills that any person engaged in should have?
– A: It also depends I mean, the localization world has places for many different profiles. You can be a translator, you can be a pre-manager, you can be a producer. It’s not like you, you only have like one position or one job to fill in. So that gives you a lot of openings, and a lot of you know, possibilities depending on where you are coming from. So it’s not like you need to study translation. And that’s it. I do recommend though, I hope you like games because that’s what you’re going to be doing. Some sort of affinity with languages has to be like, I always spoke several languages. I’m not saying that because you speak a language as you’re a translator, because a lot of people think that I’m saying that, like, Okay, if I speak I don’t know Chinese and I can put two words together. I’m a translator. No, I’m not saying that. Okay. People, don’t get offended. But come on, like you also need to be technical. Like you’re not translating on pen and paper. Okay, so you’re doing video games, video games are built with tools, not only your translation tools, if any, you know, like CAT tools and things. But a game is built in an engine. And different teams have different tools. Sooner or later, especially if you’re working on the dev side, if you’re on the vendor side, you’re not going to see those things. But from my experience, which I’ve always been working on the dev side, sooner or later, you will need to know how all those other tools work. And if you’re not like a tech person in the sense, you don’t need to be an engineer, okay, I’m not an engineer. But you know, the skill of learning easily how things work and curiosity out, hey, quest designer, how’s your tool looking? Because maybe your tool is affecting my tool and you know, things like that. So I think it’s very important. And then it depends on if you want to be a translator, then studies related to the movies would be good, I assume. But like I said, I didn’t study that. I just did translation tests. And then you know, I learned by experience. I’m not saying that the ideal option either, especially considering that I already moved to break management and I’m not translating anymore. Maybe that’s like, you know, but I do think that localization has so many possibilities. You also have localization testers, anyone with some sort of like language affinity, some interest in how in cultures and how language works and things like that. I think anyone can be localization actually.
– M: One question for clarification, you would say, Dev site as a developer side?
– A: Yes, exactly. Exactly. I’ve never worked on the, you know, Vendor side. So I can only imagine how it looks like from my experience with them, but I’ve never been on that side.
– M: What is it that you like the most about your job? What brings you the most sense of accomplishment?
– A: Oh, wow, so many things. Okay, um, basically my objectives for working in a game and adapting it to other languages is for the players in those languages feel as if the game was developed in their own mother tongue. So it’s not just a translation where adapting a story not just in a language, also in a culture, and my biggest satisfaction is when I read comments from the community saying that while this is you know, I’ve never seen like maybe dubbing like that, translation like that even if it’s just subtitles only, it’s a great adaptation. They even quote characters and they quote, like I love that when they do these things and they are not for example, I don’t know let’s say, in English, okay, for example, if their original language is English and they don’t quote in English. I don’t know, in Italian and in French because this character was awesome in Italian or French, you know. On the, on the specialized media also mentions that localization positively, not just to say this was awful, which is their usual mention, of course, that’s like the external satisfaction. Also, personally, although I’m dealing with many languages, if I work on Spanish as well, and I know I did a great job and I listened to the Spanish version, I say “Oh my god, this is awesome.” Like, I can just, mic drop. But yeah, like, yeah, when you see the players are happy with what you did, basically, I just see videos in YouTube. And they mentioned it and the videos are in the localized version. Yeah. Then, I would say “Okay, that was good job.”
– M: Do you have any particular stories like any particular success story about a game of character that you could share now?
– A: Yeah, um, I do remember like, from the personal perspective, because they were in the Witcher three Spanish didn’t have dubbing. It was subtitles only. But from those times, for example, the Witcher three had Arabic localization and it was the first time I was dealing with Arabic and it was the first time dealing with Arabic as a company. And it was like, Oh my god, I remember like, we were a team, of course. But of course, we split languages and we try to be more involved in those languages that are around, so to say, and I was dealing with Arabic. So when it was, I learned a lot incredible, but when it was done and out, and I was like, I have no idea what we’ve done, actually. I hoped it’s good. And Arabic, it’s a little bit tricky in the sense that, well, it’s a very different culture. The Witcher is like a very, you know, European Slavic thing. There are some you know, folklore reference they don’t have, so we needed to adapt those things. You know, it was, it was a tricky thing. Even it was just subtitles not even dubbing. Okay. But when the game was released, and when it was out and the community was saying “Wow, the subtitles are great. Adaptation is awesome.” It feels Witcher even if we adapted things because we had to, I think that was that that was great. I felt like “Wow, we did a great job.” That was one of those things, I’d say.
– M: That’s awesome. And you mentioned one of the few interesting points I would like to follow up on. First, like, how do the big companies like bigger triple A game company decide on what and how localizer to do just subtitles, or do a dubbing as well? What’s the process behind that?
– A: That’s actually outside the localization team realm, and it’s a business decision. So I’m afraid I can’t give you like a lot of insight on that, because not that decision we do in the localization team.
– M: And then, so how does the process of adaptation look? The example you gave in the Witcher into Arabic language, in the Arabic cultural sphere. How do you find a candidate that will resonate with the players in such a different cultural background?
– A: A lot of languages, we translated the Witcher II already had the books translated, not all of them, but the European ones and stuff. And we didn’t want to, like, do a heartbreak there. So if you have this, I got translated already to your languages and try not to stray too far from that you already have a base to, you know, start building from. Of course, like, we change things and we improve things by by they already had like a base to start from. Then we have cases like Arabic, which was like, totally like out of everything. And many times we have questions and meetings are because even if the concept of, for example, elf, it’s very natural for us in Europe and in the US or whatever. It’s not in their folklore, for example. So in some cases was like “Do you have something in your folklore that could be used?” like “Oh, has this like a role in your folklore?” Because usually, you know, those creatures, they have like a role. They are like, you know, fun character or the magic character or whatever, so if you have something that would work, use it, basically. So if they have jinns in their version and things like that, that we don’t have in there, if you have anything, I mean, and if it’s something that could work in Arabic audience, even if it’s not in your culture because of movies, and you know, and stuff like that, so I don’t know you don’t have else but everyone knows the Lord of the Rings and Things like that. And you think it’s going to work? They just what they do is just like transliterate so it’s basically elf but written in Arabic, and they know what it is. So it was basically a conversation of “Do you have something that will work?” “No.” “So what what can we do?” “Well, we do have jinns. It’s not the same thing, but maybe because this and that.” So it was like, okay, you see, so it was a little bit of you know, ask especially for us because for us Arabic, it was totally new in that sense. So it’s a lot of work of just basically discussing things and what’s going to work always trying to keep the essence of The Witcher. That’s why I mentioned that I was very happy that even if we had to adapt things into Arabic, the players still felt I see that things had to be changed sometimes here and there, but it still feels Witcher. So that means we didn’t just do a new story or a new world out of, you know, blue.
– M: That sounds like very, very fascinating and challenging in a creative sense.
– A: It is, it is very creative because we are not translating one word after the other. That’s easy. We are adapting. We’re localizing. So you need to think about all those things, and that’s why it’s creative.
– M: What are the other challenges you’re facing in a daily, daily professional life?
– A: Challenges? Well, it depends. A challenge is sometimes it doesn’t happen always. When you’re working, I’m talking like from myself, from the development side, when you’re working with closely with a lot of different development teams, not all of them know what localization does, but that’s normal. For example, maybe I don’t know what engine programmers, whoever does exactly, you know. So that’s normal. So basically, some people think, okay, they are guys who just like spit out Russian translation or Chinese translation, and that’s it. But we do much more. And actually, it’s also involved with maybe their team and they don’t even know and we don’t even know maybe at the beginning. So the challenge is to actually, you know, meet those teams and reach that point where actually Oh, yes, actually, I need your team. I do need my team to actually make this work. So okay, we can call it that challenge. But you know, in the end, it’s very fascinating because you also learn, at least on my side, how actually to do a game. It’s not just like how you localize a game. It’s also how you actually make a game. You know, from different perspective from different teams. So I don’t mind that challenge. But it’s true that sometimes you need to do some evangelization because we both know that the sooner we involve localization in whatever you’re doing, the sooner the problems will show up, because there will be issues that’s better to solve easier and not like at the end of the day when you can’t change the interface anymore. You know, imagine that we’re not talking and suddenly we tell them, “Hey, you know, Arabic is read the other way as you need to switch the whole interface.” “What?!” So yeah, I think it’s basically telling people, “Hey, we’re localization.” It’s true, we translate, but we do so much more. We work with audio, we work with writers, we work with quest designers, we work with, you know, cinematic artists, we work with everyone, and everyone is affected by us and we affect everyone. So I think the challenge is to make everyone understand that.
– M: On that subject, obviously, without going into too many details, what’s the position of your department within the larger structure of your company? Are you independent or you need to belong to marketing or someone?
– A: Oh no, no, the loc team is an independent team just like other teams can be and it’s very embedded in the development of the game in the sense that I’m going to say that it’s vice versa. So writers rely on us and we rely on writers. And it’s the same with quest designers to weigh on the cinematic people. It’s because whatever they write, we’re the first in production to read things after writers write. So we are not only translating, we can also point out things we had discussions. We can help them if they need something, etc. Then you know, the same with a quest designer with the cinematic people. The way we record affects them. How they imagine the scenes affects our recordings, especially in games like ours that are so story-driven and you know, that cinematic look and etc, etc. So definitely, we’re another development team. We are not just like the translation office. We’re a development team that is involved with all other development teams because it has to be like that. It’s the only way we work actually.
– M: From our experience of talking to people involved in the business, it doesn’t seem to be the only way. It is definitely…
– A: No, no.
– M: It’d be helpful, but we hear
– A: I agree
– M: People complaining though.
– A: Yes. I can’t speak about other companies because I don’t know. I only know what people say is and it’s true. Our case is not always the case. Companies…
– A: It also depends on where you are. For example, when I was at Blizzard like I said, because I know it from the inside. HQ is in California and we were in France. So they influence you can have in any team when your only contact point in HQ is their localization producer is basically zero. So it depends on how the company is structured and how important is localization for that company. I think here I’d say, it’s considered a very important thing, because they, they consider us the team. I mean, more than just the people who puts words together in many languages. But, I’m aware that it’s not the usual thing.
– M: So how does your typical day at work look like? What are your daily responsibilities?
– A: Oh, wow. Okay.
– M: If there’s such a thing like a typical day at work.
– A: Wow, it depends much on the stage of the project. Okay, so you need to take into account that we are a company that is basically the way we enter one game at a time. So like maybe other companies are doing more. Maybe their localization team is taking more and more stuff. So I don’t know for example, the Witcher. Okay, we only worked in the Witcher. My daily life was basically come in, see, because our localization team is basically I say, has like two parts. One is the part. The team that translates from Polish into English, English is done internally. And of course, the original language is polish. And then it’s as the project managers who have English translated into other languages with external people, but we work all together. So basically, we manage the English adaptation team. We manage all the vendors outside. We deal with all the issues. We discuss things with other teams, especially writers, because what the English translation team does depends on what the writers did. So basically, we need to catch up with that. What’s the progress on that? Let’s say my typical day will be coming in, let’s see what the writers did. What’s the schedule? What’s the progress? What the team needs to do today? And which part of the English job that was already done? Can I send out for translation? That will be like a simplification of things. I would say that’s the workflow in a simplified manner, because then think of like all the issues and then like, you know, discussing technical things with other teams so for example, with pipeline. Many, many, many other things that come in the way but there will be like the basic workflow.
– M: Speaking of like complicated workflows and busy daily schedules, what kind of tools you use to facilitate your management?
– A: So we work with in-house tools, without going too much into detail is basically tools that we build based on our needs, that are tailored to actually or pipelines and workflows, and our games. So basically, our tools work with our games, because our games are built like that. So we need our tools to work like this. And our games are very complicated story wise with a lot of branching and a lot of dialogue and many, many characters and basically the tools will deal with all the information because we when we translate, we are not just translating one line after the other, okay? We try to give all the context possible and align all the context possible on the scene of the context possible on everything and how they, this dialog branches as the world goes with choices, it opens up where those choices go. So it’s all very convoluted. And we need tools that support that.
– M: Nice. That’s also very very interesting. From your experience, do you see any trend toward bigger or more embedded automatization in your workflow?
– A: I do, especially in like, you know, we also have now a game, which is “Gwent”, the card game. And Gwent is a life service game that has content, the constant patches and you know, expansions, like service pushes. That one is easier to adapt to existing CAT tools or maybe, you know, to some sort of automatization. We didn’t reach that point yet, but we are thinking about that. Because games like Gwent, they are also games where maybe content repeats a lot, they don’t need always to translate from scratch and you know, then some sort of like, automatization would help a lot. Because sometimes content needs to be there very fast because suddenly tomorrow we have some sort of like information push or a patch to fix something or we add something to the shop. And it’s a game totally different to a game like the Witcher, which is like, “Okay, The Witcher. Boom.” So it was a different thing for us, very different. We are trying to, you know, adapt processes to that, and we are still on it. And like you mentioned, I think there’s room for more automatization and more cuts to help even like conventional CAT tools. So yeah, definitely. Games like the Witcher, that’s more complicated. That’s a different thing. But games like Gwent, definitely they can benefit from automatized workflow. Definitely, I think.
– M: So, it seems like you know, you adapt different solutions for different needs. Like there’s…
– A: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. You have to. You will never have a template for everything. It’s impossible. Even if you say “Okay, we’re doing Cyberpunk.” Zombie game just like the Witcher. Are we playing the Witcher template? No, it’s another game. It has its different needs and that’s it. So it doesn’t matter. It’s a big game. And that’s it. So you can never stay and be comfortable with whatever pipeline you have. You always need to look into how to improve it because otherwise it’s going to be more difficult to actually work.
– M: Sure, yeah, I can see that. So speaking of big sizes like The Witcher franchise, and I expect Cyberpunk 2077 to be the same case. Very text heavy and you know, it’s not just any kind of texts. It’s very rich and narrative, makes the player feel very much immersed in the creative world. So it’s a very vital to maintain the same quality of this enormous text in any edition you produce. How does the sheer amount of text make your very high-quality standards change, make change influence your workflow?
– A: Well, in the Witcher specifically, it didn’t affect much in the sense that we didn’t specially scale up for that reason. I mean, the team was the team. And the English edition team was the English edition team who had those people. So basically, it was like very dedicated teams trying for that quality. But it didn’t affect us in the sense that we scale up in any sense. Actually, for example, in the pre management team, we did add a project manager for the expansions, for example, but the base game was done with just two premieres on, you know, the translation team. And that’s it. So I didn’t we didn’t especially scale up in that sense. We did afterwards though. We learned from it and we say, “Okay, we are going to do something this big again, or even bigger. We need more people.” Now we are a bigger team. Definitely. Yes.
– M: Good. As a person involved in localization, I’m very happy to see that the teams are expanding. You’ve mentioned before, maybe that’s not the case for the Witcher. The course itself is for Gwent, the patches and new pushes or upgrades to the shop or online services are very important for you and does it again does it change a lot of your approach, your workflow and the solutions you have to come up with?
– A: Yes. We are even thinking on changing them further because of the reasons I already mentioned. When we started with Gwent, we were not used to this kind of game you know, like a license game. So at first it (didn’t) because it was like you need to do the whole base game first. So we treated like the game we needed to translate everything on the cards or, everything everything but then you know, like the patches started and then we noticed that okay, the usual workflow doesn’t work with this. So basically, we work closely with the Gwent team with programmers. We had to figure out a lot of things that we weren’t used to like how to get content faster from the development into us, from us to the translators and back, and putting superfast in the game. All that was new for us. So we had to change a lot of things. There’s still a lot of room for improvement from our side. Like maybe more automatization, definitely. We’ve been thinking about that for a while already. But we didn’t have time to apply anything but it’s it’s in the plan because Gwent is like a case project for those things.
– M: Okay. Well, I wish you all the best with coming up with a new solution. It’s always very interesting. I think that’s that’s one thing that people often neglect about when they think about localization, how creative you have to be as a project manager, all the things you’ve said, there’s no one fixed template that works in any case.
– A: Oh, no.
– M: Right? You always have to be aware of the solutions available on the market, all the new tools and then think how they fit into what you need to achieve.
– A: Yeah, exactly. And the only way of learning is actually doing it. So we started when we started Gwent, okay, this is not working. And Gwent works because this is a game that needs a patch today, and a patch in three days and a patch in four days. And a push tomorrow and you know, we are taking a year to translate that game.
– M: Also getting close to the final questions, how do you feel when when those massive big projects are done? You know, ship it out. Then, you have to move on to a new one, completely new realm, new world, right?
– A: Yeah. So like when it’s out you feel some kind of void that like, “Oh my god, it’s done.” But you never actually have time because you’re working all day. The Day Zero patch or Day One patch. Or you know, until actually you’re not patching the game, maybe there’s a little bit of time and if not, maybe there’s an expansion and after that expansion, maybe there’s another one. So like, you do feel that “Oh my god. The game is out. But, wait! The patch!” You know.
Okay, here’s a list of patches, or we’re living through the patch, normally. You do feel a sense of accomplishment. “Okay, it’s out. It’s released. Everyone is buying it and the people is playing it.” And the you know, the beta critic is there and all those things I just say, “Oh my God. We did it.” But immediately you need to “Okay, wait! The expansion or the patch or whatever.” So, you know, of course, of course, we have our app and outs in the sense of workload. Of course, you have super hectic periods and then like more like, okay, now maybe we can actually learn about the role of what we’re doing next, you know, or like, let’s try to read about the characters but you don’t have that feeling of “Okay, I have nothing to do now.” That doesn’t happen. At least in my experience, that doesn’t happen. There’s always something else coming right up.
– M: So all the good stuff never end, right?
– A: Exactly.
– M: However, our story for today, I guess should come to the end. So I have to say that thank you so much for I think we need that new phrases for the COVID-19 era.
– A: Yeah, like for
– M: Thank you so much for clicking on my link
– A: for a meeting.
– M: In any case, thank you so much for, for talking to us today. It was great, very, very informative. And on behalf of our team and our audience, thank you. Thank you. Good luck with your future projects.
– A: Thank you, like, thank you for inviting me. I hope the interview was interesting and entertaining as well, because entertaining is also important. I had fun. I had fun explaining all these things. And actually, by my experience with maybe other interviews, when people actually doesn’t know what localization is or never actually thought about it, they hear those things. They say, “Oh, wow! That’s interesting, actually.” So I hope it helps for that.
– M: But that’s our mission, right? To bring all this interesting voices out there in the world.
– A: Thank you so much for that.
– M: Thank you for contributing to that. Thank you, Ainara.
Listening to Ainara’s interview got me thinking. Unlike other forms of media, games are an inherently active experience. Even the most linear of stories depends on the player making decisions and choosing to actively advance the plot of their own volition, and that connection can be a powerful thing. You heard it yourself from Ainara—the rush she gets when fans feel that a localized product was tailor-made for them. The motivation to work harder when fans just don’t feel that same connection with the game.
I connected with a former Middlebury Institute student working in game localization who shared Ainara’s sentiment. He felt that cultural awareness doesn’t stop at making pop culture references, instead extending to the nuances of tone of voice and maturity. See, Japanese doesn’t have curse words in the same way English does—a word that might be translated as “poop” when used in a children’s game will instead become a more crass expletive in an M-rated survival horror game. Knowing those kinds of distinctions is critical when localizing, because when that character voice registers as off to the player, their immersion can break. Even worse, when a player doesn’t feel like they are spoken to at all by the game, they may never get into that immersion at all.
Games are no longer mono-lingual endeavors. As of 2019, the current top-10 countries by gaming market revenue span three continents and eight official languages, each with different dialects and cultures that no two players will experience the same way. As the definition of games moves beyond single release titles into the realms of downloadable content that may extend a game’s life beyond its original release date, as well as into the booming world of mobile games whose frequent updates keep localizers constantly on their toes, the job of the localizer is never done. There’s always a new story just waiting to be told, and a world full of people of all different backgrounds and cultures just waiting to play it. “It can be rather daunting,” our MIIS graduate says on diving into new titles. “You need to be on top of your game so you can steer the translators and LQA teams in the right direction, [but] at the same time, there’s excitement being introduced to a whole new world.” A difficult task, but a fulfilling one nonetheless.
So as the games industry as a whole evolves to meet its ever-growing market, so too does the need to keep the localization side of it as adaptive as possible. That way, no matter the language, we can all keep playing on.
Thanks for listening to this Deep Dive episode of Roar—a MIIS Podcast bringing together global voices from the Localization industry. This episode was made possible by the help of the faculty and students here at the Middlebury Institute and listeners like you, and our intro & outro music is courtesy of musicjunkies.com . For future episodes of the Roar Podcast, be sure to check out our website at sites.miis.edu/roar/.
Also, if you liked what you heard, don’t forget to check out our companion series to Deep Dive, Roar: Speed Bumps. These episodes focus on particular pain points of the Localization industry, and how loc professionals are finding ways to move the industry forward beyond them.
You can find both series of the Roar podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you in the next episode!