Antoine, a freelance video game translator, tells us about his work, which combines language skills and a gamer’s passion.
1) What is translating video games about?
It involves translating all the different kinds of support related to a game in a defined language. This is not only the translation of the dialogues used in the game, for example, but also everything related with the marketing traduction: the cover of the game, its digital description, any subtitles and headings publicising the launch of the game, and so on.
2) What languages do you speak and translate from/into?
I don’t do multilingual game localization, and in fact I usually work from English into French, because my mother tongue is French. I also learned Japanese, but this was because I found it interesting and not because of video games. I find Japanese culture fascinating!
3) How did you learn English?
I did some language courses, but I mainly learned English through games, because in the nineties, there were very few games that were translated so I had no alternative but to make an effort to understand the English version.
4) Is translation video games difficult for you?
I don’t find video game translation difficult because it’s a speciality that I chose, it’s my passion. I started playing when I was 5 or 6 years old, and since then, I’ve been playing almost every day. I think one has to feel a great passion for gaming, because we are immersed in this universe for as much as 10 hours a day.
For me, the most difficult thing as far as video game localization is concerned, is adapting to a specific vocabulary without always knowing very much about the context where the game (place, historical era, characters, etc.) takes place. This working method tends to be acquired slowly. Also, both the games and their content evolve very rapidly, so we have to be adapting constantly and be on the lookout for French equivalents of English words and idioms on a permanent basis.
5) How do you manage to stay in the video games environment?
Outside work, I play a lot and follow popular video game culture closely, and try to expand and enrich my vocabulary as much as possible. I train my brain by watching English and American TV series.
6) Do you think video games localization is challenging?
Yes, because video game localization goes far beyond mere translation, as it is a cultural product that undergoes a radical transformation when it passes from one language to another. When you adapt something to the culture of another country, people’s imagination plays a critical role. The imaginary world of a video game is highly subjective and is linked to all those things like fashion, trends and events that influence our daily lives. Translating a video game is like artistic translation.
7) Why did you take this path?
Because of my gaming passion, but also, due to chance. I began studying nursing, but after a year, I realized that this was not the right choice for me. As I knew that I was good at English, I signed up for a Diploma in Applied Foreign Languages and then did a master’s degree in Translation. I did my final year practice in a video game Translation Agency and I haven’t looked back since!
8) In your personal life, are you a fan of video games?
Oh absolutely! I play almost every day of the week, between 1.30 and 2 hours, and if I have time on the weekends, sometimes I get to play 10 hours straight. This is my great passion!
9) What are your top 3 games?
Deux Ex, BioShock and Silent Hill 2.
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