There is no doubt that the game development in Spain is on the increase. By the end of 2015, there were 410 video-game development studios (source to be found here), three times more than those in 2010. 52 % of the turnover of those studios is in non-Spanish speaking countries (source to be found here) and it is expected that the general turnover of the Spanish video game companies will increase in a 130 % (source to be found here) by 2018, which shows the need of offering these games translated in other languages. On the other hand, if we take into account that between 30 and 50 % of the revenue comes from foreign markets where the videogame is created and that, in 2014, there were 14 million video game players (source to be found here) in Spain, we can observe that Spain is a potential key market for foreign companies searching to maximise their profit.
In the graphic below, we can see that the number of translated video games has increased as new consoles were created, which shows that developers and publishers are more and more interested in offering their games localised:
With 24 Spanish universities offering studies in Translation and Interpreting, there are many translators that could potentially pursue a career translating all those games that the Spanish game industry needs, both to be sold in foreign countries and distributed in Spain for the Spanish players. However, few finish their studies with knowledge on how to translate a videogame, as none of the universities offer any subjects fully-dedicated to video game localisation. Therefore, the only chance future game localisers (translators) have to acquire that knowledge is with continuous training courses —which don’t last more than a month—, or enrolling in specialised modules in Video Game Localisation where they are taught some game localisation skills. However, these modules are part of Masters Degrees in other wider subject, such as Audiovisual Translation or Software Translation. They can also get this training in video game localisation directly as a translator in a localisation company or as a freelance translator.
Nonetheless, given the impatient nature of the industry (everything is for yesterday), one of the requirements to start working in any of the video game localisation companies in Spain is having previous experience translating videogames. Sometimes, these companies give a chance to those showing interest in and knowledge about videogames and passing a translation test, even though they might have no idea of how to translate a video game or how the industry works. And the truth is that, as Ramón Méndez remarks in his PhD Thesis, “it is important to know how this industry works in order to translate videogames”. And it is even more important knowing what translating a videogame entails, knowing the style of the different genres, knowing all connections between the texts with what later will be shown on screen, knowing how variables and tags work in order to avoid subsequent disasters, knowing the specific terminology…
There are many aspects of the game localisation or the game industry that cannot be learnt during one month of lessons, not even in three months of a Master’s Degree, not even in a few months in an internship in a company earning peanuts and with working conditions that would shock even the worst employer —excellent translations, even though they are forced to translate nearly double the volume of words considered to be adequate in order to carry out a quality translation, and for which are paid, on average, nearly half of what most of agencies out of Spain pay to their translators.
Even though it is not the case of all localisation agencies in Spain, it is the case for most of them, which, coincidentally , they are also the agencies that translate the highest amounts of work and the most important videogames. The speed with which the video game companies ask the localisation suppliers to deliver the translations —which, most of the time, have been left until the last moment because they have not been taken into account in the budget or the project organisation—is joined to the localisation companies idleness, as they don’t seem to try to educate their clients about the necessity of having reasonable deadlines and prices to obtain the best results in terms of quality. Those companies have taken to abuse many video game fans who want to put a foot in the world of the video game localisation, and who would jump through hoops in order to achieve it.
Consequently, it is not surprising that many video game companies, especially indies and game companies with tighter budgets, have chosen to work directly with professional translators instead of using agencies. Something similar is happening on the translators side: ever more experienced video game translators have stopped working with these abusive-conditions-companies, and started looking abroad for companies paying more money, or trying to work directly with game companies.
In this situation, with so many potential game translators looking for an opportunity and with many companies taking advantage of cheap labour, previous training, carried out with specific degrees in game localisation, is needed. At the same time, the localisation industry should be regulated to stop the abusive conditions and it should work towards educating the game companies about the real work involved in translating/localising a videogame, and about the impact of games that are poorly translated or translated using some free-translation tools. Those practices will have not only an impact on the sales of their videogames, but also on their companies’ reputation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Curri Barceló – Curri Barceló holds a BA in Translation and Interpreting and an European MA in Audiovisual Translation. After working as a Spanish Quality Assurance Localisation Lead for a games publisher in London (Eidos-SCi), she became a full-time freelance localisation and quality assurance specialist. During her career as a freelancer, she has localised over 200 games and tested over 40. She has also had the chance to collaborate with game companies as a cultural and linguistic consultant, and with online betting games companies as a Quality Assurance Consultant. Currently, she helps companies to create multilingual content for their products, whilst carrying out tasks as a Project Manager. Since 2013, Curri has been combining her knowledge in the video game industry with her passion for teaching, as she started teaching Game Localisation for an online course.