All you need to know about video game translation

video game translation

Before being marketed internationally, all video games must be translated and adapted to the audience in the country concerned. This essential step is called "localisation".

Translating video games also requires precise skills on the part of the translator, who must faithfully recreate the game's ‘universe’ and adapt to multiple different translation media.


How to translate a video game?

The localisation and translation of a video game involves all the elements necessary to launch the product in a foreign country.

The video game translator will first have to translate all the audiovisual elements integrated into the game.


Translation of audiovisual content

This is the translation of all the instructions that appear on the screen:

  • Dialogue boxes
  • Menus
  • Instructions
  • Error or help messages
  • Any other element related to the video game interface.

The translation of a video game also involves the integration of subtitles, or voice dubbing for dialogue or any other audio element integrated into the game.


Translation of marketing and technical supports

The international marketing of video games also requires the translation of all external communication media, whether technical (notice, user manual, etc.) or marketing (product packaging, game description, jacket, launch advertising, etc.).

 What are the challenges of video game translation?

The translation of a video game presents many challenges. Indeed, the slightest translation error, nuance of language or inconsistency can compromise the player's entire journey, and hinder the quality of their immersion in the video game.

Beyond linguistic rigour, the video game translator must also be highly adaptable to adjust his translation to the format of dialogue boxes, amongst other things.

Language plays a very important role in video games: instructions guide the player as they make progress, and dialogue, songs, and names are essential to build the game's imagination.

Very often, without access to the translated version in their native language, many players turn to download translation patches. These are sections of code integrated into the game, which directly translate the content. However, these types of translations are rarely done by professionals and are therefore far from being an ideal alternative for enthusiasts looking for a fully immersive experience.

The professional video game translator therefore plays an essential role. Their job is to provide optimal gameplay, by ensuring that even the most perceptive gamers are not aware that it has been translated into their language.


What are the skills needed to translate video games?

The translation of a video game therefore requires very unique skills, specific to this sector.

First of all, the translation of the script, the dialogue, and all the tutorials requires a great deal of creativity in order to recreate the imagery of the game in the target language.

The translation professional must also find vocabulary equivalents for the translation of all fictional elements (names of characters, attacks, weapons...). To do this, it is also imperative to adapt the translation to the type of game (action games, adventure games, strategy games, role-playing games, PC games...), in order to guarantee the players have an experience that is as immersive and authentic as possible.

Furthermore, puns, jokes, expressions, and language levels must be skilfully translated and carefully localised, transposing the original intention, while adapting to the cultural references of the target country, as well as to the audience and its age group.

To do this, the translator must therefore have a rich knowledge of the culture of the country targeted by the translation.

Given the diversity of formats related to video game translation, the translator must be comfortable with all types of media (source files, databases, audio files, video, etc.).

Voice dubbing requires, for example, excellent pronunciation and fluency. While the translation of visual aids requires a great deal of care in respecting technical constraints. Indeed, the translator has to adapt to a limited visual space, with a precise number of characters, as well as to an imposed timing requiring perfect synchronisation.

The translation of marketing and technical elements also calls for special skills relating to this type of media.

A professional translator is, in fact, tasked with translating essential elements for the good marketing of the game (title, slogan, jacket...), and its use by the player (technical manual, instructions...). They therefore undertake to respect the original terminology used by the customer, the publisher, and the manufacturer of the video game.


Who do you call to translate a video game?

As mentioned above, the translation of video games includes a socio-cultural dimension that will help determine the quality of the transcription. It is therefore essential to use a translator working in their mother tongue, and based in the country where the target language is spoken. For example, the translation of games into French should be done by a translator whose mother tongue is French.

To benefit from a high-quality translation, it is best to use a translator who specialises in the multimedia sector, and who has previous experience in the translation and localisation of video games, in marketing translation, or in audiovisual translation.

At Alphatrad, we offer high-quality video game translation services in over a hundred languages (English, Spanish, Japanese, etc.), thanks to the expertise of professional native translators based in the country where the target language is used.


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