Video Game Translation

So you want to translate video games, eh? Well, first I’d strongly suggest that you pursue translation in other fields. Patents pay well. So do contracts. And they’re both easier to translate than video games. Yes, the startup requirements are a little bit higher. Both fields have large amounts of terminology that a translator needs to know in both Japanese and English as well as unique ways of writing. But once you’ve mastered these, you can be a Translation Terminator – line that shit up and knock it the fuck down. The phrases will become more and more familiar, and you’ll be able to do efficient, accurate translation in a field that will always have a huge demand.

Games on the other hand require the c-word – creativity. Games lie in an area between literature and technical writing; there are terms that you need to know and keep consistent, but you also need to be creative and flexible with your English. Perhaps that’s why so many people want to do game translation? People blinded by the sexiness of video game translation (a sexiness that wears off the first time you say, “I translate video games.” *adjusts nerd glasses*) fail to realize that creativity takes time, has a larger supply, and often requires you to read extremely poorly written Japanese and make sense of it.

So you still want to translate video games? Well, I tried my best. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m starting a new category of post today where I’ll try to introduce some lingo from game translation. Hope it’s interesting/helpful. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to read about.

5 thoughts on “Video Game Translation

  1. I worked for Konami in the States, and knew the translators there. RPG translation is crazy, with what seems like thousands of pages of text. And the pay ain’ so good.

  2. Yeah. If you’re in-house, I think you get a pretty limited rate when you break down the amount you get paid by character…but that also includes bonuses and job security and everything, so not all that bad. I wonder if in-house contract/patent translators make more…my instinct says probably yeah.

  3. I’m rather interested in knowing how you got into video game translation… I am going to graduate college soon enough and would like to find a job translating Japanese at all but Internet resources on the subject are kind of grim

  4. There’s a reason those patent guys get paid more, if you didn’t know- it’s called liability. If you mess up a patent translation and the company gets sued for any related issues, you can be sure that it’ll come back to you… which is why you have to be good (and careful) if you’re doing patents. I think that alone is worth the extra 5 yen or so per character, but at the same time have stayed away from it myself.

    Oh, and yeah, I know what in-house patent translators make as starting salary… it’s not bad.

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