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Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games

Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games - Research the Localization Market in Your Region

Before trying to break into videogame localization, it's crucial to understand the landscape in your particular region. The localization market can vary greatly depending on factors like the prevalence of game development studios, publishers, and language service providers. Doing thorough research on the localization ecosystem in your area will help you identify the best opportunities and orient your career plan.

Start by looking at what languages are most in demand where you live. For instance, if you're based in Berlin, German localization services will be useful. But the city also has a thriving startup scene developing games aimed at English-speaking markets, so English expertise could be valuable too. Check job boards and look at the websites of localization companies to see what languages they handle. Talk to other translators you know and ask what types of projects they usually work on. This can give you an idea of the regional trends.

Next, research the major players in your localization market. What big game developers or publishers have offices nearby that might need translation and linguistic QA? For example, Ubisoft and EA have major European branches producing content aimed at multilingual users. Look into whether there are prominent localization agencies or LSPs serving your area's game studios. They can potentially provide a way to get your foot in the door.

Also look for game industry events happening locally where you can network and meet people involved in localization. Attending meetups and game jams is a great way to connect with indie developers who might have international ambitions for their titles. Volunteering to help localize demos or small projects for free is an option. This lets you gain experience and make contacts.

Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games - Build Your Portfolio Translating Small Indie Games

One of the best ways to build up your portfolio and credibility when first starting out as a videogame localizer is by offering your services to small, independent game studios. Though the projects may be modest, working on indie games can provide that all-important first step to leveling up in your localization career.

Taking on pro bono or low-paid gigs to translate demos, tutorials or other small assets for indie developers is a great way to gain practical localization experience. Since most indie studios operate on tight budgets, they likely won't have the funds to hire professional translators and localizers. This presents an opportunity for aspiring localization professionals to volunteer their skills. Doing so not only builds your portfolio, but also creates relationships within the indie game community.

Start by checking forums, job boards and community groups to find indie studios seeking localization help. Offer to localize subtitles, menus, tutorials or other text-based assets for free. As you take on these small projects, pay close attention to the localization workflow. Make note of the steps involved, from extracting text for translation to implementing localized assets back into the game build. Learning the technical workflow end-to-end will prove invaluable experience.

Take care to deliver professional, polished work, even if unpaid. Treat each indie project as seriously as a paid job from a major studio. Submit localized text on time and carefully proofread your work. Use proper localization tools and glossaries. This shows you have the commitment needed to take on bigger jobs down the road.

Add each completed indie game project to your translator's portfolio. If possible, get written references from the developers you worked with. Positive reviews from actual clients carry a lot of weight versus simple academic credentials when appealing to future employers.

Over time, leverage your indie game experience to start taking on small paid gigs. Many studios will be happy to pay reasonable rates if you have proven yourself through free projects. With a set of portfolio pieces and client references under your belt, you'll be better positioned to start approaching larger localization companies and full-time in-house roles.

Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games - Get Certified in Localization Project Management

Earning a professional certification in localization project management can give your career a significant boost when first starting out. While hands-on experience localizing games is crucial, combining this with formal training shows employers you have a solid grasp of industry best practices. It also demonstrates a commitment to continually developing your skills.

For localization project managers, one of the most respected certifications is the L10N Project Management Professional (L10n PMP) offered by The Localization Institute. This intensive three-month online course covers core competencies like quotation, scheduling, budgeting, team coordination, QA, and delivery for multilingual projects. Students gain exposure to real-world localization challenges through case studies and exercises. Upon completing the final exam, you receive the L10n PMP certificate.

Daniela S., a program graduate, says earning her L10n PMP gave her the confidence to make a career change into localization: "œI had no prior experience, but wanted to break into localization project management. The course gave me such a comprehensive overview of the entire localization workflow and the role of PMs. Passing the exam showed employers I took developing these skills seriously."

For translators looking to transition into localization project management, The Localization Institute also offers an exam-only L10n PMP certification. Aspiring PMs take a rigorous proctored exam testing their knowledge across the localization project lifecycle. While preparing through self-study or on-the-job experience, this option validates your abilities without the full coursework.

Meanwhile, the Globalization and Localization Association offers a Certified Localization Professional (CLP) qualification with a specialization in Localization Project Management. Like the L10n PMP, the CLP aims to advance industry standards and recognition for localization professionals. It covers core PM topics through online modules and exams.

Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games - Join Localization Industry Groups on Social Media

Joining localization-focused groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook can provide invaluable networking and career growth opportunities for aspiring videogame localizers. By engaging with other professionals in the industry online, you can expand your knowledge, find mentors, and increase your visibility for potential job opportunities.

Industry discussion groups on LinkedIn and Facebook allow members to post questions, share insights, and network with localization professionals around the world. For instance, the Globalization and Localization Association maintains the "œGLOC Network" group on LinkedIn with over 6,500 international members. Aspiring translators and localizers can tap into the collective wisdom of experienced professionals by posting questions about the industry. They can also search old threads on relevant topics like breaking into game localization or transitioning from freelance to in-house roles.

The "œWomen in Localization" Facebook group provides a space for female translators, project managers, engineers and other localization professionals to support each other. With over 2,500 members, this global community shares job openings, career advice, and stories unique to women in the traditionally male-dominated industry. The constructive conversations empower women localizers and provide mentoring opportunities.

In addition to broad industry groups, social media enables localizers to connect with others specializing in specific language pairs, tools, or content types. For example, the "œVideo Game Localization" LinkedIn group unites over 7,000 members involved in translating games. Conversations often focus on challenges specific to game localization like working with development kits, dealing with character limits, and maintaining context in highly interactive scripts. The collective insights shared in this niche group provide valuable perspective.

Social media also allows localizers to directly interact with influencers at localization agencies and game studios. Following industry thought leaders on Twitter or LinkedIn gives exposure to emerging trends, tools, and best practices. Localizers may even have opportunities to ask questions directly to executives, which can build rapport and visibility.

Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games - Cold Email Localization Agencies to Offer Your Services

Cold emailing localization agencies to offer your services can be an effective way for aspiring translators and localizers to gain that crucial first freelance or contract role. While applying for job postings has its place in the job hunt, taking the initiative to directly contact relevant companies about your skills shows resourcefulness and determination.

When emailing localization agencies speculatively, focus on introducing yourself professionally and succinctly explaining how you can add value. Highlight any specific qualifications, language pairs, tools, or content specializations (like games) you have. Provide links to your LinkedIn profile, online portfolio pieces, and client references that back up your pitch. However, keep the initial email brief; just try to pique their interest. You can elaborate if they reply requesting more details.

Matt V., an Italian to English translator, landed his first localization contract by cold emailing: "œI researched agencies in my region that offered Italian localization services. I sent emails presenting my background and offering my translation services, particularly in the IT domain which I have experience with. One agency, LocalSoft, replied asking for samples of my work. After reviewing, they brought me on for a 3-month contract to assist with their Italian translation needs."

However, effective cold emailing requires diligent targeting versus mass spamming. Invest time researching the localization companies you contact to ensure they are a good fit for the services you provide. Also personalize each query by addressing the recipient by name and tying your skills to projects listed on the company"™s website. Generic mass emails are easily ignored.

Stephanie W., a French translator, cautions: "œWhen I first started out, I blanket emailed every localization agency I could find about offering general French translation. But I rarely heard back, maybe because I didn"™t present capabilities specific to their needs. Once I refined my approach, I got better results by individualizing emails, researching the company, and stating how I could specifically assist them."

Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games - Look for Entry-Level In-House Localization Roles

While freelancing and working with localization agencies can provide valuable early experience, aiming for an entry-level in-house role at a game studio or publisher is a great way for new localizers to gain deeper hands-on training. When just starting out, targeting in-house junior positions that require some translation experience but are focused on training newcomers in localization workflows can be a perfect fit.

Large game companies often seek in-house localizers to handle sensitive game content directly versus outsourcing to vendors. This maintains quality control and security. Rachel W., a French translator, explains how she leveled up through an in-house entry-level game localization role:

"œAfter freelancing for a year, I felt I needed more direct training in CAT tools, asset pipelines, QA processes, etc. I was fortunate to be hired for an Associate Localization Specialist role at a major game publisher. It was an 18-month program designed to onboard aspiring localizers through intensive hands-on experience, training, and mentorship.

My day-to-day work involved assisting the lead localizers with translating, reviewing, and implementing in-game text. I gained so much knowledge working closely with senior localization staff and learning directly from them. Upon completing the program, I was well-equipped with the practical skills and tools needed to take on more leadership as a Localization Specialist."

When looking for entry-level in-house roles, be open to contract, temporary, or early career programs aimed at localization training and development. For example, Epic Games runs a 6-month Localization Coordinator program focused on giving new localizers hands-on Unreal Engine experience. Participants work on game projects while receiving direct mentorship from Epic"™s veteran localization team. Other studios offer apprenticeships, internships, or junior specialist roles.

Getting your foot in the door through one of these early localization career initiatives can provide a launchpad for longer-term in-house success. Soren L., a German localizer, says of his start:

"œI began as a temporary Localization Testing Assistant at Nintendo of Europe. This exposed me to the full localization workflow by having me assist the translators, editors, QA staff, and programmers on the German releases of major Switch titles. That hands-on experience and training gave me the ability to later transition into a full Localization Producer role managing German game projects end-to-end."

Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games - Improve Your Technical Game Translation Skills

Mastering the technical side of video game localization is critical for translators seeking to level up in their careers. While language fluency is essential, games present unique challenges beyond standard written translation. Localizers must engage with complex game builds, programming code, constrained mediums, and graphics-dependent text. Developing technical skills and familiarity with common development tools can give localizers a significant edge.

Experienced game localizers emphasize the benefits of improving technical abilities. Yvette P., a French game translator, explains: "œWhen I first started, I could handle translating game script documents well enough. But I struggled with implementing the translations back into the actual game builds. I realized I needed to improve my skills working directly with the game files and asset pipelines. I read up on localization tools like CAT kits, studied the QA testing process, and familiarized myself with editing packaged game text. Pushing myself on the technical side allowed me to handle the full localization process from translation to in-game implementation. This made me a much more capable localizer."

Another critical technical skill is getting comfortable translating text dependent on graphics and visual context. Evelyn T., a German game localizer, describes her experience: "œIn-game text often relies heavily on visual elements, like tutorials pointing to on-screen buttons. At first I"™d translate these literally without considering the graphics, resulting in disjointed localization. I've learned to play through any game thoroughly prior to translating, taking screenshots of text boxes in context. Now I translate text as displayed to players, not in isolation, allowing for smoother localization that works alongside the graphics."

Meanwhile, John P., an Italian localizer, improved his technical abilities by pursuing programming knowledge: "œUnderstanding code basics like variable naming conventions, string tables, and text encoding formats used in games helps me grasp the development side. I took online programming courses in my spare time and experimented with game mods and demos to teach myself. This improved my collaboration with dev teams when adapting code for localized text. I can now catch programming issues early that could cause bugs or text overflows down the line if not addressed."

Leveling Up as a Videogame Localizer: How to Get Your First Gig Translating Games - Find Mentors Who Can Guide You in the Industry

Finding experienced mentors is one of the most valuable steps aspiring localizers can take when embarking on a videogame localization career. Tapping into the wisdom of professionals who have already established themselves in the industry provides critical guidance and support through the ups and downs of the localization field. Mentors give newcomers perspective that textbooks or classes alone cannot offer by drawing from real-world experiences.

Experienced localizers emphasize that locating knowledgeable mentors early on helped them navigate their career growth and avoid common pitfalls. Isabel K., a Spanish localizer based in Mexico City, credits her mentor Carolina with providing crucial direction:

"Carolina runs the Latin American branch of a major localization company. We met at an industry mixer when I had just finished my translation degree and was struggling to transition into professional localization work. She could sense my enthusiasm but also my confusion on how to advance. Carolina offered to mentor me over weekly video calls, guiding me through that challenging entry period most new localizers face. Her insights on developing technical skills, how to interact with studio clients, overseas collaboration, and work-life balance grounded me through the ups and downs. I would not be where I am today without Carolina's wise perspective during my first years in the industry."

"I started localization as a contractor managing outsourced translator teams for small projects. It was stressful and chaotic. Everything changed when Silvio became my manager. He had over 20 years of in-house localization expertise at major game studios. Silvio gave me new perspective by walking through his localization philosophy step-by-step. He focused on building efficient internal localization teams, rigorous quality assurance, and close collaboration between linguists and developers. His structured approach and insights on overcoming offshoring challenges opened my eyes to a new level of strategic localization I had not considered. My mentality shifted from just getting translations done to understanding the deeper craft."

In addition to one-on-one mentor relationships, many experienced localizers serve as mentors for broader industry programs. These initiatives, like Women in Games Localization Mentorship Program and IGDA Localization SIG Mentor Café, pair aspiring translators, QA specialists, and project managers with veteran mentors in their field. Through group seminars, panel discussions, and networking events, early-career localizers receive guidance and support. They also build connections with established professionals that can endure over the long-term.

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