how to translate games to english

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Translating Narrative-Based Games

By Hagen Weiss

While quality translations of any kind of game is crucial for audience engagement, translations for narrative-based games are especially key to get right. Gamers want not only good gameplay, but they’re expecting a great storyline. They want to get lost in the narrative and journey through the story as if they were part of the plot themselves.

That’s why it’s key to have a high-quality translation for narrative-based games. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when translating these types of games.

1. Maintain the Same Tone and Voice

Each writer of a script has its own tone and style of writing. A good translation of the script should capture the personality of the original as best as it can.

How do you maintain that same voice? Firstly, study other works from the same writer to get a sense of how they write. You’ll get a better handle on the subtle nuances and style by immersing yourself in their text.

Secondly, research the culture in which the original text was from. Understanding the original cultural context surrounding the text will help better inform your translation.

2. Adding Additional Information When Necessary

Sometimes what is obvious to one audience may not necessarily be obvious to the other. If that’s the case, you’ll need to add extra words or phrases not present in the original text to help the readers better understand. These extra words or phrases should help clarify the meaning and messages you are trying to convey.

3. Understand the Characters and Storyline

It goes without saying, but make sure you read and study the script extensively. Get to know the characters, the plot, and the literary techniques the original writer utilizes. Learn about the cultural and political background of the plot. The more you understand the story and the characters, the better your translation will be.

4. Be Careful with Humour, Idioms, or Metaphors

Humour, idioms, or metaphors are effective literary techniques to help engage your audience. However, in a different cultural context, these techniques may cause more confusion when you do a direct translation.

Always be careful when using idioms or metaphors. You may need to replace these sayings with something else that is more familiar to your audience. Alternatively, you can just convey the meaning of your saying, rather than trying to find a direct parallel phrase.

For example, for the phrase, “I’m feeling under the weather,” you could just translate it to “I’m feeling ill” in another language.

5. Write Like it’s a Story

The goal is not to just translate, it is to engage your audience in your game’s narrative. This means the translation should read like a story – not just a translation. Read aloud the translation. Everything should flow well and make sense.

This is why it’s so important to have not only a translator but a writer translate narrative games script. A professional translation will not even seem like a translation. Rather, it’s engaging and allows the audience to fully immerse themself in the narrative.

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