Translating Role-Playing Games

La traducción de los juegos de rol mediante traductores profesionales

Dungeons & Dragons is probably one of the oldest and most well-known role-playing games. When it was first released, this game was very innovative because it combined features from strategy games with elements of fantasy to create narratives in which players took on the role of an imaginary character.

But what exactly is a role-playing game? And, more importantly, what are the challenges associated with translating role-playing games into other languages for players in other countries, and are there any specific characteristics? If you’re a game developer and are considering internationalizing your product by releasing it in foreign markets, this blog post is probably of interest to you as you’ll find out why it’s important to hire a professional translator to translate your role-playing game.

The main characteristic of a role-playing game, or RPG, is that each player takes on the role of a character for the duration of the game, just as the name indicates.

Traditionally, these games have a fictional storyline that determines how the game evolves and a narrator who is responsible for telling the story to the rest of the players or helping them approach the different situations they find themselves in. They include dice so that players can make moves and resolve conflicts.

Of course, with the development of new technologies, these games haven’t been restricted to the traditional board game format (which still exists), but rather have become hugely popular in the world of video games. In the latter, the players control their characters or avatars to explore their environment, complete missions and interact with other characters in the plot. There are even role-playing game apps.

With the arrival of the internet, these games evolved until they became online role-playing games in which players from across the world interact. A prime example of a well-known role-playing game is World of Warcraft, commonly known as WoW, by Blizzard Entertainment. This game is popular throughout the world and has been localized in various languages.

As such, the popularity of these games (which to begin with only interested a very small fan community) has grown on a global level, with both the board game and the virtual format becoming more popular. This, together with the complexity of the plots, characters and content, makes them highly challenging for translators.

Within the world of games, it’s common for players who aren’t professional translators to dedicate hours and hours to deciphering and translating those video games that aren’t available in other languages to make them accessible to a wider audience. However, and because of the added difficulty of these texts, the quality of these translations tends to be rather questionable.

That’s why hiring professional translators or translation agencies that can surmount the difficulties associated with these games is so important. That will make the difference between content translated by an amateur and content translated by a professional. Professional translators take into account the following two key aspects, among others, when translating role-playing games:

  • The type of text

Generally, these types of games have a large amount of text and content.

On the one hand, there’s the content of the plot that makes up the entire story of the game. As it is a story, the content tends to be more literary and is full of language devices such as metaphors and allegories. These texts usually require the translator to be highly creative and have considerable linguistic knowledge, and they must be able to interpret them and create a translation that is just as literary as the original.

On the other hand, character descriptions and their technical characteristics, objects, movements, skills, etc., also usually predominate in these games. Not only does describing all these fictional elements require considerable technical knowledge (think, for example, of all the different weapons a character might have), but given that these games are generally set in fantasy worlds, the translator also needs to be very creative.

  • The need for transcreation and localization

As we’ve already mentioned, these texts usually call for a high degree of creativity when translating and can’t be reduced to a word-for-word translation. 

Transcreation in more creative texts is very important for generating the same reaction in both the original audience and the target foreign audience (check out this blog post for more information).

This, together with the localization of video games or video game apps, means that all the cultural differences and the characteristics of the new target audience are taken into account and the content is translated in a more creative, less literal way. This includes, for example, adapting the cultural references to bring them closer to the audience (for example, why refer to a Japanese dish that someone from the United Kingdom isn’t familiar with?)

Bearing all this in mind, it’s clear that if the work isn’t done by a professional translator, it’s likely that these texts won’t transmit the element of fantasy and adventure in the same way as the original, and therefore the players won’t be as immersed in the story and won’t enjoy the game in the same way as players who speak the original language.

Undoubtedly, professional translation has a much higher direct cost than a translation done by fans. However, for the majority of players, the gaming experience will be far superior if the content is properly translated and localized. This will enable the game to reach a much wider audience, and will therefore also increase the economic benefits.

So, if you’re interested or know someone who is thinking about translating a new video game or role-playing game, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Author: Marina Rodríguez Colmenero