During my working holiday experience in Canada, I had the chance to work in a very interesting field that is still almost unknown in Italy: the video games localization industry.
But what does localization mean? Localization is the process of adaptation of a translated text (any kind of text, meaning books, movies, ads, video games…) to its target country or region.
When launching a video game in a foreign country, not only you will translate its scripts, UI, and manuals, but you will also have to adapt it to the local culture.
The localization process is divided into several steps which require the cooperation of different professional figures: translators, marketing specialists, developers, and linguistic testers.
What does a linguistic tester do?
Linguistic testers play an important part when the translation of the game is almost done. They ensure the consistency of the audio and on-screen script and that all of the text and audio fits the context of gameplay. Moreover, they have to report localization bugs (i.e. errors in the game).
The script of a game is often displayed in a spreadsheet: every line shows a placeholder that gives developers some information about the position and the function of that text (e.g. TUTORIAL_001), the text that has to be displayed in the game, its translation in the target languages and other info.
Linguistic testers verify these text strings and provide minor translations when required.
Therefore, their main job is to check the game translation while playing the game itself. This requires a lot of concentration and attention to details. Testers have to ensure that the game launches properly, that the menu and settings (and even all those parts that most players don’t even look at, such as the credits) are correctly translated and displayed.
What does a linguistic tester have to look for while checking a game?
Grammar errors and typos: translators might make grammar mistakes, therefore a double (or triple) check is needed. Tenses, gender accord, punctuation, and typos.
Translation and localization mistakes: the title of the game, the name of characters, of items and places are often translated into the target language. Testers have to check that these names are always consistent.
Bugs: there are two types of bugs that can be found in a game, functional and localization bugs. If an unlocalized text is displayed in the game, if it overlaps with the graphics, or if it bleeds out of its frame, that is a localization bug.
What skills are required to be a linguistic tester?
You don’t need a degree in linguistics to be a linguistic tester. Sometimes, a degree is not even required. However, attention to details and a wide knowledge of your mother tongue (grammar, punctuation and spelling rules) is mandatory. That means, what you learned at the primary school might not be enough since language rules might evolve from time to time. You should be up to date and be able to use the right tools (dictionaries, glossaries…). This is the perfect job for a grammar nazi.
You should have a fluent level of English since this is the source language of most video games and the lingua franca used inside localization companies. Testers might be asked to do short translations, therefore, even if you are not a professional translator, you should be able to use some tools correctly, such as dictionaries and corpora concordances.
Also, when reporting a bug, you should write in details all the necessary information and describe step by step how to reproduce the bug, so that your teammates can check it on their devices and in their language as well.
A good linguistic tester is a team player because this is a teamwork and cooperation is essential.
You should be familiar with technology and informatics tools (such as spreadsheets). No need to be a nerd, though.
You should be patient: this job requires you to perform the same actions over and over so that you can check the presence of bugs and translation mistakes. Then, sometimes the game might freeze or crash, devices might not work properly, and so on… if you are the kind of person who punches computers and throws phones out of the window when they stop working… this job is not for you.
It goes without saying that you should have a little interest in video games. If you think they’re stupid, a waste of time for kids… this job is not for you.
Last but not least, you should always remember that this is a job and you have to take it seriously. Many people think that linguistic testers get paid to play, but the reality is that they have a task to fulfill.
How to become a linguistic tester?
Firstly, move to the right city. Contact all the localization companies and send them a proper resume and motivation letter. Once they call you, you will probably have to pass an easy test to prove your linguistic skills (both for English and your native language) and your knowledge of video games (although not mandatory).
Pros and cons of working as a linguistic tester
Working as a linguistic tester allows you to be introduced in the magic industry of video games. You will see many games and you will learn a lot of new things about this industry. You will realize how many skilled people work to create a video game and how hard this job really is, requiring a lot of creativity and technology.
You will meet a lot of nice people from all around the world and work in a fast-paced but easy-going place.
The con is that it’s a seasonal job with a low pay, therefore you will hardly be able to make a living if you only have this job. If you work during the high season, however, it’s ok.
Another con is that you have back and neck pain, you will have to take some extra care for it. Localization companies usually try to create a comfortable workplace and tester take breaks every two hours; however, you should be careful how you seat, how far from the screen you are, etc. Yoga can help a lot, though!