Federica Lusardi

S1 EP10 – Ft. Federica Lusardi

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Episode Transcription

LUCIO: Hi, guys! Welcome to another Open World’s LocFact. Today we’re going to talk about Overwatch!

WINSTON: Are you with me?

LUCIO: The hype is REAL, and we couldn’t be more excited to talk about the game!

LORE: Overwatch is set 60 years into the future of a fictionalized Earth, but there are several cultural aspects that were considered in order to make this hypothetical Earth seem a little more real and familiar to players.

LUCIO: That’s right. All of the playable maps are based on real-world places. From the technological marvels of Busan to the living history of Rialto, every map has objectives, secrets, and strategies to explore.

LORE: One of my favorites is Hanamura. Just by looking at it, you can tell it’s based in Japan with its beautiful and imposing architecture. This colorful land and its iconic cherry blossoms are dwarfed by Mount Fuji in the background. It’s so gorgeous!

LUCIO: I couldn’t agree more! But my all-time favorite has to be Paris, with the classic narrow streets and beloved locations like the Seine River, Cabaret Luna, the Pâtisserie Galand, and Maison Marat… all with the Eiffel Tower as the obligatory center of attention.

LORE: Absolutely amazing. Diversity and culturalization were clearly also important in the creation of playable characters.

LUCIO: For example, we have Zarya, full name Aleksandra Zaryanova. She’s from Russia and she wears her colors proudly. Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan noted her as an example of how character designs can challenge stereotypes and typical character traits.

LORE: That is a strong Russian accent!… We can also play as Sombra, which is Spanish for “shadow,” or “shade.” And yes, she’s from Mexico. Her real name is Olivia Colomar. And the skull in Sombra’s icon is a classic example of art from Mexico’s Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead festival. Fun fact: the name of Sombra’s childhood teddy bear, Arturito, comes from the Spanish nickname for the Star Wars character R2-D2.

LUCIO: I love seeing unique and well-developed characters! Just like Charlet Chung, the lady who voices D.Va, said at this year’s BlizzCon, “Diversity isn’t just important for people playing it, but also for the actors behind the characters. You have such a strong hero character that is similar to me.”

LORE: And Blizzard is hardly the first developer to create a game with a diverse cast of characters. But the key to Overwatch’s success is that it really does feel organic. Blizzard wanted to show the fandom that “This is how the world is. It’s full of different people of all sorts of genders, races, and builds. That’s our world.”

LUCIO: Well, that’s all the LocFact time we have for today. See you in the next one!

LORE: And let us know which Overwatch character you love most in the comments. Thanks for tuning in!

FLOR: Hi, everyone! Welcome to a new episode of Open World. Today here with us, we have Federica Lusardi. Federica begun working in the video game industry when she moved to London in 2011 to study for an M.A. in audio visual translation. After a brief time as a language tester for Sega and also after translating her first game for Codemasters as a freelancer, she worked at Pole to Win as an in-house translator and team supervisor. Federica joined Square Enix in 2016, where she currently works as an Italian translator and editor. Her work encompasses translation for games and marketing campaigns, and she has translated games such as Life is Strange 2, Life is Strange Before the Storm, the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game and Professor Layton versus Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Welcome, Federica! We are super happy to have you here today. How are you?

FEDERICA: Good, good, thanks. It’s a pleasure to be here as well.

ALEX: Welcome, Fede.

FLOR: I love your background. Who are your buddies there?

ALEX: I’m seeing Snorlax.

FLOR: Yeah, I see Snorlax there.

FEDERICA: That’s because my boyfriend actually works in Pokémon, so.

ALL: Ooh!

FLOR: How cool is that? What a power couple there. I love it.

FEDERICA: These are basically us. Like, it’s the representation…

LORE: I love it. Snorlax has always been my favorite. Oh, go ahead.

ALEX: Who wins, Fat Chocobo or Snorlax?

FEDERICA: I think Fat Chocobo is the fatter, so he probably wins.

FLOR: I think you’re right.

FEDERICA: And the first reason is Fat Chocobo is even fatter than Snorlax, which is amazing.

LORE: I love it.

FLOR: So, Federica, as I said, it’s a real pleasure to have you with us today. And we were super curious about your career. We wanted to know what’s been the biggest challenge so far establishing yourself as a translator.

FEDERICA: Right, yes. I think in general, I’ve been pretty lucky with my career because I entered the industry right after studying, after finishing my masters, actually. But I think in general, the biggest challenges have been how to choose my path. So let’s say… And I’m not saying choosing whether to be a tester or whether to be a translator, but I’m saying to choose the kind of translator to be. Each type of translator brings their own challenge. So in the past ten years, I’ve been working both as a freelancer a bit in between the Enix jobs and as an in-house translator for a publisher, and also as an in-house translator for a translation agency. And I think in all of them there are kind of different challenges to establish yourself. And if I want to start from the freelancing position that I’m not doing anymore, but I can hear that my ex-colleagues have exactly the same problems, I would say that, first of all, due to the harsh competition that there are between video game companies, usually you can’t work both as an in-house translator and a freelancer for video games at the same time, because usually your NDA would say that you can’t work for a competitor, basically. So even if it’s not the same kind of video games, usually you want to avoid that, which is hard somehow, because if you live in an expensive city like London, you like to have a kind of dual wage, if I can call it like that. Yeah, but it’s very tempting, but you can’t. So either you work for another translation fields or you keep doing one or the other. And the biggest challenge for myself is choosing, okay, do I want to be a freelancer or do I want to work in a studio in-house? And I would say that in my days as a freelancer, the hardest thing that I had to do was trying to beat the competition, because there are a lot of freelancers out there and a lot of valid linguists, and especially for my language pair, from English to Italian. There’s plenty of people doing that. And there are also not professional translators, let’s call them like that. There’s people who will think that speaking two languages make your translator and…

FLOR: It doesn’t matter the language that you’re translating into, that applies to any language. They’re not necessarily professionals, right?

FEDERICA: Exactly. And it’s a bit hard because not only you have to keep a competitive rate compared to your proper colleagues or the other valid linguists, but you need to keep a competitive rate with these people that want to be translators, but they’re not really translators. And I noticed that the rates are going down and down and not only for the competition, but also, for the changes in the industry. So I noticed that this year, for example, there’s more and more and more agencies, or more and more companies that due to COVID, they say, “Okay, we’re not earning so much, so we’re gonna lower your rate as well.” Which is not really fair in a way, I’d say, because I understand that they’re not earning as much as they were earning before, but we also need to live, you know.

FLOR: Exactly. We all need to pay our bills.

ALEX: It’s a waterfall effect.

LORE: You’re still doing the same excellent work, you would hope.

FEDERICA: Exactly. You’re spending your time, you’re… Okay, maybe you’re not traveling because you’re not taking transport, but you still need to pay your bills, as you said. So it’s not really fair, I think. Plus, it’s not just a matter of… being a freelancer is not just a matter of competitive rates, but also you always need to be on the lookout for new opportunities. So you can’t be lazy and just sit there and wait for jobs to come. You need to keep looking either on LinkedIn or on the platform like ProZ, that I’m not really a big fun of, to be honest. But yeah, you need to be proactive and you can’t stay still and do nothing. And if you don’t find jobs, you might have periods where you don’t earn any money for a few weeks. And that’s, I think, a big challenge. And maybe you need to find something else to do in the meantime, like some translation for other fields that maybe are not ideal for you.

FLOR: Yeah. And that’s the thing, that you end up… because of this need to cover your essential bills and your essentials, for that matter, you end up working in other fields and you start losing that opportunity to become a specialist at what you’re passionate about. And there’s also the other side, that there are other companies that may not be as professional as well and may take advantage of people that are just coming into the industry and may not be as experienced on how to present their rates or how much to charge or how to quote a project. And since there are not many opportunities out there, they are tempted to lower their rates even more to be more competitive. And yeah, it’s a bit of a challenge there.

FEDERICA: It’s a bit of a dual challenge for the companies and then it reflects on the freelance translators, of course. And I found there are similarities between being a freelancer and working as an in-house translator for a translation agency, because usually translation agencies don’t offer you permanent contracts unless you’re very, very lucky like me. When I entered Pole to Win, Pole to Win in London had just established, I think it was a few months that I was there, so I was one of the few people, I was thinking probably number 30. So it was really, really early.

FLOR: And they’re huge now. It’s amazing.

FEDERICA: And I was really lucky and I got the permanent contract almost immediately. But most of the people that I saw coming through the years when I worked there were probably on project-basis contracts. So obviously maybe you’re there for three months because it takes three months to translate the game that they’re offering you, but maybe then you stay home for a month [cut-off audio] months. Or maybe they offer you a position that you’re not as keen on doing, like being a tester. I didn’t really like being a tester. It’s where you start, then ultimately, I wanted to be a translator, so it was not really my dream. Plus, if we think about establishing ourselves as translators both freelancing and working in-house for a translation agency, you have the problem that often you are not credited for the games that you’re translating, because often they credit the agency and not the translators. And that’s a bit of a problem when you want to build your portfolio, of course. On the other hand, if you’re working for a publisher like I do, yes, it has more securities, it has more advantages in the long term, like being included in the green credits, working for renowned companies. Like you can go around and say, “Oh, I work for Square Enix,” and, “Nice! You’re working for Square Nix!” Or if I say, “I’m working for Pole to Win.” I mean, it’s established for us in the industry, we know what it is, but not for the general public. And on the challenges side, it’s much, much harder to enter because there are not many companies that have in-house teams anymore. And the employees, the current employees tend to keep their hard-earned position for many years. So there are less opportunities on the market. Just to let you know, I applied for three jobs in total in Square Enix during like two or three years.

FLOR: Wow.

FEDERICA: And I only entered for the last position that I applied for. So you need a lot of patience. And I think those are the main challenges that you are facing when you want to be a translator.

LORE: Yeah, that makes sense.

FLOR: And if you’re determined enough as you were and you kept applying and applying and you were very, very interested in working on Square Enix, then you might just get it like you did, right?

FEDERICA: Sooner or later, someone will change their job, so positions will open. But it’s not as common as for a translation agency, for example.

LORE: Mm-hmm. Well, with all of that, you’ve mentioned your portfolio. It seems like you’ve had experience working with a lot of not only different positions, but different game genres as well. So I’m wondering really what would be the difference in your mind between translating, say, a visual novel and other video game genres?

FEDERICA: You’re right. I mean, translating… Yeah, I would call it “visual novel,” or as they call it now, like kind of walking simulators?

LORE: Sure, yeah.

FEDERICA: I’ve seen it as walking simulator on Steam.

ALEX: Yeah.

FEDERICA: Or I even translated a racing game as soon as I entered the industry as a freelancer. I’ve translated puzzle games, RPGs, adventures. The more names you put in a game [indistinct 15:14]. So adventure, action, puzzles…

FLOR: For sure.

LORE: A little of everything.

ALEX: Rogue-like. Souls-like.

FEDERICA: And yeah, first of all, I think in general, if you’re a game localizer, you need to be interested in a bit of everything. So it doesn’t depend on the genre… Also on the genre, but you need to be interested in things like from culture to current events to politics, sports, whatever you need for your game. So as soon as you as you receive a game to translate, you need to research. And you learn more and more. And I see one of the distinctive traits of visual novels is that are text-heavy games.

LORE: Mm-hmm.

FEDERICA: Pretty text-heavy. And the majority of the text files that you’re gonna receive are [cut-off audio] because of the different ramifications of the story and the presence of multiple endings. The UI, on the other hand, usually it’s minimal, so mostly it’s just dialog and dialog choices. And not only you need to translate that, normally, you need a good context or the game available, if it’s available somewhere, but also a breakdown of the ramifications and their consequences. And those are crucial elements to translate visual novels, which maybe are not as crucial for other game genres. And you need to take into account that sometimes the choices in the dialogs are not ID’ed in the files you receive, so you really need that breakdown of how the whole game is going in order to understand how to translate the various things. Because maybe you have the whole dialogs and the whole lines of one character first, and then you have the whole dialogs and the whole lines of the second character, and they’re not in the order they’re pronounced in. So… It’s quite hard to build a natural and flowing dialog with those kinds of [indistinct 17:26] structures, because sometimes you find a string that says “Yes,” and you don’t know what it refers to, so it can be translated also as a “No” depending on how you translated the question before.

FLOR: Oh, yeah, that’s true.

FEDERICA: So you need to, you know, go back and forth and check and do a double check. So the only thing that helps you if you don’t have any context is the string ID, usually. And depending on how the developers work, it can be useful, can be helpful, or not so helpful. Because the string IDs change all the time depending on the updates, so maybe you don’t want to rely too much on them either. It’s an interesting, say, research of context, research of ramifications, things that you need to go back and forth. And other than that, I think the other crucial point of visual novels is that you need to have a good characterization for the NPC… Not the NPC. I wouldn’t call them NPC, I would call them like the main characters of the game because, in the end, they’re not really NPC, but people that you talk to during your story. And obviously, if… I’m taking into account my experience with Life is Strange. If… Because it’s a game that’s so immersive for the players, and players feel so emotionally attached to the characters on the story, you don’t want your characterization to be plain and boring. You don’t want all the characters to sound the same. So you need to find the kind of, I would say, traits, distinctive traits that characterize all of them. And in particular, for Life is Strange: Before the Storm, I had to go back to my teenage years. Even for Life is Strange 2, because they were adolescents, they were teens, and you want them to speak like teens. Of course, you don’t want to have this high speech, like for a high fantasy RPG medieval…

ALEX: Can you imagine? Skyrim voices, Skyrim translation.

FEDERICA: Yeah, exactly, right?

LORE: You want it to be real.

FEDERICA: Exactly. You want it to be real. And it’s not so easy because I feel like, hey, my teenage years were only, say, 15, 16 years ago, but it’s a long time and I’m not used to speak like that anymore.

FLOR: Yeah, and language evolves so fast that probably teenagers don’t speak the same way that we used to 15 years ago.

FEDERICA: Also. And then they would also like… I remember that I had to research ways of saying “cigarettes” in jargon. And disclaimer, I’ve never smoked in my life, so I never asked for a cigarette to my friends, so I have no idea how kids call cigarettes these days, so I need to go and look for it. And it was challenging. It’s hard. And same thing when I had to translate the kid in Life is Strange 2, because he’s ten and you think, they don’t talk like adults. He speaks like a kid. And I need to simplify the sentences. I can’t use overly complicated verb tenses, for example, or I can’t use overly complicated sentence structures. So you need to try to think, you need possibly to build a style guide so that you remember what you used and it’s also of help for the testers later on, or if they ever want to do a sequel that I’m translating, they can take references. I think the main challenges of visual novel are these kind of things. While I can make a difference with RPGs and adventures because, in those games, there’s a massive presence of variables that are not there in visual novels, so… In a visual novel you have these kind of tidy strings, your know, CAT tool. Usually in RPGs and adventures, you have a world of variables, a world of tags, and some words in the middle.

LORE: Sure. Context, organization and research as much as possible. But would you say that, I mean, I know you work a lot in this genre and we’ve touched on a few others, but what are you playing right now? Is there a genre that you’re super into at the moment?

FEDERICA: I love metroidvanias. So I was playing Hollow Knight.

LORE: Nice.

FLOR: Big fans of Hollow Knight.

FEDERICA: It’samazing. And I’m eagerly waiting for Silksong. And I don’t know when it’s coming out because I’m not seeing anything, and every day I’m checking their Twitter.

LORE: Refresh, refresh, refresh.

FLOR: We’re on your side, so if we hear something, we’ll let you know.

FEDERICA: Please, do. I’m waiting for it. I can’t wait. I think they said it will come in 2021, so…

FLOR: Yeah, I think I heard the same, but well…

FEDERICA: Maybe it’s just speculation.

FLOR: The big games industry these days, that they keep pushing the release dates, you know? No wonder why, as if it were so easy to develop a game, right?

LORE: Yeah, come on. Bing-bang-boom. Whip it out.

ALEX: Yeah, because there’s no delays in video game deving, right? At all.

ALL: Never.

ALEX: That doesn’t happen.

FLOR: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

ALEX: So, Federica, I wanted to know, I mean, we know that you translate both video games and also marketing campaigns, right?


ALEX: What do these two tasks have in common and what’s completely different, maybe even requiring a different set of skills that you had to acquire along your career?

FEDERICA: Um… So, yeah, I translate usually, I’d say more often, materials [indistinct 23:28] that surround the release of the games. So I can talk about official websites or promotional images, trailers, videos, press releases and so on. And the big difference is that you need to research a lot into the game files, because most of the time you are working on marketing materials of a game that you haven’t translated yourself. Because obviously, I can’t be translating every game that Square Enix publishes. It’s just me, I’m just one.

FLOR: Oh, my. Just a human being.

ALEX: You’re just a human being.

FEDERICA: I’m not a robot yet.

LORE: Yet.

FEDERICA: So yeah, the thing is, you translate marketing material of some games that you haven’t translated yourself or even games that might not even be translated in your language, sometimes. It’s the case of Final Fantasy XIV. It’s only translated in French and German amongst the FIGS. But they’ve still got to do press releases, they’ve still got to do videos. And it’s a matter of… Like your familiarization, if you want to call it like that, is not playing the game anymore, but is researching through a ton of game files. And at the bare minimum is at least having a glossary with you. Or even better if you have text files, of course, or previous resources. And I found that CAT tools are extremely useful for marketing translation because you can check everything in your memoQ or any other CAT tool that you’re using, and build your TM for that particular game. And you will see that, eventually, all the marketing assets would repeat themselves with time, so CAT tools definitely save you a lot of time, a lot of effort.

LORE: We love our CAT tools.

FEDERICA: You don’t have to keep 500 Excel files open to go and look for terms and…

LORE: Just 500 search tabs with all your different parallel text.

FEDERICA: There are already software that do that for you, but it’s still not good as a TM in a CAT tool, I think. I think memoQ saved our lives as marketing translators because it’s amazing, it does everything for you.

FLOR: I’m completely biased here, I love memoQ.

FEDERICA: I love memoQ as well. We actually recently discovered the plugin for videos, which is amazing.

LORE: That sounds very futuristic.

FEDERICA: Yeah, it allows you… As soon as you open an .srt file, you can upload a video, the video that you are translating, and you can change your things in the .srt and it goes automatically in the subtitle on the video preview. It’s amazing. It’s magic. It’s magic because you don’t have to check it later on VLC or other tools. It’s amazing. But yeah, I would say… the thing that you need to keep in mind for marketing is understanding the market, the market that you’re targeting, of course. Like you don’t need to be afraid to go to your marketing team and say, “Okay, this thing won’t work in Italy because maybe it’s very specific for Japan or it’s very specific for an English-speaking country, but it won’t work for Italy.” So go to your marketing team, go to your brand team and say, “Okay, maybe this, we need to change it slightly for our countries.” Plus, you always need to try to use a language that is appropriate for the marketing context. So you don’t want to be bland in your promotional text.

ALEX: Yeah.

FLOR: Makes a lot of sense.

FEDERICA: I mean, we want people to play our games, right?

FLOR: It’s the first approach to your gamers, right? How can you convince them that the product that they’re gonna access is actually what they are looking for? You need to speak to them through that campaign.

FEDERICA: Exactly. And I think you need to be good with the language in the sense that you need to know how to sell your products, which is basically like something that Brand used to do in the first place, and then you’re translating the words. In the end, Brand is the experts in the market, so you’re really just translating their ideas, but you need to do it in a way that is appealing for the public. But in general, I will say that marketing translation compared to video games involves a bit less creativity and freedom, because in the end it’s just a matter of keeping consistency with the in-game information. And you can’t really be creative and, you know, add new informations that are not in the game because that’d be confusing.

LORE: False advertising.

FEDERICA: Exactly. That’s bad.

ALEX: You just make up stuff.

FEDERICA: And you also need to be able to chop your text a lot, much more than for video games. So we know that for UI, usually you need to be a good chopper if you’re a translator because you don’t have much space. But it’s even more for metadata because all the metadata, everything that ends up being like on Steam, for example, or on the PlayStation Store or the Microsoft Store would have a character limitation. So you need to be able to sell that game in convincing words, but maybe you need to do it within 150 characters. Like for a tweet.

ALEX: You need to tweet it. Exactly.

FLOR: Yeah. Imagine if our languages were German, which is way larger that in Spanish.

FEDERICA: Oh, I’m telling you, in my experience, all my German colleagues that I had had quite a challenge.

LORE: We feel for you, German translators. We see you, we appreciate you.

FEDERICA: Maybe I can have a special mention for trailers and videos, as well. I would say that you need to have a bit of audiovisual background so you know that… you know how much text you can cram into a single subtitle, which is something that usually you don’t do for video games translation, because subtitles are much longer that’ usual in video games. Well, for videos you need to know that you have a number of characters per line that makes the text readable.

FLOR: I think that’s great advice. So, yeah, Federica, regarding… I mean, I know that you have plenty of experience, and I wanted to learn more. You gave us a couple of hints on how the industry has evolved through the years, but is there anything specific that you’ve seen since your very first steps in the industry and now regarding technology or how fast the content is produced, or any other detail that caught your attention throughout the years?

FEDERICA: Generally, I think, from a, say, technical point of view, I think the industry tends to outsource much more than before because, to be honest, it’s easier. It’s cheaper probably. And as I was saying before, there’s less and less internal, in-house teams, and the internal teams usually… It’s harsh to say, but we’re there for high speed turnaround, accessible quickly and without incurring in additional costs, which means that we’re very handy for marketing translations, but we’re not very convenient, probably, if you need a team of 20 translators and you’re in-house, you need to continue paying wages and salaries. While, if you outsource, you can just pay them for the project, and it’s much more convenient. So I think in the future, there’ll be more outsourced translation, less in-house teams. And if I think about games, I would say there’s a tendency to do more mobile gaming and maybe also VR and AR, which I’m not really keen on starting working on, because I think it would be super-confusing. I’m just imaging like wearing my VR set. First of all, I’d get sick. Because that’s me. So if I need…

FLOR: Motion sickness as well.

ALEX: Motion sickness. We’re with you there.

FEDERICA: Yeah. It’s very hard for me to [indistinct 32:11] with a VR game. And also I see text floating everywhere and, you know, cutoffs. Bits of the text will go behind you.

LORE: I can’t even play first person shooters, so no judgment on my end.

FEDERICA: Apart from that, I think mobile gaming, which will require some new skills, like again, chopping efforts in order to adapt text on a smaller screen. Also, I think, getting used to work exclusively on one mobile game and nothing else, because usually it’s the type of games that get updated very often. So there’s gonna be more ongoing localization rather than, you know, you finish a project, you wrap it up, then you go to another project, while mobile games are updated every week. So there’s that. And finally, I’d say a stronger presence of automation in the industry, which we’re already seeing through the use of CAT tools, obviously. Which help us greatly for our job because it makes us faster. It’s easier, as I was saying earlier, to look through files and have matches for previous marketing translations. And then there’s the dreaded machine translation topic to talk about, but… I admit that I was very scared at the beginning, before listening to all the conferences about machine translation. And then I met Cristina Anselmi, who’s always talking about that. And she’s amazing.

FLOR: Oh, yeah. I was gonna bring her up.

FEDERICA: And she convinced me that is not, you know, the big bad wolf that will be stealing our jobs eventually. It’s just something that will help us doing a better job. Plus it’s not gonna replace us for the most creative translations, probably. And if anything, it probably would create more jobs like post editing or teaching, actually training the AI. And that’s something I’m really interested in, to contact Cristina again for it, because it feels like kind of a sci-fi role.

FLOR: Yeah, the last time I heard Cristina talking about AI was at Game Global Summit, where we last met, and I can’t wait to hear what they’re doing right now and new discoveries on that field because it’s super, super interesting.

FEDERICA: I agree. I agree. It’s very interesting. And plus, I’m a fan of sci-fi, so [cut-off audio]. I think it’s gonna be interesting to see how it evolves, especially.

FLOR: Yeah, we can say that we live in the future now, right?

FEDERICA: Exactly. As long as it’s not Google Translate, then everything is fine.

FLOR: Oh, no, I’m going full metaverse here.

ALEX: Yes. Except for the VR just yet. Unless they can work the motion sickness thing.

FLOR: I mean, they will work it… I mean, they have to work around that. How many people have motion sickness with that? Probably, a lot.

FEDERICA: It was a thing for 3D cinema, I think. The first time I saw films in 3D at the cinema, I was feeling sick halfway through.

LORE: But they’ve gotten better too.

FEDERICA: Exactly. I think so, at least. I have friends working in cinema that I might ask if it has some success or if no one is going to see 3D films. I don’t know, I need to ask.

ALEX: So, Federica, I want to bring up something that actually we talked about a few weeks back, about the localization of indie games, of some indie games that you’ve come across that weren’t localized into Italian. You mentioned it earlier as well. But you told me that you reached out to some of the devs, right? So what can you tell us about that interaction? How did that work out? Because you told me just that and I never knew how it ended.

FEDERICA: Yeah, I’m the annoying person that goes to the developer and asks why a game is not translated. No, but I’m a passionate Switch gamer, and I’m not too fond of playing on PC because I think I spent my entire childhood playing on PC because my dad was playing video games, and before that, PC was the ultimate platform. So I said, “I don’t need a console.” So I need to compensate now. And, um…

LORE: Making up for lost time.

FEDERICA: And I see that the indie games that were previously only published on Steam usually now [indistinct 37:09] on Switch, and it’s great because I think that some indie games are really, really valid. Hollow Knight started as an indie game. I have 1,000 plus hours on The Binding of Isaac, which is an indie game as well. And I noticed that there’s a lack of Italian localization. And I tend to play in Italian whenever I can, mostly because I like to see the job done by my colleagues. Also, I like to keep my mind trained on the language that I’m working on every day because I live in London, my boyfriend is not Italian, so I speak English all the time. And even playing games in Italian or reading books in Italian, I always try to do that. And I know, unfortunately, that there’s a lot of players in Italy who won’t buy the game just for the lack of localization, because they don’t feel confident enough to play a game in English, especially if it’s a text-heavy game. And I also know that there are some Italian streamers that I follow that tend to not bring the game to their channel if it’s not localized in Italian because they would spend more time trying to explain what they’re doing to the chat rather than enjoying the game. And it’s a bit of a pity. So I was playing actually Narita Boy at the time, and I found it… I told you that I’m a fan of metroidvania, so I was trying to find new ones.

ALEX: Yeah. Makes sense that you were playing that.

FEDERICA: Yeah. And I reached out to a few developers, including this guy from Narita Boy, which is from Studio Koba. And he was very, very nice replying, and he told me that they were not planning to localize their game in Italian because, apparently, their numbers talked of a low sell estimation in Italy, and they preferred to give priority to the Asian market. And bear in mind, I reached him out because the game is translated in French, German, and Spanish, so I was wondering why.

FLOR: Oh, that’s curious.

LORE: So close to Italian. So close.

FEDERICA: It happens more often than you think that Italian is excluded.

ALEX: It makes sense what he said, but at the same time, it’s like a vicious circle, it may seem, right? It’s like, you know, market research shows that the Italians don’t game a lot. But I wonder why.

LORE: Self-fulfilling prophecy. If they don’t have games in Italian, of course, you know, you’re not gonna see it as much. You’re gonna play more if you have more games in Italian.

FEDERICA: And maybe it’s just metroidvanias that are not so popular in Italy, so the market research show that. I’m not sure. But anyway, he was very nice answering and I thought like, okay, how can we… Sort of this vicious circle, as you said. And it’s something that I was also discussing in the past Game Global panel about training and recruitment. And I often see that there’s a dual problem of indies not being localized, and students that don’t manage to enter the industry because… Of course the industry requires experience to enter, and students don’t have experience. And often they don’t have real techs to train because the companies are not very willing to give their projects, even if they’re old projects. And it’s mostly because no one in the company has time to go over text files to delete comments or delete content that it was never published in the end because, of course, text files include both content that was published and content that was never published. So they don’t really want to spend time or have a person that is just spending time cleaning the decks for them to give to students. So I was wondering, why can’t students try to translate indie games? Why can’t developers actually make it kind of official, like maybe through a contest or…? I remember LocJAM in the past.

FLOR: You know it’s back, right?

FEDERICA: It came back this year. I saw something about that on LinkedIn.

FLOR: Yeah, it is.

FEDERICA: And yeah, I think it’s a good way for students to start, because indie developers probably won’t require super, you know, good localization at the start. And they can always hire an editor, maybe, to fix the problems if they don’t think the students have enough experience. But at the same time, like they could use them for university projects so that actually students could, you know, have some experience or put their hands on something real, rather than just the mockup. And this way, I think it could be a useful cooperation somehow. That’s just my opinion. I don’t want in any way like promote free work, free translation, but if it’s for students…

FLOR: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I mean, last year… Was it last year? Yeah, I think it was 2020.

LORE: Time isn’t real anymore. Don’t worry about it.

FEDERICA: No, no, no. It doesn’t exist.

LORE: At some point in the past…

FLOR: Yeah. A couple months ago, I organized with some colleagues a localization bootcamp for Argentinian students. And it was a great experience because, as you said, they don’t get enough resources or content to practice with. And spaces like LocJAM are essential for students to get out there and gain the experience that they need to be good video game localizers.

FEDERICA: Exactly. Because I remember that when I was at Uni, I did this really good masters with Miguel Bernal [cut-off audio] on videogames localization, so it was not just audiovisual translation. But I couldn’t… It was all like chunks of text that he managed to get from video games that probably he owned. And he extracted the text from there, like we copy-pasted the text…

FLOR: That’s so sweet. You see right there the passion.

FEDERICA: He was amazing. He’s amazing.

FLOR: He is, yes.

FEDERICA: But yeah, it would be nice to have a full game, especially indies that are not huge. Maybe it’s like 10,000 words, it’s something that… Or 20,000 words is something that you can do in a university project easily. Also as a team, maybe. And it would be nice, and I think it’s a win-win situation for both parties.

FLOR: Yeah, well, I remember back then, we accessed a list of open source video games, because of course we didn’t want to breach any contract or copyright or anything or go against other persons’ job or lifetime work, and we got access to pretty interesting games and we ended up working around a board game. And we also reached to the developers and the people behind the initial game that we were planning on doing. And it was a single person behind the game, and since they had another job, they just worked on that game whenever they could, and there wasn’t enough like content that you could extract and it was a bit complicated. And at the end, we ended up working on that board game and it was a super fun experience. So if there’s any translator or anyone who wants to access content and doesn’t know where to, we can definitely leave the website on the open source videogames over there, so that in case you need some reference material or want to play around and try to translate any indie games, just let us know. So now after… I think it was an incredible interview, we’re going to finish up with the round of memes.

ALEX: You know what? I played a game just last week that it was by a Chinese company, a Chinese indie development studio, and this meme is very, very accurate to what these guys did. It… Yeah.

LORE: I mean, you see it pretty commonly. Unfortunately, it’s out there.

FLOR: I mean, there are so many factors that lead to Google Translate, right? Like budget, time, planning.

FEDERICA: It’s just easy.

LORE: Convenience.

ALEX: And knowledge, right? Of what they are doing also.

FLOR: Exactly. Exactly. Sometimes it’s just their first game and they’re so excited about developing it that they don’t really think about localization until they need to pitch it to the publisher or even publish it on other platforms to see how the audience receive it. And then, that vicious circle where you get like the crappy translation, so you get bad feedback from your audience. They don’t buy your game. You don’t get enough money to make it better.

FEDERICA: Or you need to spend an enormous amount of money to hire…

FLOR: To fix it!

ALEX: Right?

LORE: Yeah.

FEDERICA: It’s the same thing that we were talking about earlier, it’s… Instead of going to free Google Translation, take another exit from the highway and get some students.

LORE: We beg you, choose another exit.

FLOR: You can always pick another exit, exactly.

FEDERICA: Cats would be there.

FLOR: It summarizes our conversation, right?

ALEX: But are they doing it wrong? I don’t know.

LORE: Yeah, I don’t know if I agree with this meme. That looks pretty right to me.

ALEX: I don’t know if that’s wrong.

LORE: I’m on board.

FLOR: Count me in.

FEDERICA: They help. They work as a kind of anti-stress ball, so I would say it’s a pretty good CAT tool.

ALEX: Yes.

FEDERICA: Yeah. It’s not the standard CAT tool that you think about, I suppose.

LORE: I do remember when I was in grad school and I was looking over the course list for what I would have to take to graduate, and I was just, I mean, I was a linguist at the time but had no experience in translation or interpreting or anything, and I definitely saw the CAT class and for a minute got like a little excited. Like, I know for a fact that this is not a translation grad program about cats. I know that it’s not, but it says “CAT” right there.

FLOR: You were expecting to open the door and see a bunch of kitties running around.

FLOR: A girl can dream, okay?

FEDERICA: That would be amazing.

FLOR: Yeah, exactly. That would be amazing. What a nice therapy in between classes.

FEDERICA: Also, I think that every office should have a cat.

LORE: I agree.

FEDERICA: Not just CAT tools, but proper cats.

LORE: Seconded.

FLOR: If you need support to put that into action, just count us in.

LORE: Yes. Viewers who want to sign our petition can find it in the links at…

FEDERICA: Yes. What is it? Change… Change.org or something.

FLOR: It’s for mental health, right? So it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

FEDERICA: Absolutely. Yeah, that was the other cat, and it was me after finishing, because always being in the look for metroidvania after Hollow Knight, I had to play Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. I was crying for an entire night.

FLOR: The pain is real. When was this? Please tell me it wasn’t during lockdown.

FLOR: It was during lockdown, actually.

FLOR: Oh, you’re so brave.

LORE: That’s a lot of feelings to be feeling.

ALEX: Yeah.

FEDERICA: It was last year.

FLOR: For sure.

FEDERICA: Oh, yeah. This is great. This is great because… I had to choose it because Age of Empires was one of the first games that it played.

ALEX: Same, yeah.

FLOR: Same here.

FEDERICA: [indistinct 50:17] because it was triggering these codes that were making like a big missile car appearing and destroying everyone. And actually, I replayed Age of Empires now and it’s super hard. I don’t know how I managed… I know how I managed to play because I was cheating.

ALEX: How do I turn this on?

LORE: It’s amazing how much that helps.

FEDERICA: Yeah, this is great because the first time I saw this Pokémon, I was like, “What? What is this thing? He’s singing ‘Wololo!’, like the song of the priest, the converting priest. This meme is amazing, I think.

LORE: I like it.

FLOR: Yeah. We were actually playing with some of our colleagues Age of Empires through a Discord channel, and yeah, we realized we’re pretty bad.

ALEX: We are pretty bad at Age of Empires.

FEDERICA: It’s really hard.

FLOR: Yeah, t’s really hard.

FEDERICA: I remember a lot the Joan d’Arch campaign [indistinct 51:20] story, and…

FLOR: That’s my favorite one, though.

FEDERICA: I tried to play it and they destroyed me. It’s horrible. But yeah, this is, I think, the cherry on the top of this meme is that there’s a normal type and then he becomes a psychic because…

ALEX: Psychic.

FLOR: Yeah, true. Of course.

FEDERICA: This is a classic. It’s a classic and it happens daily.

FLOR: Yeah. We’ve been there more often that we’d like to.

FEDERICA: It’s normal, I think. It’s just…

ALEX: Who wouldn’t want a DeLorean?

LORE: And who wouldn’t want that translation yesterday?

FLOR: Especially if you’re in the gaming industry, right? Where you have these updates we were talking about today or LiveOps or you’re about to launch a game that is super secret and you don’t want anything to get leaked out, you’re going to keep the localization to the last minute to make sure that it doesn’t leak out, of course. And then this happens. We need it for yesterday.

FEDERICA: And it’s not enough to ask for updates from the teams, because they won’t give it to you because it’s secret.

LORE: But as we’ve established, there is no such thing as a past deadline in the video game localization industry, so that luckily it’s not an issue for any of us on any level.

FEDERICA: I don’t even know why I chose this meme.

FLOR: No, no, no. I want to believe in a world where this meme is… not existing. Yeah, that’s a little me.

FEDERICA: That’s more towards the end of the week, usually.

FLOR: Of course, yes.

LORE: Eh, good enough. Stage of translation Good Enough.

FEDERICA: It’s that black thing they use to put something on.

LORE: It’s the thing with the thing.

FEDERICA: The Chinese ceramic thing, round.

FLOR: The thingy thing.

LORE: With the stuff. Yeah, I know. I know what you’re talking about.

FEDERICA: That’s why you always need to keep your dictionary open because…

LORE: Yeah.

FEDERICA: You know, I’m getting old.

FLOR: The dictionary and the [indistinct 53:45]. The [indistinct 53:49] and the dictionary, just to, you know, balance it out and make sure you take a breath between statements and then you find the word. I mean, at least for me, that happens sometimes. I just take a couple of minutes off and then, when I get back, it’s there.

LORE: Exactly. Keeping distance from it.

FLOR: Unless it’s a Friday, right?

LORE: Then it’s good enough. Whatever you say is good enough. Oh my God!

FLOR: We love every French speaking person, but let’s be honest here.

FEDERICA: And explain the background.

LORE: Somebody had to say it.

FEDERICA: Oh, my God. Where is my boyfriend? He’s not here, right? So… He’s French.

FLOR: Let’s speak quietly.


LORE: Yeah. “De l’eau.”

FLOR: Yeah, that was really hard back then, when I was studying French, the pronunciation is… One thing is what you see written, and then a whole different story is when you try to pronounce it and stuff like this happened.

FEDERICA: I’m starting it because I’ve been studying Spanish and German at school, but I never studied French. And I think it’s good to have a kind of, you know, a bit of everything there, especially for FIGS. And plus, my boyfriend is French, so one day I would like to think that I’d be able to speak to his mum. One day.

LORE: “Bonne chance.”

FLOR: I mean, you ended up working at Square Enix, so…

LORE: We believe in you.

ALEX: Yeah. If someone can do it, it’s you, Federica.

FEDERICA: Oh, thank you.

LORE: But that’s hilarious. I’m gonna steal that.

FEDERICA: It’s exactly the same expression that I do when I tried to pronounce it.

LORE: I’m definitely feeling this.

FEDERICA: It’s hard to pronounce French, it’s too hard. I don’t know how they do it.

FLOR: Yeah, I know, I know.

ALEX: It’s a unique language, for sure.


FLOR: And I think with that face, with the “eau,” we chose the right meme.

FEDERICA: It’s the time to build that wall of crammed words in there.

LORE: Yup.

ALEX: The meme round thing.

FLOR: Thingy.

LORE: The thing. We’re gonna do the thing after the thing.

FLOR: So now we did the thing… I would like to thank you, Federica, for joining us today in this episode. We had so much fun.

LORE: Thank you.

FEDERICA: I’m happy, too. It was very funny.

LORE: That’s great.

FLOR: Good, I’m glad that you enjoyed it as well. And thanks, everyone, for tuning in today to this new episode and learning more about Federica’s journey throughout the localization industry. Stay tuned for more, and see you soon.

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