Cristina Hernández

S1 EP16 – Ft. Cristina Hernández

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Episode Transcription

ALEX: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another Open World LocFact. I’m Alexis, and today I’m with Lucio, and we’re going to talk about Red Dead Redemption 2 and how video game rating systems can affect the game’s localization and culturalization.

LUCIO: First, let’s briefly discuss what rating systems are. How do they work, and do they apply to all markets? Rating systems are standardized ways that different markets have to determine the age range appropriate for each game and also to which target audience the game is made for.

ALEX: Now, contrary to what you might be picturing, there isn’t a roomful of people sitting around playing video games and just taking notes. Games are actually submitted through questionnaires about the game’s content. This includes things such as violence, sexuality, and if the game has strong language or not.

LUCIO: But not all countries and cultures have the same notion of what’s appropriate or not. Therefore, different rating systems exist in different markets, such as the ESRB in the US and the Zero-Rating in Japan.

ALEX: Now, this game got a mature rating for players over 17 years old in the US by the ESRB, and the highest rating in Japan by the Zero-Rating, which is set for over 18. Red Dead Redemption 2 still had to go through some restrictions to reach the Japanese market according to what is culturally appropriate for that market.

LUCIO: Right. For example, in the Japanese version, explicit nudity is taken out. In some missions in which you see people being intimate and nude in the Western version, the Japanese version shows women wearing clothes and no full nudity.

ALEX: Now, body parts, bones, organs and bloody details that are often displayed in Red Dead Redemption 2’s Western version have been banned from the Japanese one, with body parts exploding and simply vanishing from sight.

LUCIO: All of this is due to the fact that all Japanese versions of video games are known for removing or heavily modifying anything and all things related to sex and nudity, violence and gore out of fear and concern for the morality of its citizens. So even though the game receives the highest qualification in the Zero-Rating, some things are adapted further for that specific market.

ALEX: Now, here’s a bonus fact for you guys before we wrap it up. In the Chinese market, Arthur Morgan’s classic Dead-Eye Ability is actually called differently. It was called “Eye of the God of the Dead.”

LUCIO: Given the nature of both languages, it would have been hard to literally translate “dead-eye” to Chinese, so the localizers for the Chinese version of this game chose a deeper connection to a God-like ability for our friend Morgan here.

ALEX: Now, that’s all the time we have today, everyone. Before we jump into this episode’s interview with Cristina Hernandez from Rockstar, don’t forget to follow us on all of our socials that you see on screen. Thank you, and see you next time.

LUCIO: Bye, everyone.

FLOR: Hi, everyone! Welcome to a new episode of Open World. Thanks for joining us today. As usual, we have a new guest who is going to tell us more about their journey in the video game and localization industry. And today here with us we have Cristina Hernandez. Hi, Cris! How are you today?

CRISTINA: Hi, guys.

FLOR: So nice to have you here.

ALEX: Yeah. Thank you so much for taking the time to be a part of our Open World, Cristina. So before we start with the questions, um, just a quick overview of your resume for our audience. You currently work at Rockstar Games, right, as a Spanish linguistic tester, but you’ve also worked in many of the games that we’ve all played, such as God of War, Detroit: Become Human, FIFA, and you’ve also done some other stuff for Electronic Arts. So with all of these amazing games that you’ve worked on, all these big titles, I have to ask, which game have you been most proud of?

CRISTINA: God of War. No doubt. It was my first Triple A project, so it was a huge responsibility, but I really enjoyed the experience. I was working as a project manager for both translation and audio, so it was a challenge, but it was a huge experience and definitely I learned a lot and I really enjoyed the game itself. For me, it’s amazing. So what can I say?

ALEX: It’s an amazing game for sure. And out of all of these, does God of War match the one that you’ve enjoyed working the most? I mean, because sometimes you enjoy the projects once… It’s your baby. Right? But overall, the process, which one did you enjoy the most?

CRISTINA: In this case, I have to confess that it was Detroit: Become Human because, personally, for me, I was always wondering how people deal with games with multiple choice. I wanted to know how do they translate them? How do they work on them, how do they adapt them? And it was a huge experience. I really loved it because I could go to the studio, see how they recorded it, see the characters itself having a voice, and a person itself, a body. And I learned how it’s like, basically, we translate everything. We have to record everything, then the people do its magic and the game becomes great. But for me, it was nice, I really enjoyed it. I got into the story a lot. I remember one day at the office I was reading the script we had to translate that day, and I almost cried. I’m not gonna give spoilers, but it was like, it hit me super hard. So I really enjoyed working on that.

FLOR: I love that passion. I mean, I bet it’s mind blowing, the minute you hear that voice that is so familiar from a certain character, and you suddenly put a human face to it.

CRISTINA: That’s it.

FLOR: So I know that you’re specialized in new technologies in video games, right? So what do you think people that are not that familiarized with the localization process or even with software or any tools that make our lives easier should know about before embarking in the localization process?

CRISTINA: Well, first of all, that the process itself is a huge one. There is a lot of people working on the process itself, different teams, different steps to follow. It’s not simply you get the game in English and you just translate it and dub it. It’s more. Basically, we need to translate, prepare the files for the translation, translate, review, test, record, prepare the scripts, check deals. So it’s a huge process. It’s not as easy as it seems. We usually work under pressure because we know the release date. Once we know it, we have to get to that date and match the deadline. And sometimes it’s super tight and we have to work a lot, which is totally fine because in the end it’s like your baby. And sometimes we either have to work, especially when translating without so many context, that we have to guess or even ask the client, what is this story about? What is this character from? Or how do you want the character to be? Or things like that. So with that lack of context, it gets even more difficult, and people think we know it and we have seen the games. Sometimes we haven’t. We can’t see anything, basically. And also there is magic in the case of translation, well, also for audio, but I’m more specialized in translation. And we use different programs and we have to deal with those programs, bear with them because sometimes they fail, and we fail too, because we are humans. We have to learn how to use them, be patient and so on. So basically that, that it’s not as easy as it seems.

FLOR: Yeah, well, I think these two elements that you bring, context and technology, are super, super important to have in mind. I mean, sometimes experienced developers or even teams are super careful, of course, with the content they share with external partners sometimes because, as you said, it’s their baby, they don’t want anything to leak before the release date. So it’s tricky, but I believe that it’s super important for the localization team to have as much information as possible on the game they’re going to work on. Because you want those tears, right? You want to fully understand the narrative, the story, the backstory of its characters and get involved in the process as much as the game developers to get that same effect on gamers, right?


FLOR: And yeah, and technology, as you said, we are all humans and we can make mistakes. So sometimes there are certain tools or platforms that make the whole process faster, easier and also help throughout the consistency of the terminology and all of that that we all love about CAT tools and all those magic software, right?


ALEX: Now let’s talk about your life, Cristina, but on the other side of the screen of a game, not so much on the work behind it, but which games are you playing right now? What game can you recommend to our audience?

CRISTINA: Well, I’m playing a few of them, depending on how I feel. If I am with my friends and I want to play online, I have to confess I’m addicted to League of Legends. We play so often.

ALEX: Ah, now I know where your hair comes from.

FLOR: Yeah.

ALEX: That’s Katarina for you.

FLOR: There’s a certain character that has red hair, right?

CRISTINA: Could be, could be, yeah.

FLOR: A little bit of inspiration there.

CRISTINA: Yeah, right? I’m playing the classics. I’m about to finish the Spyro trilogy, and it’s like back to childhood. And also Rayman.

FLOR: Oh, yeah. Oh, I love those, too!

CRISTINA: Yeah. For me, it’s like my way to relax. It’s like, okay, you don’t have to spend a lot of time, you can save and close whenever you want, so it’s fun. It’s a chill one.

FLOR: Yeah. And it’s cheerful and colorful. Exactly, it’s super chill.

CRISTINA: Yeah. For me, it’s never-ending story. It’s so classic. And I’m also playing Super Smash Bros every now and then. When I feel stressed, it’s like I have to release my anger. And I’m also playing Red Dead Redemption when I’m into chill mode too, but I’m into it deeper, I want to explore the world and go into Western mode and it’s fine.

ALEX: You ride your horse and do sidequests.

FLOR: I love that it’s all about the mood, right? Some people that don’t play games often, they think that you have to play certain games like all the time to be considered a gamer, right? And I mean, for me, it’s like, as you said, it’s like if I need to chill, I know my go-to game, if I want to spend time with friends and hang and have a good time, I have other games. So yeah, it depends on the mood, right?


FLOR: So like Ale said, you’re working as a Spanish Linguistic Tester in Rockstar Games. Wow! That is incredible.

ALEX: We have a Rockstar as a guest, Flor.

FLOR: Yes! This is amazing.

ALEX: Literally.

FLOR: You’re our first Rockstar. So yeah, we wanted to know because many people in the video game industry and the localization industry know that sometimes the testing field or the LQA field may be the entry way to gain experience, to get familiarized with some processes. So many people that are just finishing up their studies in linguistics or translation start to explore the video game industry and start as testers, as LQA testers sometimes. So we wanted to know what sort of skills you need to have to become an LQA tester. And let’s say there’s someone there listening to us and just wants to know how to enter this industry, and maybe you can give them some advice.

CRISTINA: Well, for me, the main point is knowledge of languages. Both the language you’re working with, the source language, in my case it’s English, and also your mother tongue or the other language you’re working with. And you have to keep up to date, know about the grammar rules and be interested in that, which is also new technologies, because you’re gonna work with technology, with consoles, PC, programs, etc., etc., etc. Also, as I have mentioned before, ability to work under pressure, because sometimes we got tight deadlines and we have to keep in mind we have to get to the point and be like, “Okay, breathe. We’re gonna do it. We have to do it by this date.” For me, it’s also important to be able to work as a team. I don’t know if it’s me, I’m a team player, I love working as a team, but sometimes you have to find a term or make a decision and, in my opinion, it’s better if you exchange opinions and you find a point. Or if you need help, you can ask your friends… your friends, your colleagues, also friends sometimes. Or the other way around, you can help other people, tell them, “Hey, do this to get to this point.” So that ability to be like in both ways, like working as an individual and as a team. And also patience, because people think that our job sometimes is like, yeah, you just play games. I wish! Sometimes we need to find lines or strings in a game and it’s about, I don’t know, trying to get a mission or fail it three times, or die a number of certain times, or getting to this level or forcing the game. Sometimes we have to break the game. So it’s a matter of patience. You have to enjoy what you’re doing. And I know it’s a cliche, but my last point would be like passion. If you love what you’re doing, you’re gonna enjoy your job. In my case, it happens to me. It’s like, “Okay, I have to play. Let’s see, I’m gonna try to find this, explore this…” Enjoy the whole process. And, of course, keep growing, keep learning. Be a curious person. Try to get to know more and more, and how can I improve this? How can I get to this point in the game? How can I do this with this new program? And things like that.

FLOR: Yeah, I think that’s great advice there, and especially the part of being a team player. Sometimes you may have to interact with people that have other different native language from yours, and that perspective, their cultural background and everything will make, in my opinion, sometimes will make your job easier or give you another perspective. And to get to that point in the discussion can be very interesting, right? You can learn about the process a lot.


ALEX: And I also think that, if you enjoy what you do, to continue learning just happens, right? I mean, if you’re curious and you have passion, you continue to learn, even like without even sitting and scheduling a time to study, right? Just as the days go by.

CRISTINA: Mm-hmm. Even while playing, you learn. You always learn, in my opinion.

FLOR: Oh, absolutely.

ALEX: Absolutely.

CRISTINA: I have to say that, when you are working as a tester, you can’t change your mind. I’m playing games sometimes and I’m like focused on, “Ah! This is a bug.” And it’s like, no, I’m not working anymore.

FLOR: Yeah. You lose yourself in the game, and then you realize that, “Hey… I have to report this.”


FLOR: And are there like any specific tools or methods or any course that you could recommend? I mean, you mentioned learning, you mentioned that you have to remain curious. Was there any information in particular that helped you more? I mean, in my case, for example, to fully understand the whole localization process, I committed myself to learn more about the production side, about the game dev side, so that I fully understand the whole process, right? So was there anything in particular for you that helped you fully understand the process?

CRISTINA: Yes, I would say that it’s super nice to join groups like, you know, Women in Localization, Women in Games, or even dev groups or any group related to video games and translation. I am even in indie game developer groups, things like that, sometimes to be able to help. And also attend conferences and workshops and watch videos, keep learning. Like, there are many, many resources nowadays that are super useful. For me, my favorite one is meeting people because, when you meet people from different roles, from different enterprises and things like that, you learn a lot from them.

FLOR: Absolutely. I really miss in-person events, though.


FLOR: We were talking with Ale the other day about this, like we really look forward to coming back to normal or at least…

CRISTINA: Yeah. But the good thing now is that you can attend any event, probably, because it’s like, “Ah, there’s one in the United States and I’m living in the UK. Okay, it’s fine, I can do it online.”

FLOR: Exactly. You can make it happen.


ALEX: Yeah, well, but as someone who joined the video game industry in the midst of the pandemic, such as myself, I never experienced in-person events. So I’m desperate for this to happen, to shake some actual hands.

CRISTINA: Yeah, it’s probably much better.

FLOR: Yeah. Well, I think it’s time for the meme session. What do you think?

ALEX: Yeah, Cristina brought a few, and we added a few as well. So let’s have a laugh. “Look at all this work I haven’t done yet.” This is real. Especially on a Monday.

FLOR: Yeah, I mean, we’re recording this on a Monday, so.

CRISTINA: I was literally thinking of a Monday when I found this one.

FLOR: Yeah, it’s so true it hurts. Oh, this one is one of my go-to memes. I have a sticker with this one over WhatsApp as well.

CRISTINA: And I discovered that there are many options, like “shouts in Spanish,” “cries in Spanish,” “sobbing in Spanish,” and things like that. For me it was like, okay! Classic.

FLOR: The Spanish version of Soraya. I grew up watching all her telenovelas, so this hits close to home.

CRISTINA: Never dies. It never dies.

FLOR: Yeah. Well, this one is another one that never dies.

ALEX: This is a recurrent meme from our guests. I don’t know if you noticed that, Flor.

FLOR: Yeah, it’s like this constant state of mind for… well, since 2020 started, I guess. Right?

CRISTINA: It’s like breathe, it’s fine. Could be worse.

FLOR: I mean, there’s not much we can do, so…

ALEX: This is fine.

FLOR: You gotta keep it cool. Yeah. That one’s also one of my favorite stickers, too.

ALEX: This one is a classic, and it’s a good thing that it’s after the fiery one, right?

CRISTINA: Yeah. It’s like the whole process, like the…

FLOR: All the feels.

CRISTINA: Like “it’s fine,” and then like “you did it!”

FLOR: Never didn’t have it.

ALEX: “Listen, I think you may have a problem with overusing contractions. It’s what it’s.”

FLOR: I don’t have time for that.

ALEX: How much time do you save with those?

FLOR: Hey, you never know.

ALEX: Busy, busy, busy. Okay, so this is too real. I got myself a new computer just a few months ago, and it was super slow, and it’s a mighty fine computer, mind you.

FLOR: I have to add Teams, Microsoft Teams, to that.

ALEX: Teams as well. And it turns out it was all of these programs that started along my computer. It’s like, chill, I’m gonna get to you eventually. I’m gonna play my games, I’m gonna talk to my friends.

FLOR: Yeah. There’s no way I’m not gonna open you throughout the day.

ALEX: But let me, let me do it. Please.

FLOR: “When someone looks through my browser history. When someone looks through my calculator history.”

ALEX: Hey, you gotta make sure sometimes that two plus two is still four.

FLOR: Oh yeah.

CRISTINA: Just in case.

FLOR: My excuse is I’m in linguistics. I love languages, so numbers are not my strong suit. Ever.

ALEX: You just keep checking, Flor. Keep checking. Just in case. Just in case.

FLOR: “In an alternate universe.”

ALEX: Oh, my God! Can you imagine if Ash played animals?

CRISTINA: That would be awesome.

FLOR: I know, right?

CRISTINA: Yeah. It’s a nice idea.

FLOR: A great idea.

ALEX: It’s a great idea. So if people…

FLOR: Hey, if anyone is listening who wants to take this one, just let us know.

ALEX: Just let us know. We can like… If we appear on the credits section…

FLOR: Yeah. I mean, have you ever thought of making your own game, Chris?

CRISTINA: Yes. Yes, definitely. I would love to.

ALEX: Without a doubt.

CRISTINA: Yes. But it’s a hard process. Maybe one day.

FLOR: And that’s the end of our meme section.

ALEX: It always comes short.

FLOR: I know. I know. And I mean, we had so much fun. Thanks for…

CRISTINA: Thank you, guys.

FLOR: …for joining us today.

CRISTINA: It’s my pleasure.

FLOR: I know, I know. And I mean, it’s been a while since we started this conversation to make this happen, so thank you so much for taking the time to join us. Thanks, everyone, for watching. We’ll be leaving in the comments section all the associations that Cris mentioned in this interview, so that you can check them out and join any groups that can help you out through your career path, right? So thanks, everyone, for tuning in. Thank you, Cristina. Thank you, Alexis.

ALEX: Thank you, Cristina. Thanks, Flor.

CRISTINA: Thank you.

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