Podcast S2 EP8 Theo Cuny

S2 EP8 – Ft. Theo Cuny

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Episode Transcription

ALEXIS: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Open World. Hi, Lali! Hi, Meli! Hi, everyone from the other side of the world of the screen. Today we are happy to have an amazing guest who considers himself as a happy person and someone with a couple of years under his belt. He has worked in Star Wars, Pokémon, League of Legends, Fortnite, Far Cry. We have today with us Theo Cuny. Theo, welcome to Open World. Thank you for being here today.

THEO: Thank you for inviting me.

MELISA: Thank you, Theo, for joining us.

ALEXIS: A pleasure. So, I think that the first question that we should ask you is, who are you? Can you walk us through a little bit about your career, how you started? What did you study?

LARA: And first of all, yeah, what do you do to be happy? Like, why do you consider yourself a happy person? Because I wanna know, like, for real.

THEO: All right, I’ll try to answer this question first.

MELISA: See what advice we can get from this.

LARA: Yeah.

THEO: I think it’s a very unique thing to each individual. It’s about being able to know the limit between compromise and sacrifice, about being yourself, true to yourself and your values. And sometimes being able to make hard choices, like leaving a company where you’re just not happy because of a toxic environment. Those kinds of things. It takes some time, and it’s not an objective you reach, it’s a path. So you constantly try to change, evolve and take a step back. And for me, being happy is being surrounded with what I call my three F, so family, friends and food. I’m French, so that’s what matters the most. I travel a lot. Yes. And yeah, video games. And try to think what I want to do, where I want to be and try to reach this objective. This is my happiness.

MELISA: I love it. I love it. What a great start for the episode.


THEO: And to go back to your question, Alexis, yeah, I can try to introduce myself. It’s not an easy question. Never easy. My name is Theo Cuny. I was born in a small place called Monaco, and I grew up between Monaco and Paris. I’ve been working in the video games industry for about 17 years now. My career is a little bit unconventional, I would say, because I have no degree, no diploma. If you ask about the studies, I did not do any. So back in the days, that was synonym to failure. You wouldn’t be able to… or you would be told that you wouldn’t be able to have a career, to be successful, to earn enough money. And with this idea in mind, I worked in a supermarket, in fast food, in a library. I worked in retail, I worked in a toy shop, until I got 23. Twenty-three, this is when my life changed. With the support of my family and my brother, I took a one-year visa to Montreal, which is a city I love, I cherish. And when I got there, I applied to about all video game companies. It’s still a core place for the industry. And I think I worked about 2 to 3 weeks in a bakery. I guess I’m French, so that was easy to get into, bakery. And before… Yeah, Ubisoft called me for an interview, and that was a start. So I worked as a Functional TQA Tester at Ubisoft, and my first project was a Far Cry game. And they kept me …

ALEXIS: What a way to start!

THEO: Well, no. Actually, no. It sounds like it, but that’s the game they buried and tried to make everybody forget. It was Far Cry for the Wii.

ALEXIS: Ah! Yes, I remember that one.

THEO: Nintendo Wii.It was terrible. But I was happy. That was a great start, still. And, yeah, they kept me for the entire duration of my visa. Then I had to go back to France. I worked for Ubisoft near Paris, then I moved to UK. I worked for Codemasters on Dungeons and Dragons online and Lord of the Rings online for one year. Then I moved to Madrid, a city I also love. I worked for Electronic Arts. Great place. And this is when I started my journey in localization. After EA, I got my first permanent contract. I moved to Dublin, I worked on League of Legends with Riot Games for three years and a half. And then I moved to Berlin, I got hired by Epic Games to work on Fortnite four years and a half. I got short contracts here and there because it took me some time to get a permanent contract. So I had like two months in Milan, like three months in Texas. I worked in Malaga for four months. It was a little chaotic journey. And recently with COVID, I got back to France and I worked at Paris Saint-Germain Club for a year, but that’s not related to video games. And I got hired by Tencent Games, I worked remotely like for a year. And now it’s been about four months I decided to take some time for myself and travel around the world and spend some time with my three F. So yeah, that’s about it now.

ALEXIS: Quite a ride so far.

THEO: Yeah, just following my gut, and it takes me to all different places.

MELISA: Yeah. Like different jobs and different places of the world, literally.

THEO: Yeah. And I’m not done yet. I’m about to release a very humble clothing brand this summer, hopefully. So, like, nothing to do. And I’m working on a salad bar concept in my city where I live, so. Nothing to do. I just like, yeah, listen to my guts and follow what seems to be…

ALEXIS: We’re gonna need the links from your websites or Web stores and check them out.

THEO: Of course. Of course. I’ll be happy to share them with you.

MELISA: That’s so cool. Is this something you’ve always been interested in? Like, this is one of your interests that you thought having a clothing brand… How did you come up with this idea?

THEO: It was somewhere in the back of my mind for a while. And the theme is very specific, it’s about skulls. So it’s not for everybody. But I’m a fan. And because I travel a lot, I always try to buy something like a pair of socks or a T-shirt with skulls like everywhere in the world. And actually, I find it very hard to find something that I like. It’s quite often there is this… yeah, stereotypical. So I thought I would try to make myself, like, to make a brand that I would actually be happy to wear and share. And COVID actually made me do it. I had enough time. I wanted to grow, I wanted to learn, I wanted to have challenges. I knew nothing about it, I made a lot of mistakes. It was terrible. But yeah, that’s a learning experience.

ALEXIS: That’s how you learn.

THEO: Exactly. Exactly. And now I’m about to launch a V2. A friend joined me, he’s taking care of the Instagram. We fixed a lot of mistakes and… It’s quite rewarding to see it growing slowly, and let’s see what happens with it. Like I said, it’s very humble. No… no big, big goals, objectives, but still happy to release it.

MELISA: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I think we can tell from just the short stories that you’ve been telling us, how, like, you’re open to a different life experience and sometimes it’s taking you to different places. Um, and now I’m wondering, and this is like going back to the localization. And I know, you know, you’ve tried different things and in different companies, but in general, what would you say are some of, like, hard and soft skills that one needs to work in video game localization?

THEO: Yeah, the answer may differ depending on who you ask. For some people, it might be a bit technical, about knowing all the tools, the CAT tools. For some people, project management is very important, especially if you are willing to grow from a Localization Specialist Translator to something bigger at some points. But that’s something you can learn with practice if you have the motivation and the passion and the patience. About the soft skills, which I care more about, I’m more interested in the human side of the job. So for me, that would be patience. You need a lot of patience. You need to have some diplomacy, creativity, proactivity. We work in a very fast-paced environment. In localization, things change a lot. Even when you think it’s ready, it might change when you wake up. So you need to be structured, organized, and that’s not something you easily learn. You need some methodology. You should not be afraid of asking people. Like if you see someone doing something good well, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask and say, “Hey, by the way, when you have the time, a couple of minutes to explain to me how you do this.” It’s important to be humble about that, to ask questions a lot. We know that localization context is extremely important, so don’t stay there with just your questions because you might end up with frustration and a not so good delivery. And also we work in a very multicultural environment with people from different horizons all around the world, in all possible time zones with different backgrounds, beliefs, education as well. So it’s important always to take a step back, be humble, to not judge and to be patient. Ask questions. It’s… I see that a lot in my career and it’s very important to take a step back. And you also may interact with the dev team, audio team, video team, publishing. They all have their own priorities. So… It’s okay, leave the frustration aside and be patient, ask questions, and diplomacy a lot. A lot. It’s very important in this, in my opinion, in this environment.

LARA: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. Like patience, like… The first one, patience, yes, 100%. So what would you say are the best practices that you have acquired throughout your career that you can recommend to our audience?

THEO: Yeah. One of the most useful for me, because I know myself and it will all have, like, pros and cons, let’s say. I know that my brain… my brain goes everywhere, like, all the time. I have a lot of ideas and it’s hard for me to focus and to keep track of things. So one of the things I put in place is methodology with emails, for example. There’s a feature set that I use a lot in my professional life and my private life, it’s Marked as unread feature. Especially when you’re frustrated, it’s very important to… It’s okay. Mark as unread. Get back to it later, when you have the right time to answer. Sometimes, one of the things that is also important is you can actually answer and say, “I’ll get back to you in a minute or in an hour or tomorrow.” Do not let the people believe that you don’t care or anything. So communication is extremely important. As a methodology, you have tools, a lot of tools available everywhere. Marina, for example, is sharing a lot of useful tips and videos about localization on a weekly basis. It’s very important. You can have some videos on YouTube like memoQ, Trados, they post a lot of videos as well. You have forums specialized in localization where you can ask about filters, about how to import a file. So it’s… You cannot master everything. You constantly learn. Even if you have like 35 years of experience, it doesn’t matter. Like the technology evolves, the industry evolves. So there’s always new features. And never be afraid to say, “I don’t know, please explain. I’m not sure I understand.” That’s the kind of methodology I would try to teach to people, if I can.

LARA: And also thank God for Google. Like, you’re gonna Google stuff, you’re gonna… I mean, I’ve been in those situations.

THEO: It’s there. It’s all in your mind. So it’s up to you to be humble, take a step back again and acknowledge that you don’t know or you can be better. So always find the opportunity to grow. And it’s out there, so take it.

LARA: 100%. I agree.

ALEXIS: Yeah. And I love the fact that all of these things are, again, kind of on the soft skills side, you know, and how to make yourself better through things. And the read mark thing, it’s a visual thing. I can relate to that.

LARA: And you have to learn about yourself too, because maybe that doesn’t work for you. But maybe if you’re listening to this and be like, “Hey, that might work for me.” Like, yeah.

THEO: There’s one thing that I learned over time and not necessarily the easy way is, we are in a very competitive environment. I talk about localization, but life is just competitive, about jobs, about everything. Everything is competitive. Instagram makes you compare yourself to people all the time and it’s…

LARA: Oh, my God, yeah.

THEO: Yes, exactly. And in your job, it’s easy to blame yourself or feel bad because you’re not good at something. And it’s actually okay. It’s okay. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to try. Just try again. Just try again, find a way. Like I’m not good at focusing. I will never be, that’s the way I am. So I found a way to help me go through this. And it’s okay, I don’t have to fix myself. I have tools all around me, filters that can help me do the job without compromising myself or my values.

ALEXIS: I love that. I don’t have to fix myself. I have to find a way to make it work with how I am and how to… Yeah. I love that.

THEO: We’re talking about, Alexis, about the soft skills, this is the most… maybe the most important thing for me. I often ended up in situations where we had to hire people. And you can have on one side a profile with a lot of experience with all the hard skills, let’s say, but you’re not sure that person is gonna be a good fit. And for me, I would… a thousand times, I would most likely pick a person with passion, patience, diplomacy, maybe new to the job and willing to learn, to grow and that would just fit. I would really want to work with that person in a year or in two years and more. So, yeah.

LARA: That’s beautiful.

ALEXIS: That’s beautiful. Inspiring. Totally. Okay, so to move a little bit from work, because we work in localization, we work with video games, right? So this question splits in two. So what are your all-time favorite games and what are you playing right now if you are? And if you’re not, what would you like to play right now that it’s like, “Oh, I can’t. I’m just traveling too much?”

MELISA: I’m traveling too much!

THEO: Actually, it’s true. It’s not easy. Okay. It’s not an easy question. I think I was four years old the first time I got my hands on a video game that was on an Amstrad in 1985. That’s how old I am. And because I have older brothers, I also got the chance to play on Amiga, MO5, Macintosh. I think I owned almost all consoles. So my favorite games of all times, it’s not an easy question, but I would say maybe Secret of Mana was one of them on Super Nintendo. EverQuest because I got the chance to play with my big brothers. That was a big thing for me. Might and Magic VI. Uh… Might and Magic III, Heroes of Might and Magic, Diablo II, The Witcher 3, Borderlands, The Last of Us. Big, big heart to Last of Us I and II. A Plague Tale, Diablo II, Duke Nukem, Doom. Like those old classics. That’s my… yeah, what brought me here.


THEO: And about the second part of the question… What I’m playing right now, I’m playing Sherlock Holmes. I think, Lara, are you playing it, or…?

LARA: Oh, my God, I finished it. Yeah.

THEO: I think I saw your post…

LARA: I was not expecting that.

ALEXIS: Don’t spoil it for him, just in case. No spoilers, please.

THEO: Yeah. I’m only in like chapter four because I started before the travel and then I came back, I played a few hours and then I left again. I’m a huge fan of Lovecraft’s universe.

LARA: Ah, same.

THEO: And so I had to get my hands on it. I am enjoying it a lot at the moment. That’s the only game I’m playing because, like you said, Alexis, I’m traveling a lot.

ALEXIS: Yes, sir.

THEO: While I’m traveling, actually, I’m playing an old game, Might and Magic VI: Mandate of Heaven, which is like a 20 or 25-year old game, because I can save and quit. I don’t have to commit too much. And again, I would like to play the new Diablo, I think, but I’m gonna wait a bit.

ALEXIS: You should.

THEO: Yeah. It’s harder for me…. It’s harder and harder to accept to spend like 70, 80, 90 Euros on a game. And especially because I know myself. I will play like 20 hours straight and then it’s gonna be gone. So yeah, I’m going to wait for it to be on sale. And yeah.

ALEXIS: By the time that we are recording this episode, we still don’t have, for instance, I don’t know, armor sets, or there aren’t any like the breaches that you could enter in Diablo III, you know, the dungeons. But we’re gonna have new content and updates and new seasons by October, so it can only get better. So if you wait it out, it’s gonna be even better. So you’re on the right track.

THEO: And I’m also traveling so much, I don’t want to start playing and then I have to put it on hold for like three weeks.

ALEXIS: You won’t be able to.

THEO: Exactly,that’s why I’m waiting.

MELISA: Theo, I’m curious, how do you play when you’re traveling? Do you take your computer with you?

THEO: I have my laptop almost always with me because I’m working on this clothing brand that’s taking a lot of time. I’m working on a different project as well, so I need to have my laptop with me most of the time. But I don’t want to commit to… Because I’m traveling, it’s beautiful outside, I don’t want to spend like 10 hours on a roll, so I’m taking like an old game I played, and it’s okay to… this is how I play it. I used to play on mobile. Not anymore. I’m just annoyed with the mechanics and the pay to win.

MELISA: Absolutely. And, Theo, it was great to hear like your, yeah, just what games you like and just hear about your career. And from all your experience, I imagine from when you started to right now, there’s been a lot of changes. How do you think technological advances kind of impacted that from when you started to right now?

THEO: That’s an excellent question. Um, as I told you, I joined Ubisoft in 2006. This is when my life changed, 2006. The Internet was around for about ten years. A bit more. 2006 is the first translation release from memoQ. So I saw it…

ALEXIS: You saw it… You saw it born.

THEO: Exactly. Exactly. The year after, 2007, was the first translation product from SDL and Trados as well. So it’s all… it was all new. Very exciting, very buggy. There was a lot of frustration, crashes, very slow. You had to be careful about how many words you would put in a database because not enough space. But it evolved so fast and so well, nowadays, like you can just take a few seconds to get something translated by a machine, and the result is gonna be very good. And about that, I think it’s natural and inevitable evolution, and I’m actually looking forward for some fields, if you think about… Take me, for example. I lived in six different countries, and we live in a world where more and more you have like migration fluxes between countries, between… It doesn’t matter anymore. You can be Spanish, Chinese, doesn’t matter. You can end up in any country. And it’s gonna be kind of okay. Now about medical, legal, administration, it’s very difficult. As an anecdote, I ended up myself in the hospital, like, emergency unit at, like, two or three some years ago, and I found myself translating the symptoms from a Mexican woman to a French nurse because she couldn’t explain. And now, I imagine, like, what could happen with technology in a few years where, it doesn’t matter where you are, who you are, and the barrier will fall. So I think it’s very important. Now, about localization, video games, it’s a bit different. If there’s one thing that technology will not take away is the difference between translation and localization. If you want a great product, the best product for your audience and for your global audience, you need emotion, you need a joke, you need a synonym better than a different one, you need a cultural expression. And for that you need good people. So it’s a natural evolution, is gonna bring a lot. But for video games and movies and entertainment industry, I think we still have a bright future for localization people.

MELISA: Absolutely.

LARA: I love that.Yeah.

MELISA: There’s so much talk nowadays about AI and how it’s changing our industry, so it’s really interesting to hear your opinion about it from the video game localization side.

LARA: Absolutely. Because it also says that… it shows how much you care about the video game if you are actually putting the emotion, if you’re actually taking care of that kind of stuff and not letting technology be too involved in the process.

THEO: Exactly.I mean, you are Terra Localizations, you work with a lot of developer studios. AI or not, it doesn’t change anything. The companies that does not want to put effort, involve money or provide context, they don’t care. If they don’t care, they don’t care. AI doesn’t change anything. If they care about it, they will provide context, they will do everything they can to make your job easier and to help you succeed, because that’s in everybody’s interest. This is what localization is about. It’s a group of people working on the same objective. It doesn’t matter if you’re inside the company, what role or title you have or… It doesn’t matter. So. Yeah, that’s…

LARA: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I’m going back again with the advices because I think that you’re such a notable person, like, oh my God. What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a professional journey in the triple-A industry? Because it’s just like, hearing you speak and all the emotion and all that you’ve been through is just incredible. Like, I’m amazed.

ALEXIS: And before you start, Theo, I love that, when you walked us through a bit about… when you walked us through your journey, you made it sound seamless, but at the same time, not simple, not something that just came easy. So… Sorry, I had to share that. Yeah, it was in the back of my mind from the beginning of the interview.

THEO: Nothing is easy. Life is hard. Whoever you are, it doesn’t matter. Rich or poor, the color of your skin. Nothing is easy, ever. You were not… Unless, okay, maybe you’re the son of, like, Bill Gates and you don’t care about anything. And still, it depends. I mean, the health is important, like, you can still be affected by the world around you, and nothing is easy. The mindset changes everything, how you go through things. At the moment, we talk a lot about gender equality, failure, acceptance of your body, your own body. This is like all in your mind and this is like how you change things. About my career, what you said, Alexis, it’s the same. Like, it was hard, I had tough moments at some points about accepting, taking good takeaways, being surrounded by good people and making the right choices. And most often, most of the time, the right choice is maybe not the most logical, but what you think is the right thing for you, even if it means moving away from what you dreamed about for like ten years. So it’s not easy. But about the advices for your question… There’s a lot of things you can do. A lot, actually. If you’re French, you have AFJV, which is like the French association for video games. They have job offers on a board every single day. You can learn or ask someone to explain to you how to use the filters on LinkedIn. I have a filter with localization, and there’s like hundreds of jobs every day all around the world. Might not fit, but the most important thing in the video games industry is to get your foot into it. So you may be able to… you may have to do some compromises, maybe to relocate, maybe to work in a field that you were not targeting initially. What you can do, you can follow the right people. Like, when I’m looking for a job, which didn’t happen for a while, but I had a browser open, and every single tab, I had like one of the companies I wanted to work with. And once a week, I would go through all the job offers and actually check. That’s also what you can do on top of LinkedIn. You can ask people to check your resume, especially if you work in localization, to avoid a spelling mistake, this kind of thing. Cover letter as well. You have free courses on LinkedIn. You can learn a lot from other people. Like I mentioned, Marina was posting a lot. And she’s not alone. Lara, you’re also like posting a lot. So it is true. It’s up to you to be proactive and to do the steps. It doesn’t guarantee that you will get the job you want, but you’re on the right path. That’s the best thing you can do, you don’t control the rest. But yeah, just do whatever you can to learn, grow, and it’s gonna be… you’re gonna… it’s a win-win situation anyway. Whatever you learn, it’s for you. So. Oh, and one thing I would also mention, one thing that is quite important to me, it’s cultural feedback. It’s not easy. People may think it’s easy, but it’s not easy at all, like in real life, to know when to provide feedback. The timing is very important, who to talk to, and the right words. How to deal with frustration, how to avoid like a negative spiral. So you also have training and courses about that. I think it’s quite important to… learn because communication is key in this job. So yeah.

MELISA: Amazing advice. Thank you.

ALEXIS: Amazing advice. There’s this saying, right? Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’re gonna land among the stars anyway.

THEO: Exactly.

MELISA: I like it. And enjoying the process, going back to the start, trying to be happy during the process. And not thinking, “Once we reach the goal, then I’m gonna be happy.” This is something I liked from what you said at the beginning.

THEO: It’s very important and it’s not something you can easily teach. Like it sounds easy, like to share some wisdom in a way, but at the end of the day, the best way is to try, to fail and try again. That’s how you learn. So yeah, at the end of the day, like if you try very hard to reach an objective because you think this is what you should do, that’s maybe not the best thing. You should think about, “Okay, I want to do that?” Yes. No. Go for it. It’s hard to share, but yeah.

THEO: Yeah, it’s a great mindset. Yeah, I love that.

ALEXIS: Amazing, Theo. Thank you very, very much for taking the time to be with us here today. We could go on. I mean, we had go on talking over dinner in the past. But for today’s episode, this is the end. Thank you very much, Lali, Meli. And thank you all for sticking around till the end of the episode. And please don’t forget to follow us on our social media down below. We’re gonna leave you the links. Yeah, I don’t know where it is. Here, here, here. You know where it is. You know where they are. We’re gonna leave you some links that we’ve talked in the interview, wherever those links are. And we’ll see you next time. Thank you, everyone. Bye-bye.

THEO: Thank you very much.

MELISA: Thank you, Theo! Bye, everyone!

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