I must confess: My knowledge of Greek mythology if very limited. I know the standard information we learn by osmosis, with clearer images borrowed from movies. I just never imagined that I would need a deeper understanding on the subject to work on gaming translations.
The other day I received a three-column document containing the original in English on the left, matched sentences in Portuguese in the middle (coming from a previous translation for content that was somewhat similar to the sentences I was about to translate) and a blank column on the right where I should input my translation.
I started reading through the document and was fascinated by the rich information on Poseidon and Hades, two gods who were Zeus' brothers. That was the setup for God of War, a successful gaming franchise, and I was now going to fill in some blanks and translate part of the back story about the main characters and their army of loyal warriors.
The images that immediately came to mind were those from blockbuster movies, such as Clash of the Titans, Immortals, and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Unfortunately, I haven't spent as much time in this world to have all the information pouring out of me during the translation process, so some research was required.
And, while I was translating just that little bit of text, which is obviously part of a much larger context within the game, it got me thinking: How large is a complete game translation project of this magnitude and how many translators are involved in it? As in any assignment of this nature, there has to be some sense of writing style, so gamers don't feel awkward bouncing between narratives that are told in very different voices. And how about terminology consistency? I've researched how key terms have been depicted in literature in Brazilian Portuguese, my target language. But what if another participating translator didn't go through the trouble to translate Scylla as "Cila" and Charybdis as "Caríbdis"?
While looking up more information about large-scale gaming translations, I came across this: "An Atari localization meltdown over Neverwinter Nights’ 1.2 million words, and how some fan translations made it into Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, beating out professional contractors." Yes, fans are passionate about the games they play and most likely are the ones who know all the ins and outs of each level, sometimes maybe better than some developers themselves, but I'm really curious about how accurate and consistent fan translations can really be.
Another article I came across talked about how World of Warcraft reached Brazil in 2011 after a Herculean localization process by gaming company Blizzard. It got great reviews, one of which summarized how I feel about it:
"When we have the story, features and aspects of a game told in our native language, we can even learn new elements that used to go unnoticed before. Beyond that, language is the most important cultural mechanism in a country. When people have the ability to communicate through a common language, they exchange more than information: Notions of identity, nation, and the collective are then created."
I wish I could take a larger role in the God of War translation, so I wouldn't feel like I'm just another piece in the puzzle and have actually made a significant contribution to create this sense of identity in the target country. Unfortunately, that is out of my control and the only thing I can do about it is go read some book on Greek mythology. And also watch Wrath of the Titans, which has been waiting for me for a couple of months...
RAFA LOMBARDINO is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She has been working as a translator since 1997 and, in 2011, started to join forces with self-published authors to translate their work into Portuguese and English. In addition to acting as content curator at eWordNews, she also runs Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators, and coordinates two projects to promote Brazilian literature worldwide: Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS) and Cuentos Brasileños de la Actualidad (CBA).