Global Career Roadmap: Follow Your Gaming Passion
Finding passion in your career is often cited as a critical factor for success and ultimate satisfaction. In localization, there are so many different areas people can explore. From healthcare to software to marketing and training, localization professionals are out there, pursuing their passions in an effort to bring content and solutions to a global audience. For Ness Piper, video games are his passion and are central to his career development in the localization industry.
Ness got his start in gaming after going to school for animation and media art. He did art production and worked with external teams in India for Microsoft Kinect. He loved the production aspect of game development and wanted to work with local teams. He later became a Team Analyst in a regional department doing feature development. In that team, he got his introduction to localization and started focusing on China and SE Asia. At the time, Ness says his career was a little like choosing your own adventure books. He had a choice between moving further into art production and development or focusing on localization. After leaving Microsoft, Ness opted to get more involved with localization, joining Riot Games, a company with a total of 3,000 employees, including 300 developers, and 50 employees in localization. Riot Games is also the producer of the game "League of Legends".
For those of us who have worked exclusively in localization for consumer and tech companies, the notion of utilizing our skills in the gaming industry is novel. Talking with Ness, one of the biggest surprises for me was the size of games audiences. According to Ness, there are 100 million total players and at any given point during the day, there are between 12-14 million people playing their games globally. These players interact with localized content in the game, on player forums, community sites, and player support sites throughout the day. For localization, this means having intimate knowledge of the game and its players. To be successful in gaming, you need to actively participate in the game and the community.
This deep level of passion drives a lot of the nuances of gaming localization. Many games on the market today are narrative-driven which means that even the most basic localization practice is making sure that the narration connects with the players. This basic practice requires a strong degree of knowledge about the game and its players in their respective countries and the ability to transcreate content to allow users to connect on an emotional level. To do this, all parts of the supply chain, from project management to engineering to translation and quality assurance teams, need to engage with the game and understand the unique users.
Beyond basics, Ness cites additional areas where a deep knowledge is essential. Games consist of feature characters that are played and NPC or non-player characters. According to Ness, feature character localization is an area where localization teams can shine brightest. Players of the game expect the feature characters to mirror their cultural customs. If you were localizing games to their fullest extent, all backgrounds and NPCs would be localized as well. Deep cultural and game knowledge are essential to get the players just right. As an example, Ness mentions a character who was originally a fisherman from the Southern region of the United States and who would have to be completely localized into a similar character for other markets because of the unique characteristics of this profession and this specific geographical area.
What kinds of skills are important if you want to get into gaming localization? Ness built on his creative training and added localization skills. His early experience at Microsoft provided him technical learning opportunities and cultural awareness as he moved into feature localization. His later experience at Riot Games melded the technical expertise, creative training and deep interest in games. According to Ness, it is this combination that helped him thrive. If you come into gaming with some experience working on software (SAAS, apps, or devices), you will be set up to add a more robust, deep level of localization to your work. Those with more creative or development backgrounds can focus more on learning about standard localization practices and tools. Many games companies, including Riot Games, have internship programs where you can gain valuable experience in this area. Since interviewing Ness, he has moved on to a new role at Bungie Games to work on their localization program. He is definitely following his passion in gaming localization and encourages others to do the same.