Interview with the Game Localization Special Interest Group of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
09 December 2010
GALA interviews the founders and steering committee of the IGDA Game Localization SIG, a group dedicated to providing a community for localization professionals and improving the role of localization in the game industry.
Quick stats: Founded by Kate Edwards of Englobe Inc. (US), who quickly brought on board co-founding steering committee members Miguel Bernal-Merino of Roehampton University (UK), Heather Chandler of Media Sunshine (US), Fabio Minazzi of Binari Sonori (Italy) and Richard Honeywood formerly of Blizzard Entertainment (US).
Date Established:The IGDA Loc SIG was created in June 2007.
E-mail: Contact the SIG chair, [email protected]
Website: http://wiki.igda.org/Localization_SIG, also look for the SIG’s groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Number of members: approximately 250 across all online groups.
What was the impetus for creating the Localization SIG?
The number of game industry and localization industry professionals who are engaged specifically and exclusively in games has been increasing in proportion to the industry's growth. This group of specialized professionals is currently split between either being more "game industry-oriented" or more "localization services-oriented", without an appropriate "home" in which the hybrid field of game localization can exist. The game localization practice contains its own unique challenges and solutions, so we felt that a community space in which its professionals can interact and grow in association with the game industry was vitally needed. Because of this, we really wanted to establish a community for localization folks within the game industry, with the goal of also helping to positively change the perception of localization from within.
What is the focus of the Localization SIG?
The Loc SIG is a 100% volunteer organization that exists within the IGDA to provide a focal point and nexus for the growing number of game localization professionals in order to build community. It’s also intended to draw together best practices and processes as well as emphasize the requisite international dimension of game content development towards the goal of improving global game development processes and local end user experiences.
Who can become a member of the IGDA Localization SIG?
The IGDA is intended for individuals who work in the game industry or aspire to do so, as well as those who have a keen interest in professional game development. We encourage people to join the IGDA and then get involved with the Localization SIG at whatever level of engagement they desire. Generally, if someone shares a strong interest in game localization, then you’re absolutely welcome in the IGDA Loc SIG.
What are the SIG’s current initiatives and activities?
Like every SIG in the IGDA, the Localization SIG’s biggest challenge isn’t interest in our topic, but turning that interest into action in the form of more volunteers. We’ve had some active members step forward to help with various efforts, but we’d love to see more people be willing to volunteer their time, even if it’s a little bit per week or month. Beyond the goal of drawing together and building community among those involved in game localization, the SIG has several activities underway, including the following:
- Game Localization Summit: Launched in 2009, the Game Localization Summit at the huge Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is our one-day showcase of localization topics and experts. The Summit speakers often include SIG members.
- Game Localization Round Table: This is an ongoing series of dialogues on game localization that are held in conjunction with the Localization World conference. So it’s our way of bringing the games issues to the localization community, in the same way the SIG brings localization to the games community.
- Game Localization Standards: This is a huge effort and it’s frankly still getting off the ground, but we’re hoping it will eventually lead to industry-changing actions to improve localization process and quality. Standards in loc practices is one of the more challenging problems, so we decided to face it head on and see if we can make positive changes.
- IGDA Translation Force: This is a dedicated group of translators from the Loc SIG who have volunteered their time and skills to help the IGDA translate some of its content. We want to help emphasize the “International” component of the IGDA!
- SIG Gatherings at Industry Events: As much as possible, we strive to reinforce our sense of community, whether it’s getting together to talk shop or just to socialize. The point is to get together! So we often have SIG meetings and gatherings at various events, such as at Gamescom in Germany, the Tokyo Game Show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and so forth.
- Topic of the Week: We post a new topic every Monday to help encourage discussion among SIG members and a healthy exchange of ideas on a wide variety of topics, many of which are suggested by our members.
How does the Loc SIG feel about the current state of and the future of localization?
On one hand, we’re very encouraged by the role that localization plays in the game industry. The reality is that if you average out the revenues across regions, localization accounts for about 50% of all game industry revenue – that’s staggering! It emphasizes that localization is perhaps more mission critical to the industry than previously perceived. And the importance will only grow as existing markets mature and emerging gaming markets continue to arise (eastern Europe, southeast Asia, etc.).
The real challenge localization faces is both in perception and procedure. Every day we are shown that the model where localization occurs late in the game design and development cycle is obsolete. We have to help publishers and developers to transition a more integrated approach. Planning for an international audience starts at a game’s inception and continues throughout. With the importance of loc revenue and building global IPs, game design needs to shift from this “develop for the US and then translate” approach to “develop for the world”, and thinking more about “culturalization” as well. In addition to changing this perception, we need to see improvements in localization tools for game content – such as allowing translators to work within the game content itself and not from spreadsheets where the all-important context is lost.
What are your hopes for the SIG in the future?
Our hopes for the SIG’s future are really tied back to our initial mission. We’d like to see the SIG thrive as a focal point for the game localization community and continue to be a place where opinions are readily exchanged and new ideas can be forged. In addition, we really hope that the actions of the SIG will positively impact the perception of localization in the broader game development community; i.e., we hope they’ll view localization not as an afterthought but as a core part of game design and development.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into game localization?
At the moment, there isn’t any specific academic or trade resource that helps individuals with the specific issues in game localization. Obviously, it’s critical to fully understand localization processes and tools – that knowledge is fundamental. But to work in the game industry, one must first and foremost be a gamer and really love games. Understanding game content and the many complexities of various genres, platforms and audiences is so important to being able to be effective in game localization, and a lot of that knowledge comes from playing those games. That shared passion for games is also critical in gaining the trust and respect of game designers and developers; this not only improves localization’s role in the industry but also the overall quality of game titles worldwide.