Here at Borderless Translations, we’re always keen to learn from fellow creators, especially those in the entertainment and gaming industries, where there is a huge demand for translation and localization.
We recently got the chance to sit down and chat with Stephanie Glover about her role as a senior game writer and its relationship with localization. Working with global teams, she uses her keen sociolinguistic awareness to not only to drive workflow, but to enhance the gaming experience for an international audience.
From a young age, Stephanie has enjoyed the world of fiction through reading and watching movies. It wasn’t until later that she was introduced to the world of gaming, and she has become a powerhouse in the industry. Let’s dive in and immerse ourselves in Stephanie’s world as she tells us her journey, the hurdles she overcame, and gives expert guidance for those who are looking to break into this field.
How did you get started as a writer? What led you down this particular path?
As a kid, I always loved reading and writing. By the time I got to college, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Initially, I always planned on writing movies and TV, then games became another avenue that I could explore.
I would say a few key things helped make the dream a reality: the support of my family and faith (personal and religious) that I could do it, always being ready to learn and trying to have humility, sticking with it, and working at it until it was good.
What do you like most about your industry? What are some of the challenges?
I love playing video games. I also really like producers, lol. The collaboration aspect is pretty awesome because everyone is working in their corner, but it really comes together and we create something awesome.
Challenge-wise? Deadlines. Sometimes it can be a lot to complete in a short amount of time. Being organized and tapping in with your producers regularly helps with that.
You can also meet really cool people who are super talented which is nice.
How do you network or find clients, or how did you land your current gig?
I got my job through my mentor. I connected with him through a mentorship program called Start with 8 Hollywood and Women of Color Unite. The program connected the mentees with mentors in creative industries across tv, movies, and games.
My mentor has been invaluable. He’s extremely supportive and just an awesome dude. He got me connected to a few other programs and this job. I’ve only gotten one gig through pure networking, and it was from someone in the organization Black in Gaming. Sometimes, gigs happen randomly, but take advantage of the opportunities, and who knows where it can lead.
Tell me about your experience working with localization services and teams. What have been some pros and cons of these experiences?
Making games more accessible and having your work presented and played on a global scale. It’s another way to meet the gamer where they are at, and it’s really important to do that in all aspects of game designs.
There aren’t cons, but there are definitely things that can trip you up.
Certain languages have really high character counts when you translate, like German. It can often be an issue for UI (user interface). You have to be mindful of how the text will look in English and how it will look localized and plan in advance. You also need to give locs (localizers) time to do their jobs, and that means having your ducks in a row. Try to think of games as a global experience throughout the planning and production process so you can be prepared.
Throughout the planning and production process, thinking of games as a global experience is smart because it alleviates some of the stress of the localization team.
Also be mindful of slang, particularly idioms and phrases that are Americanized. You can use it, but oftentimes, they don’t translate well (a lot of that also depends on the locs team). Have a global mindset when you write.
Next is dialogue, most words in American English aren’t masculine or feminine, but words can change based on if you’re talking to a man, woman, group, etc, so try to clarify that for locs.
Typos and grammar are really important. Localization is there to translate, not be your spell checker or grammar police, so get that together beforehand.
Also if you have a word that you don’t want translated, make it really clear. Either italicize it or bold it. Do something. Let’s say you have a French character who you want to say certain words in French and not be translated. Make sure you communicate that as clearly as possible.
Lastly, communication. It’s so important in basically everything in games dev, and it’s no different with locs.
From a narrative perspective, have you noticed times when the localization was not good? How have you had to adjust dialogue or sayings in translation?
This has never happened to me. I’m not saying it can’t, though. If you do need to adjust something, I would address it right away. You never want to be the cause of someone else being blocked (unable to work).
I would say go with the flow and trust that everyone is doing their job well. If someone asks you to adjust something, you can check with your producer or narrative director, but mostly just get on it and do it.
Do you have any productivity or organizational hacks you’d like to share?
If you don’t have time to do a task your producer or narrative director assigns you, do it right away, if possible. It doesn’t make sense, but I promise it will make life easier. Also, if you have tasks that block other people (prevent someone from working), then those always take priority.
If you have a lot of tasks that will take multiple days or weeks, give yourself something you can complete in a day or some small task. Completing something always feels good, so give yourself that boost.
Just get your first draft out. It’s not about being good or bad; the only thing a first draft needs to be is completed. Rewriting is writing, and it’s always easier when you aren’t looking at a blank page.
Utilize your producer. They are great people. If you are working alone or just in a rut, then you may need a producer. Organize tasks, break down work into manageable checks, set-up sprints and milestones. It will not only help you get things done; it’s how things will work when you’re at any well-run studio.
Any words of advice for those looking to break into the gaming industry?
Make games. Game Jams, solo games… whatever. Make it. And when you make games, always think about scope. One or two small, completed games that are well polished will always be better than one unfinished masterpiece. The reality is making big games takes a lot of time, so try to make a game you could complete in two-four weeks. Then polish the hell out of it.
Second, get a mentor! Connect with someone either by asking them questions or commenting on their work. Wait a couple months and reach out again. Keep the communication and conversation alive.
Network! All the greatest game makers started out just like you. You need to find your community. People you trust and can grow with. Start looking now.
Don’t give up. Breaking in is hard. Always be willing to learn more and grow more, and your career will be better for it.
Have fun! It’s video games!
Got any current projects you would like to share?
I’ve got two!
MOTHERGUNSHIP: FORGE on Oculus and Steam store. A roguelike VR where you can earn gun parts as you advance to craft crazy custom weapons with thousands of possible gun combinations. It’s getting amazing reviews and is available now.
The Walking Dead: LAST M.I.L.E. – a part TV/part interactive gaming experience where you can influence and interact within the world of TWD
How can we find you online? Website, social media, etc
You can connect with me on twitter @APRichardson89
Next time, we’ll continue talking to John Wolff and get his advice on networking and organizational hacks, plus hear about his new projects.
*Interview has been edited for clarity.