There are countless possible settings in which to place the action in a video game. It could take place in China during the Ming dynasty, any real or imagined galaxy, grandma's garden, some fictional 2D cartoon world, post-war Europe, or Salt Lake City after a zombie apocalypse (real or imagined). The same variety goes with game objectives: your purpose might be to learn how to cook, to rescue the damsel in distress (she just never seems to learn), simulate fishing in the open sea, or to kill everyone who wears orange shoes. Because orange shoes just look stupid.
A game can be about a number of topics. And that is where the translator’s research skills are being put to the test. It is obviously a big advantage if you are already familiar with the topic, but hey, no one can know everything. And there is a limit to how many hobbies and interests one can have.
We are expected to know about orcs, goblins, elephants, cacti, zombies, little ponies, flying purple vegan bats. Is this a fantasy game? An authentic pet simulation? Does it teach you how to take care of a garden?
We have to know—or at least know how to find out—what the newspaper jargon is, how a weather report sounds, how a sports reporter talks about an ongoing game. And then we have to know what terms are being used in football/soccer, in American football, in swimming, in golf, in tennis, and in motor sports.
We have to know how an emperor addresses his subjects, his empress, his children, other royals, and the pope, and how in turn they all address their emperor.
We have to know how a witch curses. We have to know about street talk, how children speak, how arrogant uneducated people speak, how uneducated people spoke 1,000 years ago, how teenagers in love talk in Germany, Japan, or in Afghanistan. We have to know how rednecks talk, how geeks talk, how shy girls talk, how shy Japanese boys talk, how American farmers talk, and how farmers from the South of Russia talk—and we have to be able to make them sound alive and authentic when translating them into our languages.
We have to express not just laughters, but shy laughters, evil laughters, a baby’s laughter, and Santa’s laughter. Does it sound like “Haha” or “Hehe” , “LOL”, or more like “Har har”? Wait—isn't Santa the dude who Hohohos?
We may have to put aside our pacifist nature and become pros when it comes to firearms, melee weapons, and explosives. We have to know about wedding cakes, hairdos, dressmaking, racing cars, French cuisine, white magic, and black magic. If a curious burglar who happened to break into my house analyzed my browser history, she would probably come to the following conclusion:
And she would only be partially right. I just really hope that whoever those government spies are that are watching me have done enough research to know that I am not studying gunnery to pursue an evil plan to take over the galaxy, but that I am merely a game translator.
Thank you for reading!