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in Localization

LocJAM2: videogame translation contest

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We started planning in December 2013 and held the first edition in March 2014. The response was astonishing, with more than 500 participants, 34 winning entries discussed and published online and 7 free workshops organized all over the world.We have now launched a second edition that will be held between February 22 and March 1 2015.

We're talking about the LocJAM contest here. A non-profit initiative aimed at spreading the word about video game localization.

The contest is open to everyone, but about 40% of participants are translators (equally divided between game specialists), while another 35% is made by students (predominantly from language studies).

Translators need limited technical skills. We expect people to be able to download the files, unzip them, edit them and upload them. But that aside we want everyone to be able to participate. And in doubt, we have an active online group where they can ask questions freely.

It's organized by a group of volunteers, coordinated by team GLOC on behalf of the IGDA Localization SIG.

The IGDA (International Game Developers Association) is the largest non-profit association devoted to game developers, with over ten thousand members from all over the world.Its Localization Special Interest Group, created in 2007, acts as a focal point for all the professionals involved with translating, localizing, internationalizing and in general adapting video games for a global audience.

Team GLOC is a small freelance team specialized in English to Italian translation, in charge of planning and managing the event.

Finally, entries are reviewed by more than 20 of the largest game localization agencies on the market, while the workshops are organized by a dozen of translation specialists, all of which volunteer to the project for free.

The contest works as follows: We take a short open source title, and hire a programmer to make it very easy to localize. Then we put it online and invite everyone to submit their translations through the LocJAM.org website. Behind the scenes, some of the largest game localization agencies in the world volunteered to review them (in anonymous form) and then pick their winners among professionals and amateurs.

Paradoxically, it’s not a best translator award. It’s not the Oscars of video game translators, and it isn’t aiming to be. Making an award of that kind is a huge commitment we cannot really take at this time.

So, instead of having a single jury telling others what is right and what is wrong, we have multiple people simply choosing their favorite version and telling their reasons, without any pretense of universality.

Which people? Translation agencies specialized in video games. Why? Because they manage a good 90% of the games you will see when stepping inside your local Gamestop. While this doesn’t give them the right to dictate standards to everyone (something we already decided LocJAM doesn’t do), it does give weight to their word.

Also, agencies are the only ones to have the resources to review so many entries (even the universities I spoke with said they would struggle to deal with it) and those who have the most to lose if they give a biased verdict (after all, it will be their name and reputation next to that lousy choice).

We have three requirements for the jurors

  • They must be a localization agency specialized in video games
  • They must have a physical office (possibly with a recording studio) in the country where the language they will evaluate is spoken
  • They must have a good reputation (no negative feedback for late payments and such)

During the month of February we will have free workshops all around the world, from Brazil, to Spain, to Japan. Then, from the 22nd of February, the new game (which is still to be announced) will be published on locjam.org and we will accept entries until the end of March the 1st. After that, jurors will start reviewing them and will nominate their winners (one pro and one amateur each) by the end of May. Winners will then be announced on the website and will be invited for a studio tour of the juror who chose them.

To be clear, we built the LocJAM as an online event because we wanted to be as inclusive as possible. Wherever you are, no matter what you do, all you really need to participate is a computer with internet access.

This said, we soon wondered how to include some local events too. Nothing strictly required, no pretense of giving a thorough coverage, but a nice extra for those who might be interested. This turned out to be one of the most heart-warming parts of the event; there’s nothing quite like seeing people having a great time to remember why we are doing all this.

I must admit that "workshop" is a misnomer. Most events are mainly conferences; a chat about localization more than a hands-on localization lab. But we are keen to keep them tied to the contest as much as we can.

We have three requirements for the workshops

  • The workshop must be free – but it’s acceptable to have a mandatory drink or another small fee for covering room costs
  • The workshop must be non-promotional – it should talk about game localization in general, not how Mr X and company Y are great at it!
  • The workshop must be held by specialist in video game translation – there can be sections on other aspects, but game text and its translation and adaptation should be the core of the event

The contest will widen its reach, bringing its jury to 20 members in order to evaluate Brazilian Portuguese and Russian on top of French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish (European and South American). It will also reaffirm its independent and nonprofit nature, staying free of any external sponsorship, requiring all activities to be free and volunteer based, and supporting the open-source movement. Not only will this year's game be based on the open-source Twine environment, but the localization platform built for the contest will allow translation of any other Twine game, making them accessible to whole new audiences.

All translated entries from LocJAM1 are playable here, together with the comments of the jurors who chose them http://us3.campaign-archive2.com/?u=f5f1dfbc2311c346640678633&id=30897aa419

You can also familiarize with the new translation platform here www.localization.it/road-locjam2-open-beta/ We will change the game, but everything else will be pretty much the same.

Tagged in: gaming translation

Alain Dellepiane is an English to Italian freelance translator, editor and project manager specialized in videogames. His career includes titles like Pro Evolution Soccer 2015, Naruto: The Broken Bond, Papers Please and countless others bound by non-disclosure agreements. Co-chair of the Localization Special Interest Group of the International Game Developers Association, he is the creator and administrator of the LocJAM nonprofit game translation contest. He makes the best gnocchi al pesto his Tokyo neighborhood ever saw (and quite possibly the only ones)

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