From getting paid to play video games to founding a company with international clients - this is the story of Shloc, a company that makes it work with a team of expert freelancers and an absolute love for what they do.
After graduating from university, Oli Chance snagged what seemed like a dream job: getting paid to play video games all day.
Originally testing for technical and linguistic issues, his colleagues eventually turned to him for translation. Having studied Japanese at the University of London, with a year exchange in Tokyo, Chance was able to translate and edit video games from Japanese into English for the European and U.S. markets.
Chance went on to found Shloc, a video game translation company that works with a team of multilingual freelancers he’d originally met while later working at Nintendo in Frankfurt.
Starting with Japanese-to-English translation, the team quickly branched out into translating into other languages. They've added German and Spanish and are now developing Chinese and Korean teams, with an eye on expanding into Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian and Arabic.
Chance says: "You have to find a way of transmitting that feeling, that experience of playing the original....to work it into something that really is believable in the target language."
Taking games global
Shloc has offices in London and Tokyo, with four in-house staffers and forty freelancers across the globe working in nine languages. How do you make that work?
They have one thing in common - their love for video games from mainstream to cult favorites, and a knack for creating convincing dialogue that feels like the original language of the game.
Chance stresses the importance of translating experience through language:
Anything that pulls you out of the narrative, anything where you say ‘Why is it expressed that way?’, is detrimental to the experience... any bumps around the edges are going to be noticeable.
Shloc’s most recent translation project, from Japanese to English, was Dragon Quest II in April 2017. Its skillful storyline was quickly hailed by reviewers, one who noted that it’s a challenge to craft a likeable cast of individual characters, something Dragon Quest Heroes II delivers with aplomb.
Other recent projects include cult favorite The Last Guardian, translated from Japanese to English, and Grim Fandango, a visually spectacular adventure game translated from English to Japanese. Chance explains the importance of translating cultures as well as language:
You can’t give someone a sense of childlike wonder if you’re giving them straight translations of awkward things that don’t quite fit that culture.
Not lost in translation nor payment
The team aims to branch out into native English video games for the American and European markets, creating their own dialogue for original games the first time.
How to fuel this with a freelance team? The logistics of paying the freelance team seemed difficult, but he found an easier solution in TransferWise:
We had to pay 20 freelancers over countries spread all over Europe and the world... I first found options that charged high per-transfer fees and offered terrible exchange rates... both we and our freelancers lost out badly.
He first found options that would charge too high of an exchange rate. But he was impressed with the low rate and ease-of-use of TransferWise – a win-win for both him and his translators at the receiving end who don't get stung by bad exchange rates on their pay.
TransferWise charges just 1% or 0.7% over $5,000 with no mark-up - that means you get a far better exchange rate.
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