5 Things Playing Video Games Taught Me About Freelance Translation

Video Games | Jonathan Beagley | French Translator Melbourne

Source: pixabay.com

My partner and I recently got an Nvidia Shield TV, and I’ve spent an awful lot of time playing video games this past week while he was at work. Between upgrading my Mac Mini to OS X El Capitan and video games, I realised I ended up spending barely any time on my translation business! Despite not dedicating as much time to my business as I would have liked, I realised I actually learned some extremely valuable lessons about being a freelance translator… by playing video games of all things! By now you’re probably asking yourself what on earth I could have possibly learned from playing video games…

So What Did I Learn?

1. Set goals and put them in writing!

As I was trying to achieve various goals in Asphalt 8 (a racing game), I found myself struggling to achieve much of anything, until I realised my problem was that I didn’t write down my goals. One day I’d decide my new in-game goal would be to buy the Maserati GranTurismo, but the next morning I’d spend all my credit on an upgrade to an existing car, ruining all of my progress. Oops.

What was my problem? I didn’t write my goals down or even really spend much effort trying to consciously remember them, so I forgot them! This is equally true for your translation business. If you set yourself a goal of earning a certain salary in five years (for example) or to land a new high-end client by the end of the financial year, write it down! Make sure you have your goals (long-term as well as short-term) in writing, and check back periodically to make sure you’re still going in the right direction.

2. Develop strategies for avoiding distractions

My cat, Diego, being adorable.

This is my cat, Diego. It’s hard to get much of anything done with this furball around.

This is probably the most obvious lesson that I learned. It’s really easy to get distracted when you’re a freelancer, particularly if you have a lot going on in your personal life or have conflicting schedules with your partner or other family members. Work/life balance is, and probably always will be, one of the hardest parts of being a freelancer, but by developing strategies to avoid distractions, we can mitigate the damage, so to speak. I let myself get distracted by video games, but if I had set out a schedule for the week or written out a list of things I needed to do by the end of the week, I would have used my time more consciously.

Another way you can avoid distractions is to have a separate work space at home. I’ve realised that having my office in the bedroom is extremely detrimental to my workflow. For one thing, my cat’s food and water is also in the bedroom, so I have to leave the door open most of the time. If I turned the guest room into an office, it would be much easier to shut the door and physically separate myself from distractions.

3. Sometimes you just need more experience

Sometimes, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t manage to finish the race in first, second or even third place! I found that if I came back to levels a day or two later, I was usually able to do a lot better. When it comes to translation and interpreting, sometimes you just need some more experience before being able to take on a particularly difficult assignment. Know your limits when it comes to translation and interpreting, and you’ll save you and your clients a lot of time and frustration.

4. Take risks and experiment

I also found out that sometimes it really paid off to take risks and try something new, particularly when your old strategy is no longer working, but sometimes even when it seems to be working fairly well! I usually followed the same routes in my racing game because they were successful in previous races and with other cars I had tried. With newer, harder levels, however, I’d often find that my “tried and true” routes were actually not the best way to go after all.

You may have had success with a particular marketing strategy, for example, but if you start to notice a dip in your client base, well, maybe it’s time for something completely different (if you get the cultural reference, please let me know in the comments).

5. Push yourself

This might seem contradictory to the third lesson I learned, and you’d probably be right. But there’s a fine line between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and going way beyond your abilities. It might seem easy to stick with what you know, and I certainly found myself sticking with the same levels and cars in Asphalt 8, but every so often, you have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to improve. By trying harder levels, I learned more and gained more experience. When it comes to translation and interpreting, you have to keep pushing yourself in order to gain experience and keep learning.

One great way to push yourself is through professional development. By signing up for MOOCs, for example, you can go outside of your comfort zone with relatively little risk. MOOCs are an incredibly useful tool for translators and interpreters, especially when it comes to developing specialist knowledge.

"If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner." - Tallulah Bankhead

How About You?

Have you ever learned anything about translation, freelancing or interpreting from something unexpected like video games? Let me know in the comments!

One comment on “What I Learned About Translation by Playing Video Games

  • Hi Jonathan, nice article.

    The part at the beginning about upgrading your computer though strikes me. In my experience (this is Robert with Zingword), nothing is more necessary or distracting than updating a computer, backing up files, waiting for long transfers or file copies…

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. 😉

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