Tif­fany Tan tells how an Amer­i­can gui­tar-strum­ming video game pro­gram­mer rein­vented his ca­reer in China.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

for ad­di­tional game fea­tures.

Chi­nese on­line games are prac­ti­cally un­known com­pared to top ti­tles such as World of War­craft (de­vel­oped by a US com­pany) and Fi­nal Fan­tasy XIV: A Realm Re­born (Ja­panese). But China’s game com­pa­nies are striv­ing for a big­ger slice of the global video game mar­ket, cur­rently worth $64 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to DFC In­tel­li­gence re­search firm.

China is al­ready a key player in the video game mar­ket, with 490 mil­lion users and earn­ings of $13.7 bil­lion last year, fig­ures re­leased in the 2013 China Games An­nual Con­fer­ence show. Do­mes­ti­cally de­vel­oped games grewby 29.5 per­cent to $7.9 bil­lion between 2012 and 2013.

On his big trans­la­tion pro­jects, which in­volve hun­dreds of thou­sands of Chi­nese char­ac­ters di­vided among sev­eral trans­la­tors, Dyer says the work is “in­tense”. While chas­ing tight dead­lines, he usu­ally spends six days a week pound­ing the com­puter key­board for up to 12 hours a day. This goes on for two to three weeks at a time.

Flu­ency in Chi­nese alone isn’t enough to get the job. Clients look for trans­la­tors who also un­der­stand the world of craft­ing video games.

“In trans­la­tion, peo­ple want to be­lieve in your lan­guage skills. But that’s just 50 per­cent,” Dyer says while sip­ping a cup of cof­fee. “They also want to be­lieve in your knowl­edge of their in­dus­try. That’s what is go­ing to al­low you to re­ally get what they’re try­ing to say, the sub­tleties of it.”

His ca­reer took off quickly, he says, be­cause it’s rare to find a trans­la­tor who has also worked at a video game com­pany. Plus, he was trained in com­puter and in­for­ma­tion sci­ence in col­lege and holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in East Asian lan­guages and cul­tural stud­ies.

As a free­lancer, he usu­ally makes between $25 and $40 an hour, based on the vol­ume of text he trans­lates. Dyer can earn up to four times the av­er­age Bei­jing monthly salary, but pe­ri­ods of fran­tic typ­ing over the years have taken a toll on his fingers.

The pain on them has also af­fected his mu­sic. He plays the gui­tar and dobro for Randy Abel Sta­ble, a semipro­fes­sional al­ter­na­tive coun­try band based in Bei­jing. Last year, he de­cided to shift the bulk of his work to lit­er­ary and art trans­la­tions.

Dyer has done short sto­ries that are pub­lished in the lit­er­ary mag­a­zine Path­light, in­clud­ing Li Zhishu’s Bei Bianchui (North­ern Bor­der), which talks about the loss of cul­tural iden­tity among Chi­nese peo­ple liv­ing in­Malaysia.

Though lit­er­ary and art trans­la­tions pay less than those for video games, Dyer wel­comes the gen­tler work pace. It’s not only good for his body but also his spirit, giv­ing him the op­por­tu­nity to im­merse him­self in worlds that au­thors weave.

He de­scribes the process as go­ing from a world of Chi­nese words to an “in­ner world of pure thought and feel­ing”, and re-emerg­ing into a world of English words. “It’s a weird kind of con­cen­tra­tion, but it’s a very beau­ti­ful feel­ing,” Dyer says, adding that it’s an ex­pe­ri­ence ab­sent from the straight­for­ward trans­la­tions for games.

Even as a pro­fes­sional trans­la­tor, he some­times loses his flu­ency in Chi­nese. He spends the ma­jor­ity of his days work­ing alone — read­ing, typ­ing and writ­ing — rather than con­vers­ing in Chi­nese.

“I worked in-house at a Chi­nese game com­pany for one year when I first got started,” he says, “and I used to give pre­sen­ta­tions at that com­pany in Chi­nese. I would be pan­icked to do that now be­causemy oral Chi­nese is rusty.”

But he couldn’t be hap­pier with the pro­fes­sional niche he has found. Los­ing his job in the dot-com bust turned out to be the spring­board for an­other ca­reer. Con­tact the writer at tif­fany@chi­


Com­puter pro­gram­mer Joshua Dyer has built a ca­reer in China help­ing the coun­try’s on­line and mo­bile game com­pa­nies trans­late their prod­ucts into English.

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