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June 5, 2010
At the end of April 2007, I received an e-mail from Catan LLC, the American branch of the German Catan GmbH. Back then, I had already been working as a freelance translator for quite some time, and I used to routinely advertise my services online on various classified ads sites. The mail from Catan LLC was a reply to one of my ads. The company planned to localize its already existing German gaming website for English-speaking countries (especially the United States), and provided I met certain qualification requirements, I was offered to take over a significant part of the project. Online games – that wasn’t something I had been involved with so far, but somehow it sounded mighty interesting. Needless to say that I immediately visited the German website. Quite amazing! I still had the board games in mind I used to play with my parents and friends as an adolescent. However, what I found on the Catan website didn’t have much to do with Parcheesi/Ludo type of games or Monopoly. The games there were intriguingly different – complex and challenging while at the same time highly entertaining. I could well imagine myself collaborating on the translation of this website and also having lots of fun with it! I contacted Catan LLC immediately. One of the requirements regarding the translator they were looking for was that this person should be familiar with both the German and the American cultural sphere, which totally applied to me: I was raised in Germany and now lived in the United States for many years. Therefore, my conversation with Guido Teuber, Catan LLC’s Managing Director went very well, and after a brief probationary period I found myself inundated with work. Quite a few texts related to the Catan Online World had already been translated into English, but most of the work still needed to be done. From game instructions to business contracts – during the following months I was so saturated with translation work for Catan that I had to stop accepting work assignments from elsewhere. I didn’t regret this in the least, though, because I had begun to enjoy this new project quite a bit. The English localization of the website required constant communication with various members of the Catan team, and I was truly delighted with their helpfulness and team spirit. Really a nice experience! Of course, I also had immediately begun to try the online games. The Catan browser games were decidedly my favorites, maybe because they took relatively little time, which allowed me to play four different games per evening. After my girlfriend had caught me in the act a couple of times, she voiced her suspicion that I might have become addicted to gaming, and I actually didn’t know how to refute her comment. Then she wanted to know what these games were about, and I explained it to her. From this moment on, both of us could often be found sitting side by side at my computer playing the Dice Game, Oceania, Starship Catan Light, and Multicatan. Now, with two addicts in the family, things were normal again. Gavin playing Oceania The days were flying by. After some months, the most important translations were done, and the starting date for the English version of the COW was steadily approaching. In the context of the imminent launch, Catan GmbH and Catan LLC, respectively, were also looking for a community manager, that is, someone who would look after the new online community. Among other things, this person was supposed to act as a point of contact for questions and problems that might arise within the English-speaking COW community, put together a team of voluntary moderators, and coordinate the creation of new virtual cities of the Catan Online World. Guido told me that he had actually thought I might want to do this. Translations would continue to be my main activity, but in the future, they would keep me less busy, so maybe I’d agree to also dedicate some of my time to community management. Although this offer came as a surprise to me – I found the idea of directly contributing to building the new, English-speaking online community absolutely appealing. The great number of posts in the (at the time still all-German) PlayCatan forum had already convinced me that the Catan Online World was mostly populated by very nice and sociable game enthusiasts. I had, therefore, a very positive feeling about this additional task, so I didn’t ponder too long and agreed. As it turned out, my feeling had been quite accurate, and collaboration with the newly developing international online community was indeed a very rewarding task. Looking back, I think that my combined job at Catan was a very good choice. Having fun doing what you do and, in the process, working and communicating with nice people – what more can you ask for? Gavin Allister Share