Video games are one of pop culture’s strongest fronts right now. Their ascent from niche entertainment to a mammoth $120 billion/year industry is nothing short of mindblowing. It’s no wonder, then, that many voice actors are now gunning for a piece of the video game pie. Luckily, the internet has now made that easier than ever; video game voice acting for beginners is easier than ever. You too can git gud and chart a new, exciting career path for yourself!
“What’s that about video games I’m saying? I’m a serious actor, mind you! Isn’t all that gaming crap just for kids and basement-dwellers?” Let me stop you right there, Bucko! Sure, it’s true that not every game that you lend your talents to is going to be King Lear. But, if you want to challenge yourself and stretch your creative and professional capabilities, gaming’s where it’s at right now. Over time, video games have become a legitimate means of artistic expression that can now stand toe to toe with the best of ’em.
Don’t believe me? Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the character range that you can explore in video games, as well as video game voice actor practice. You’ll find that there’s an incredibly diverse, far-reaching variety of plots, themes, and styles to look at. With even celebrities and Hollywood A-listers giving games their everything, you can bet you’ll be in rarefied company!
Let’s dig right in!
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
Video Game Voice Acting for Beginners- A Small Primer
Voice acting, as you know, is the practice of recording a voice-over which corresponds to a character or role in a piece of media. This type of acting doesn’t always have to correspond to fictional characters, but often will. You’ll also see voice acting being performed to provide information or context to an audience, such as in narration.
In video games, voice acting has had a long and storied career stretching far back into the medium’s history. Games, at first, were hampered by various technological limitations that made the use of human recorded voices impossible. But, as time marched on and those limitations gave way to new opportunities, matters evolved. Slowly, games began to have fully-voiced casts of characters that rivaled any big production in the world of animation.
Indeed, this didn’t quite happen overnight, but over a long, tortuous process. The industry hadn’t had much video game voice actor practice when the 90s and CD-ROMs suddenly made voices de rigueur. You can bet your bottom dollar that while some games offered respectable, credible efforts, plenty left much to be desired. These blunders of the 16-bit and 32-bit eras still haunt gaming’s reputation to this day. If you don’t believe me, then watch the following video — it’s pretty telling that most of these lines are from 90s gaming.
Sure, you can also blame poor scripting and directing standards for quite a few of these lines. No doubt most of these actors were capable of turning in better work than what we heard here, and this selection is giving them short shrift. Regardless of who’s to blame, this is the type of shameful voice acting display games have worked hard to eradicate. In a way, the industry itself had to move away from “video game voice acting for beginners”.
What Video Game Voice Actor Practice Brought to the Table
In one simple concept, quality standards. Gamers were not as undiscerning a bunch as the uninitiated would have you believe. They pushed for change, endlessly mocking the ridiculous voice acting in games and propping up the better examples. “This is what we want!” they clamored. And, luckily for all, they were heard. The industry worked hard to clean up its game and improve its voice acting standards across the board.
This included, but was not limited to, bringing in voice directors who had worked in the animation or movie industries. It also meant upping their localization game significantly; many games were (and are still) made in Japan, which led to much being lost in translation. Shenmue was one of the most expensive video game titles (a whopping $80 million) in 1999. It was one of the first examples of a fully-voiced, open-world video game. It also had peculiar qualities that made it hew close to a Japanese life sim than a traditional role-playing game. Many of the acting choices, will clunky, worked perfectly in Japanese.
But, when the voice directors asked the English voice cast to try the same stilted, highly-formalized style, things didn’t quite work out so well. The fact that the game contained quite a few outdated, out-of-touch stereotypes didn’t exactly help matters any.
Safe to say, we’re doing a significantly better job with video game voice acting in the 2020s. It comes down to:
- Great translations, which include excellent localization work.
- Great voice casting.
- Excellent voice direction.
Check out some great examples of voice acting from the last 20-25 years and see how far we’ve come!
Video Game Voice Acting for Beginners: Give it Your All
First of all, your “B” effort is not going to give you a passing grade even with indie developers. Most gamers in their 20s and 30s grew up with at least decent to good voice acting being the norm. Therefore, if you think you’re going to be able to sleepwalk through a role because they don’t know what’s what, think again.
So, it’s a good time to draw upon previous roles and inspirations. The first thing you’re going to have to do is get in character. That means inhabiting and completely embodying your character. In our article about the subject, we wrote:
(…) In voice acting, you’ll be getting acquainted with you or your voice actor’s alter ego – the dramatis persona they’re going to be inhabiting.
That’s when a good voice actor also needs supplemental material. In fact, knowing how to get into character requires researching as much as doing. It’s not just about trying on a voice and seeing if it fits due to some past association. If you want to rely on well-trodden tropes, nobody’s going to stop you. But, unless you’re looking for something particularly stereotypical and one-note, there will usually be more hurdles than just trying to find what’s been done before.
(…) And that’s not all. Depending on the requirements of the script, you may also be given extra materials from your voice director; there may be more backstory that can be used to fill out the blanks; there could be extra scripting or directions that may inform the voice actor of intended vocal tics or performance details. The interplay between a detailed preparation by actor, director, and creative team can make or break some projects. The more there is to dig into, the more the character can be fleshed out into a real, tangible person.
In short: know thyself. Know the character you’re going to be inhabiting like the back of your hand.
Give The Character a Test Run
Getting to know a character is not a destination, but a process. Before you come to a close-to-definitive version, you’ll go through many iterations. What’s more, even professionals evolve their characters throughout a show, movie, or game’s runtime; they’re not stationary, immutable beings, but people who grow and change over time. Overall, this sort of development should be an expected part of your video game voice actor practice. You’ll mostly consider two kinds of development:
- Developing the character during the “test run” phrase. This means trying out different takes, versions, and approaches to how the character should talk. What makes them identifiable? Do they have tics? Are they the main character or an NPC? What’s the tone of the game? Are you playing with or against the character’s “type”?
- The other is character development. This type of change is internalized in the game’s script. How will the character grow and evolve over time? If they’re the main character, who are they as people at the beginning and end of a story? How do you reflect that in your vocal performance?
Of course, not all characters require such depth. You can also experience a variety of accents, stereotypes, and tropes that will do just fine for games that don’t hinge on story development.
Video Game Voice Acting For Beginners: The Spice of Life
Variety should be one of the cornerstones of your video game voice actor practice. Not every game is going to require you to read a book’s worth of character development. For instance, let’s check out a case study for an indie video game made by the developer Games Foundry.
If you’re great at comedic impersonations and improv, this might just be the type of gig for you. Not every character you do has to win a BAFTA award. Sometimes fun, lighthearted character work can also go a long way. Especially when it comes to voice acting for beginners, it’s not very likely that you’ll get called for marathon sessions that require weeks and weeks of time in the booth.
Some Final Notes
Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to get ahead in the video game industry nowadays. Opportunities abound, as well as sites where it’s easier to get work than ever before. For example, our very own Bunny Studio offers a stable of over 28,000 dedicated voice actors and actresses, and we’re always hiring new talent. Many of our pros regularly do video game work for a living.
Video game voice acting for beginners is no longer pie in the sky if you know what you’re doing! Whether you’re starting out in the industry or a hardened professional who wants to try their hand, there’s plenty of opportunities out there for you.
Ready to take the plunge?