Videogame voices are one of the key components in video games; a good voice can lead to the success of the game, whereas a voice that doesn’t quite work, well, it can be the demise of the game. Check out some tips and information for finding just the right voice and voice artist for your videogame, and why it’s so important.
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
The Importance of Just the Right Videogame Voices
We’re not playing Pong anymore. With the intricacies of videogames today, the voice needs to match the high tech visuals. And that means it needs to be professional and captivating while reflecting the characters. A video game voice can make or break your video game. A good voice will draw players in, bring them back, and help them form a bond with the character.
A bad voice, on the other hand, can be a deterrent to the enjoyment of the game. And bad doesn’t really mean ‘bad” but it can mean inconsistent or unrelatable. It can also mean it doesn’t suit the character or it’s not as professional as it could be. Just as in a film or animated piece, the voice is essential for success. Don’t skimp here, do what you can to find just that right voice.
We can take a look to Japan and the success of voice acting there. This Bunny Studio article shares how valued and important voice actors are there. In fact, Japan produces around 60% of all animated series seen throughout the world. Yeah, they clearly know what they’re doing with voice acting there. And video games and videogame voices are a huge genre, both in Japan and in the rest of the world.
So how do you find that perfect voice?
Let’s Start with a Little History
Like most things film and video, we’ve seen quite an evolvement over the years. Some of us may remember some of the first video games…the aforementioned Pong (oh boy) and then Space Invaders.
Techcrunch shares a little history…Though video games were around in the mid 20th century, the home console and game didn’t gain popularity until the mid-’70s with the Atari console. Pong was the star. Needless to say at this time there weren’t really voices but maybe a few scarce and rudimentary sound effects. Arcades were popular, too. You’d see them in malls, bowling alleys, maybe some restaurants. Remember Pac Man and Asteroids?
Then came Space Invaders. This game was integral in the evolvement of gaming, but soon more advanced technology changed the game. People began to code and the more advanced, multiplayer games were born. And soon, we had cool visuals and voice over.
Voice over in video games like Grand Theft Auto were game-changers (no pun, here). According to this article, Tech experts say it has changed people’s perceptions of videogames and their audience and had a transformational effect on the gaming industry itself. Part of this is the visuals connecting to the voices.
As video games progressed in all aspects, the voices in them had to as well. Therefore, voice acting in videogames has become a huge field and the successful actors are in big demand. Makers know that for a game to be successful, the voice has to be just right.
Looking at the Right Fit for Videogame Voices
As with any film, anime, or any kind of voice work, the voice needs to match the character and appeal to the audience at the same time. And it can tricky with video games, but when it works, it’s a beautiful thing.
Some voice actors describe this genre as the toughest there is. Backstage.com shares some insight:
The actors have little doubt that working in the rugged world of video games has sharpened their dramatic skills and boosted their self-confidence, suggesting the demands of other performing gigs will be relatively easy in comparison.
It’s challenging not only because of the dramatic force required but also because it’s often performed solo in a recording space. Then all the voices are put together. The dialogue may not always be deep, but it’s intense. It can be difficult to drum up that intensity when you’re alone. That takes talent.
Another reason to get just the right fit is that these characters need to bond with the players. There needs to be believability and credibility. Video game characters have become very realistic and if their voices aren’t in line with their characters, you’re going to have an issue. We’ve also got a wider range of characters these days, which means a wider range of voice talent.
Challenges With Videogame Voices
Believe it or not, some say videogame voice artists report it being the toughest, most challenging work they’ve done. As mentioned, it’s dramatic and isolating. Gravy for the Brain tells us more about this:
Voicing for a video game is a very demanding type of voice acting. The video games have characters that are presented as real people and in addition you may a host of different characters. As a voice actor, you truly have to create a believable and conversational delivery for the characters you create. A further complexity is that depending on the game, you get to portray different aspects of a character based on player choices. When a player makes choices about a character, they need to feel that the voice still fits.
It can also be demanding to voice video game characters because they are so dynamic. So when searching for a voice artist, make sure to find someone who can keep up with this demand.
Also, because of the activity involved in video game characters, the voice must match that activity. For instance, a running character needs to sound like he’s running. If he’s climbing or lifting or falling, his voice has to match the action. Whether he’s out of breath or shot, he needs to have expression in his voice. This can be difficult for new voice actors; often the ones with more experience are the ones who are the videogame voices.
You may see that often it’s the guys who are the main characters in games. One theory is that the male voice is more domineering, so when he yells, “Duck” or “Run” he gets your attention quicker. The female characters are often secondary characters. This isn’t always the case, but it often enough is.
And all the shouting can cause a lot of vocal stress. With hours of shouting and high-intensity work, this work can do a number on the voice. It’s all-important for those who work in videogame voices to take extra care to maintain the health and sound of their voices.
The Skillset of a Voice Artist for Video Games
So it seems that the pros specializing in video game voice-overs have a very special set of skills. They’re not the amateurs or the new guys. These are the guys with the experience and the talent. But what makes them so special?
One thing is the vocal sound itself. According to Backstage, most videogame voices are cast with male actors who have a strong hero’s voice and a low register. You know, tough guy or warrior. Someone who you don’t want to mess with but gets your respect. For women who are often the sidekick or have a minor role, the standard voice is the strong, clear voice that suggests someone leading the charge. Sometimes they want a more ambient, even tone from the women. But for both male, female, and gender-neutral, the voices are becoming more diverse.
Another skill important of voices for video games is the endurance of the voice. Recording can take a few hours and then you’re back the next day. It’s also just not a matter of sitting and reading the lines. Many of the actors get into the character but going through the motions (at least on a small scale) and this can be physically exhausting. So endurance is part of this skillset.
Video game voice artists have a knack for getting into their character. This comes with that movement, the stance, the whole package. It makes the voice more credible and keeps the character going. They’ve got to express that passion and intensity often found in video game characters.
So not only should you look for the voice itself to match the character, but the character also needs to come alive with. An actor who not only has that great voice, but also the ability to become the character will just make the game better.
How About Some Celebrity Videogame Voices?
We can see that voice acting video games is a true talent, and to prove this even more, we see many celebrities take on the role of video game characters.
- Kristen Bell as Lucy Stillman in Assassin’s Creed
- Ian Alexander as Lev in The Last of Us: Part II
- Emma Stone in Sleeping Dogs
There’s also Elijah Wood, Ellen Page, Keifer Sutherland, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Hamil. Clearly there’s talent here. Those breaking into this field can take a listen and learn some great techniques from these big names.
The Bottom Line on Videogame Voices
The voice of a video game connects the player to the game. Players draw from the rush of the voice and become part of the game. They can enjoy the game much more as it becomes a story, a narrative that they are a part of. With a strong voice, the characters come alive. That’s what the games are all about, immersion and interaction.
As you search for just the right voice artist for your videogame, keep in mind your character’s personality, nuances, demeanor, as well as his or her voice. When you find that right actor, you’ll know it. And then your game can come alive.