Earlier last year I was commissioned to write an article for Voices Pro, an online directory of professional voice over artists and voice talent. Having been recognised as ‘up and coming talent’, I was asked to give my top tips for working in Video Game Voice Acting. The result is below:
“Oh…and Danus and Nellis…”
“…and Itan-Ru and Veric…”
“…and Arthas, Hikim, Belthor, and Jal Wolfsbane. And the deadline is tomorrow. Is that okay?”
As a voice artist, you’ll probably find yourself using a specific set of voices over and over again; ones that you are comfortable with and that fit perfectly into the standard requirements of, say, a radio spot. In this kind of job, you find the right voice, you open up the script, and you get to work. Boom, and the job is done.
With a radio spot, you can guarantee that 99.9% of the time, you’re going to be voicing an everyday, bog-standard human. With video game voice overs, it’s not that simple.
You’ll be voicing everything from dragons to Swedish wool salesmen. Suddenly, you’ll find your voice being pushed right to its limits. No longer are you in your comfort zone.
I won’t lie – video game voice overs are some of the most difficult jobs I’ve ever done. Voice actors will find themselves playing six or seven roles, all of whom will be very different. Each of these characters will have to become a reality. No longer is *insert role here* a fictional, paper character. Now, you need to become a Scandinavian trader, who has just found out his best friend has been murdered. If you don’t, you’ll just sound fake, half-hearted, and people just won’t care. Players don’t see you, they see your character. They need to believe that the millions of pixels they’re talking to is a living, breathing character, with a story to tell. Those pixels can only do so much – the makers of the game are relying on you to portray the real emotion in the scene.
You need to become as versatile as you can with your voice.
- Start to enhance your repertoire. A good way of doing this is to play games! After playing only three games, you will have encountered probably twenty or more completely unique characters. Listen to one, maybe even try it out. Like magic, you’ve just developed a brand new voice and character! Start to perfect it – find a book, and read a chapter out loud in that character’s voice. Let it become as natural as your own. Stand in front of a mirror, and talk in your new voice. Watch your face, and study how it moves. That’s how your voice’s character naturally looks when he or she speaks! Now you can watch the characters develop themselves, in front of your very eyes. I have one character, Bill, an Italian-American, and when he speaks, he drawls, his lips pursing up and his mouth lolling slightly to the right. He appeared one day after I’d decided to copy some voices from the video game
- , and now he features in a number of video games you might have played yourself!
You’ll need to be willing to work late nights and early mornings because stories and characters change very quickly.
- The hours for video game voice overs are crazy. Deadlines can be very tight, with so many characters to voice, and you’ll need to be working hard both in the studio but also at home, developing the characters. Games can be heavily influenced by real public events, and suddenly it might not be wise to have a Russian villain, so you’ll have to re-record the bad guy’s lines in a very short space of time.
Work on your editing skills.
- In most of my first video game jobs, I had to edit my own work. Indie developers and small games companies do not always have the in-house facilities to edit, so they’ll be relying on you to provide high quality audio. This can be very time consuming, especially if you’re not 100% sure on what to do. To give you a head start in the business, a good basic grasp of editing is a definite plus.
Write that novel you’ve always dreamed of.
- It might sound crazy, but story writing is a huge help when it comes to video game voice overs. If you can create a back story for your characters, they become so much more believable. Maybe your character is a warrior. Where does he come from? Why is he a warrior? What is he doing here? If you can answer these questions, everything he says can be trusted and believed. Before you record his lines, read his story. Get to know him; become him. Everything sounds natural and real.
As cheesy as it sounds, enjoy it! Really let yourself grow into a character. Go crazy and let your creative juices flow, because voice acting in modern games is becoming more and more important. No longer are games designed as arcade shooters! People want story, plot twists, and heart-wrenching emotional scenes, and it’s in your hands to deliver this! So what are you waiting for?
You can find the original article here.