How Dumbed Down Acting Is Creating Dumbed Down GamesS

There's an interesting story over at The Brainy Gamer that discusses the techniques of voice acting and how it rarely applies to voice acting in games, mostly because of time and money constraints.

Michael Abbott talked to a voice actor who explains how the typical tools of an actor aren't just disused, they're a hindrance for many game developers.

The problem, it seems, is that to deliver a believable performance an actor has to be able to understand the character they are voicing. They need to know the story and how their character fits into it. But time is money, and most studios, according at least to the actor interviewed, value first-take, final take actors over actors who want to develop a little more depth for their characters.

The actor Abbott interviewed said they almost never receive the script prior to showing up.

When you arrive for the session you're handed a side [a script with one character's lines and lead-in cues]. You have some time to look it over, and the Voice Director and maybe a producer are there to discuss it with you. But basically, you get the script, you set some levels, and off you go.

Q: So you don't know the story or anything?

A: They'll explain the basic gist of it, but mostly you're concentrating on short snippets of dialogue. I like to know as much as I can, obviously, but you have to remember the clock is ticking, and every minute you're not recording costs money. And, no surprise, they like actors who work efficiently. If you're cooperative and you've got some flexibility, and if they get the sense that you're a first-take / best-take kind of guy, you're going to work with them again.

Q: How do you create a character with so little information?

A: You throw out all your training for one thing. (Laughs) If they know your work they might say they're looking for something similar to what you did on another gig, but maybe a little gruffer or more aggressive or whatever. It's very simple stuff. Inflections and modulation mostly. I'm not sure I would call it characterization.

As a solution, Abbott recommends that developers bring voice actors into the process much early, allowing them to help evolve the script and the characters. Also, allow them to rehearse, play the game and talk to the animators.

Wait, actors working with developers to create a more cohesive product? That's crazy talk.

Reading through the article, I couldn't agree more with Abbott. It sounds like the way some video games are created is more similar to mass producing cars than creating movies. It's no wonder that the results can be so all over the place.

Voice For Change [The Brainy Gamer]