Video games were once the realm of Pacman and Space Invaders, with various blobs moving across screens accompanied by a symphony of bleeps (don’t get me wrong, those games are still amazing). But as the technologies evolved to allow for more complex and immersive video game experiences, the characters and sounds of video games have evolved as well. The current format is like a complex and interactive film, and in many ways, the actors are as important as they would be in a film or TV show. Yet, for the most part, video game actors remain anonymous, hidden behind various animated characters.
Voice acting is a very different gig to regular on-screen acting, or to acting at the theater. For one thing, there is no set script but rather a series of optional and interactive choices. They characters and the dialogue depend on the players and the choices they make within the game. Today’s video games are often full of stunning visuals, and have great actors; but there are still problems with shoddy script writing, discrimination and more. Yet the genre continues to evolve and improve providing the world with more compelling characters and storylines in each new game.
For a long time, video game characters have been popular animated figures powered by anonymous actors. For example, think back to Lara Croft. We can all remember the movie with Angelina Jolie, but how many of us can actually remember the voice actor behind the video game? (The truth is there were actually a whole series of actors). Today this voice anonymity is starting to shift as increasing numbers of celebrities voiced video game characters. And this makes sense especially considering the top video games easily make more than similar Hollywood Blockbusters. Grand Theft Auto V made an enormous $1 billion dollars in just three days.
So who are all these celebrities lending their fame to video games? Well, Gary Oldman voiced the Call of Duty series, the incredible Sir Patrick Steward has voiced a number of games, and Ron Perlman has reportedly voiced over 25 separate video games. Emma Stone and Lucy Lui have also lent their voices to various different games. In fact, there is now a very long list of celebrity voices in video games, an industry that is reportedly worth an enormous 111 billion dollars.
But despite the celebs, the size of the industry, and its increasing development and success in recent years, the gaming industry is all set to go on strike on October 21st. The issue at the center of things is the enormous profitability of the industry versus the fact that voice actors in video games still make so much less than actors in Hollywood blockbusters. In addition, many of the actors have complained about vocally stressful sessions including screaming and shouting that can actually cause long-term damage to actor’s voices.
While the compensation issue remains to be settled, it is clear that voice is at the center of the gaming world. However great the visuals are, without a compelling storyline and realistic characters, video games just wouldn’t have the same appeal to target audiences. So paradoxically, while the technologies are moving us further away from the real world, voice remains the center of things, anchoring the games in a real-world and almost personal connection with ever more elaborate characters. And this is just the beginning; VR and AR look set to completely revolutionize the gaming industry. Provided actors are compensated fairly, the future of gaming is all set to look and sound fantastic.
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