5 Reasons Voiceover Actors Should Get Into Gaming

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When Chris Borders, CEO and director of full-service video game voiceover company TikiMan Productions, started working in video games in 1993, the voices “were primarily driven by cartoony, cute characters.” They weren’t fleshed out and didn’t have backstories that transcended the characters’ basic goals. It wasn’t necessary to know why Mario was saving Princess Peach for the gamer to save her. He just had to do it.

But as video games have grown in scope, so have the stories they tell and the roles of the actors who voice those stories’ characters. Borders says technological advances, like motion capture, demand legitimate acting chops. “Like television in the 1950s, the quality has gotten better and better,” he says. “Video games are the same way. Video games are the television set of this generation. It’s a completely different genre that has dominated this new generation.”

A strong background in acting training is a must, he says, because “script writers can write a script but it takes an actor to embellish the script. I tell a lot of actors today, ‘Have strong acting skills.’ Don’t give up your acting classes to get into the voiceover industry.”

The evolution of video games has been a boon for actors with experience in other forms of voiceover. “I appreciate the writing and the art of it. It’s gotten significantly better,” says longtime voiceover actor Steve Blum, whose work can be heard in the “Call of Duty” and “Dragon Age” franchises, along with the second and third volumes of “Mass Effect,” among other titles. “We get to explore the lives and histories of our characters in greater depth. The fans deserve great storytelling and now we are often given the opportunity to help give it to them in these bigger, bolder, often stunningly beautiful worlds.”

Although that certainly doesn’t make his job easier. Blum says he works a lot harder for video game sessions than his animated work on “Cowboy Bebop” and “Regular Show.” He will blast through 600–1,000 lines in a single day without the benefit of working in an ensemble, like he does while working in animation. “There is no time to prepare for most video games! We usually get scripts moments before recording begins. The preparation is in the decades of training before we book the job,” Blum says.

Specific noises, rather than words, are a big part of video game play, so Blum says he spends a lot of time in the studio doing “sound sets,” such as dying, reactions, and sounds of effort. When a character dies, a gamer wants to hear it. Blum says it can be quite taxing on his throat.

But there are ways to research and prepare for working in video games, even if there is little time to go over the script beforehand. Borders notes that gamers are an enthusiastic bunch and often post cut screens on YouTube. “There are a lot of actors who want to get into [video games] and will say, ‘Well, I remember video games from the ’90s.’ I’ll respond, ‘Well, yeah, I watched [reruns of] ‘Gilligan’s Island’ back in the 1970s, but that’s not where you should set your bar,’ ” Borders says. “You can pretty much see the top titles that are up there. I’m not saying you need to see every single one of them; research based on what you’re auditioning for. If you come from the acting world, that’s how you can get a feel for what you’re doing.”

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