You know that feeling you get when you’re totally immersed in a new video game? You’re so engaged by its world, characters, and unfolding narrative that hours can go by, and you don’t even realize it. That’s the magic of the medium, but there’s more to its appeal than stellar graphics and exciting gameplay: voice acting is just as important.
Life as a video game voice actor isn’t all fun and games; it can be a taxing, ultra-competitive job. If you’d love to be an actor whose voice becomes as iconic as Master Chief’s or Mario’s, read on for everything you need to know in order to find success.
- How do you become a voice actor for video games?
- How to audition for video game voiceover jobs
- Necessary skills for video game voice actors
- What equipment do video game voice actors need?
- How much do video game voice actors make?
- Where to become a video game voice actor
- Famous video game voice actors
First and foremost, you need to become a good and versatile actor, period. There’s no one way into voiceover acting, but some of the most renowned and prolific voices in the video game industry began as hardworking performers who spent their time honing their craft in other mediums—be it onstage, in commercials, on TV, or in film.
Whichever field you’re in, working actor jobs will help you learn how to absorb scripts quickly, develop characters, make bold choices, and take direction. Many voiceover casting directors keep their ears open for interesting voices across all mediums of acting. Familiarity with the daily grind of looking for and booking gigs will serve you well.
Here are some steps you can take to become a voice actor for video games:
- Study acting, and train. While formal training is not a requirement, it can bolster your instincts and abilities in a vocal session. Production on video games is fast-paced: Scripts are long, preparation time is short, and cold reading is commonplace. Gaining experience in scene study, improv, and vocal technique can be a game changer for you. Books and YouTube videos on voice acting can also be helpful resources.
- Practice, practice, practice. Read books, plays, film scripts, and other written materials aloud frequently. Record yourself doing this, then listen back to see what works and what doesn’t. Work on impersonations and different vocal styles, inflections, and attitudes.
- Play video games, and watch or listen to playthroughs. What do your favorite video game voice actors do that make them so effective? Take note of how actors convey combat and action-scene sounds—i.e., when their characters are attacking, screaming, getting punched, etc. Most video games employ such voiceover work for action and battle scenes, in addition to cinematic cut scenes and dialogue between characters. Observe the different approaches actors take to voice work in different kinds of games and scenes.
- Find an honest, experienced voice coach. Look for a voice coach who’s knowledgeable about the industry and unflinching when it comes to pointing out areas where you can improve. They should teach you everything from how to craft characters to how to convey different emotions and vocal patterns. A good coach will assist with voiceover demos and audition preparation, help connect you with gigs, and teach you smart marketing strategies.
- Put together a strong audio demo. When you feel ready to put yourself out there for auditions, a good voice acting demo is key to booking gigs according to casting directors.
- Find a voiceover agent. Learn more about how to find an agent in the field.
John Hopkins recording “Horizon Forbidden West” Courtesy PlayStation
1. Create a demo reel
The audition format varies depending on the project (in-person studio audition versus self-tape), but the first step is to submit a voiceover demo reel. Generally, a minute-long compilation of clips that demonstrates your personality, versatility, and range as a voice actor is ideal. Create a reel that best reflects your talents and showcases the skills that you think set you apart.
Your demo serves as your introduction to casting directors and producers as a performer and a potential hire—so it’s crucial to make a good impression immediately, even in a short reel. Video game casting executive Todd Resnick says to “wow the listener” right at the beginning of the reel. “You have to catch my attention at the start, or I’ll tune out,” he continues. “I’m a huge fan of the character acting…. Try to cover the whole gamut. Narration is big; maybe even work the accents to show us range.”
2. Finding auditions
The most consistent job you’ll have to perform as a video game voice actor is pounding the pavement and seeking gigs. For voiceover casting calls and openings, check out our voiceover audition listings and database of talent agencies.
To connect with other aspiring and established voice actors, check out our Community Forums.
3. Auditioning for video games
If you impress a casting director with your demo reel, next up is an audition, either via self-tape or in person. First, do your research and understand the context: Is the project part of an existing game franchise? What studio created it, and what other games has it released? Once you’re in the room, be ready to move fast: Video game CDs tend to look for actors who can nail each take quickly. Be ready to take direction and show commitment and believability in each performance.
And remember: these types of auditions are competitive. It’s common to be auditioning for a part in a game that a prominent, established voice actor is also submitting for.
“Do your research, trust your instincts, bring to it your own personality, and as soon as you’re done auditioning, don’t ever think about it again,” says James Murray, head of the voiceover division at Abrams Artists Agency.
Ashley Johnson and Shannon Woodward filming “The Last of Us Part II” Courtesy Naughty Dog/PlayStation
- Cold reading: In voiceover, scripts are long and prep time is short. The ability to show up on the day and perform excellent, usable takes from complex material with limited-to-no rehearsal time is crucial. It’s rare to see the lines of the other characters you’re responding to. Get comfortable with not being able to prepare, and work on your ability to nail a line within two takes.
- Adaptability: As a video game voice actor, you will be physically isolated from people, either at home or in a glass-enclosed recording booth. You’ll be leaning on the guidance of the director, writer, game developers, and other members of the production. You must be able to take direction and change your approach at the drop of a hat.
- A strong voice (and body, too): Your voice is your money maker; you’ll be using it for multiple hours a day, so make sure that you don’t damage your most important muscle. “A strong theater background is invaluable in voice acting,” says video game actor Darin De Paul (“Star Wars: The Old Republic,” “Overwatch,” “Apex Legends”), who was introduced to voice acting while acting in a play at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. “You bring all the skills, focus, and sheer joy of performing onstage into the booth.” The actor says that performing multiple shows a week helped him build vocal stamina for the long hours needed for video game voice work; recording sessions generally range from two to four hours in length. And although you might not realize it, voice acting requires full-body physicality. “The stiffer the body, the stiffer the read,” Murray says. “Does the scene call for a character running away? Best to get that breathing up. Is your character dying? Is it by sword, gun, or fire? Those are three very different ways to get that body moving.”
Sunflower Light Pro/Shutterstock
It’s important to have proper voiceover gear, since most studios and casting offices ask actors to submit self-tapes and perform live sessions in their home studios. The good news is that you don’t need a super professional recording setup to get started or deliver strong work. You probably have your most important piece of equipment already: a laptop or tablet. You’ll also need a good USB microphone, such as the Blue Yeti, TZ Stellar X2, Rode NT1, Lewitt LCT 440 Pure, or CAD e100S—all of which are reasonably priced. A mic stand and pop screen (which is used to filter out extraneous mouth sounds and ugly “pops” while recording) are essential accessories, too.
There’s a wide variety of professional recording and editing software you can install, including Audacity (which is free), Pro Tools, and Adobe Audition, which are all relatively easy to use. You’ll want to learn basic audio and editing skills in order to produce strong, clean recordings.
Michael Mando as Vaas in “Far Cry 3” Courtesy Ubisoft
Video game voice actors starting out in the industry can earn “between $1 and $5 per 100 words,” according to a Performer Life report from March 2022. More prominent performers can earn $50–$200 per 100 words and are required to be paid “$850 for a single session [that] lasts up to four hours.” Like any actor, those in high demand can bump their rates up.
“Horizon Forbidden West” Behind the Scenes Courtesy PlayStation
Even before COVID-19, most video game voice actors were working from home. Your recording room should have good acoustics, which, according to VO technician George Whittam, “has more to do with the recording quality than the mic you use.” He encourages properly soundproofing a room in order to eliminate any noise from air conditioners, fridges, traffic, etc. The DIY approach works, too: Create dead space by hanging blankets and curtains over doors and walls, or even by recording inside a closet, surrounded by clothes.
On the flip side, be prepared to travel and work at a recording studio when the opportunity calls for it. Sometimes, producers prefer an in-person performance.
CarlaVanWagoner/Eugene Powers/Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock
VO actor Charles Martinet is not only the voice behind the most popular plumber in the world, but also many other characters within the “Super Mario Bros.” universe: Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Toadsworth, Baby Mario, and Luigi, to name a few. A trained theater actor, Martinet discovered a talent for accents and dialects while studying at Drama Studio London. With nothing to work off of but a very brief description of Mario, he stood in front of a camera and came up with a voice and improvised on the spot until he ran out of things to say. The rest is history.
Other notable video game VO actors include:
- Troy Baker (“Bioshock Infinite,” “The Last of Us,” “Uncharted,” “Metal Gear Solid”)
- John DiMaggio (“Gears of War,” “Final Fantasy X,” “Halo 3: ODST”)
- Dave Fennoy (“The Wolf Among Us,” “Tales from the Borderlands,” “Minecraft: Story Mode,” “Mass Effect 2”)
- Jennifer Hale (“Mass Effect,” “Halo 4,” “Diablo III,” “Star Wars: The Old Republic”)
- Mark Hamill (“Batman: Arkham Asylum,” “Call of Duty 2,” “Lego Marvel’s Avengers”)
- Michael Mando (“Far Cry 3,” “Far Cry 6,” “Shaun White Skateboarding”)
- Courtenay Taylor (“Mass Effect 2,” “Resident Evil 6,” “Fallout 4”)
A successful video game voice acting career “is not about just doing funny voices,” De Paul says. “It is about creating characters. It’s about timing and making interesting, honest, strong choices.”