Video Game Voice Over: Hiring Video Game Voice Actors in 2020
One of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the global voice acting industry is video game voice over.
Video games are an integral aspect of contemporary culture. The amount of gamers worldwide is expected to surpass 2.7 billion gamers by 2021, and by the year 2025, the global gaming market is predicted to be valued at over $250 billion. Gone are the days when playing video games was an activity you had to be a ‘gamer’ to partake in. By some measure, gaming is now a key component of most of our everyday lives, and we are all gamers nowadays.
The scale of video game production values and audience reach has evolved over the past few decades. Today, the most popular video games are franchises unto themselves, with production budgets, crew sizes, and global audience bases to rival the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Storylines in today’s video games are far more epic and intricate than they ever used to be, and it isn’t rare for a game to feature a cast of hundreds of different characters.
With the massive increase in both the range of games being produced and the number of new characters being created, gaming developers are increasingly in search of a diversity of voice actors who can perform an assortment of roles. The ability to source a variety of competent voice actors for your project can make or break an otherwise excellent game. It is essential for game creators to have access to a vast pool of talent to bring their characters, stories, and worlds to life.
This article will guide you through the different types of video game voice over, important skills for video game voice actors to hone, and 2020 gaming industry trends that are shaping the way video games are conceived and voice over talent is hired.
Types of Video Game Voice Over
There are two primary categories of video game voice over roles that game developers are regularly in search of: video game voice actors and video game narrators.
Role-playing games often feature thousands of lines of dialogue, requiring voice actors who can provide animated, dynamic deliveries even when they’ve spent all day in the studio. Reactions must sound spontaneous, and the actor must be able to bring surprise and excitement to the material.
Video game voice actors are routinely asked to record the same phrases, just with a different tone or attitude, so that the player’s experience is varied and unpredictable, especially when that line or action will be heard repeatedly throughout the gameplay.
Characters in video games are no longer like mascots with only one catchphrase, mood, or character trait. As the industry develops increasingly complex narratives, video game voice actors must bring the same sense of depth and range to a character that one might traditionally find in a film or audiobook.
Narrators are another major role portrayed by voice actors in the gaming field. Games of all types need narrators to instruct beginner players about the rules of gameplay, and inform more advanced gamers of their progress.
Beyond conversing with other players within a game, video game voice actors will be better at their craft if they can make a variety of sounds and voices. It takes a particular kind of voice actor to suspend an audience’s disbelief.
Useful Skills for Video Game Voice Actors to Hone
As the industry evolves, so do the skills required to stand out and be successful in video game voice over. Whether you’re a game developer looking to hire actors to give your characters their voice, or a voice actor trying to break into the industry, there are a handful of fundamental skills that every casting director and voice actor should acquaint themselves with.
Master the Cold Read
Cold reads are script reads that occur before an actor is granted the opportunity to practice, or even look at, a script in preparation. In today’s video game industry, scripts are longer than they were before, and edits and rewrites are constantly altering the dialogue that needs to be recorded and re-recorded. Scripts may also be presented to actors entirely deconstructed and out of order.
Delivering a cold read can be daunting, but if you can master the ability to quickly process material and turn it into an impressive, off the cuff performance, then you’ll be all the more marketable in the gaming industry.
Know the Difference Between On-Camera Acting and Video Game Voice Over
While video game voice actors and on-camera talent for film and TV routinely cross over into the corresponding mediums, it is important to make a distinction between the two. Sometimes experienced film and TV performers will show up to the recording studio to read for a video game role without realizing that they cannot rely on facial expressions or physical movements to make the character come to life. All the characterization must be conveyed through the power of their voice.
In this sense, some of the most talented actors who absolutely thrive when they’re placed before a camera just can’t work a similar magic in the realm of voice over. Video game voice over is its own craft, and anybody entering a studio to perform a video game voice over role should be aware that it comes with its own rules and requirements.
Consider Motion Capture Opportunities
Although we’ve spelled out the difference between physically embodying a character compared to bringing them to life with your voice, motion capture (also known as ‘full body capture’ and ‘performance capture’) is prevalent in certain sectors of the video game industry. Motion capture involves an actor donning a motion capture suit covered in sensors, or ‘capture markers,’ that track the actor’s movements to animate them as a character in the game. Facial capture, finger capture, and full body capture are all elements of motion capture.
Learn more about video game motion capture with this video:
If you are a video game voice actor pursuing motion capture work, you may be more favorable to casting directors if you already have experience performing motion capture work, or other experience in physical acting. As a casting director, you may seek out stunt performers. Motion capture recording routinely involves actors performing repetitive motions, so an actor must be able to move fluidly and be okay with long days of repeating the same motions over and over.
Embrace Diversity and Your Unique Vocal Qualities
The video game industry has long suffered from a lack of diversity in the roles they portray. Since this problem has been addressed numerous times and been gradually brought to the forefront, video game creators are now working to create more inclusive roles and ensembles.
With the expansion of the industry, developers have adopted the belief that the characters we see in video games ought to reflect the society we live in, so that anybody can envision themselves in the video game characters they play as. Instead of tailoring your voice to fit a generic sound, you ought to embrace the unique qualities of your voice that represent who you are.
As The Drum reports, “the male to female ratio is almost even … gamers are as varied as can be; they are college-educated, ethnically diverse, and engaged civically.” If you’re a voice actor who doesn’t mirror the stereotype of your average teenage gamer, don’t be discouraged from pursuing a career in the industry. By the same token, if you work on the creative side of gaming, don’t merely consider writing and hiring video game characters and actors who represent your target audience—because your target audience might be a lot broader than you think.
Video Game Industry Trends for 2020
There are a number of trends influencing the video game industry in 2020 that you ought to be cognizant of if you’re a game creator or seeking work in the video game voice over industry. None of these trends are entirely new, but they have been brewing for some time, and provide a glimpse into the direction the video game industry is heading in the next decade.
Growing Demand for Mobile Games
Reports show that there are now over 2.2 billion mobile gamers. Free-to-play (or free-to-start) games account for 85% of all gaming revenue, and about 50% of gamers say that they have made an in-game purchase, or microtransaction, in the past year.
The role that mobile devices play in the gaming industry cannot be underestimated. About one in five gamers claim that they have shared images or videos of their gameplay. This can be through screenshots and screen recordings disseminated through social media, YouTube user reviews, and live streaming platforms such as Twitch.
Cloud Gaming Is on the Rise
Cloud gaming is about to change the way gamers access the ever-growing library of video games that exist in the world. Using cloud technology, players can bypass download and installation times, directly streaming games to multiple devices.
All the major players in the video game industry are currently in the process of unveiling their cloud gaming subscription services—including Google Stadia, which is said to be “the first solely dedicated cloud gaming device, without the need for a console or, in some cases, even a television.” Other major forthcoming platforms that harness cloud technology include PlayStation Now, Apple Arcade, and Microsoft’s Project xCloud.
The Virtual Reality Takeover
Virtual reality gaming is a trend that has long been on the rise, and will only come to dominate more of the industry as we move into the next decade.
Voice has the power to foster an immersive, surround-sound experience, which is precisely what virtual reality is built for. Some of the most popular virtual reality games include No Man’s Sky, Beat Saber, and Astro Bot: Rescue Mission.
Learn how sound design has the ability to make video games more accessible through programming directional and surround sound, movements and expressive cues, and sounds that elicit emotional responses.
Casting Video Game Voice Actors
It takes a unique style of voice to pull off video game voice over. There are a number of highly talented voice actors out there, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are equipped with the necessary skills to make it in video game voice over. The ideal video game voice actor will harbor a voice that is simultaneously expressive and capable of conveying authority.
For video game voice over, there are a wide range of diversity and character types, and different types of voices are needed to bring them to life. For instance, deep male voices may be leveraged in the creation of a battle-worn warrior. However, talented female narrators have also grown in popularity.
In addition to providing narration, voice actors are often sought after when it comes to contributing convincing dialogue. The ideal style of vocal delivery for video game dialogue can vary greatly depending on the nature of the game. Volume, timbre, and accents must be taken into consideration as the video game casting director searches for the ideal voice actor. Consider video game cutscenes. These scenes, while not heavy on action, are still important since their focus is on developing and propelling the plot forward through conversation.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that video games really seized the potential of using voice acting performances to enhance video game narratives. One of the most notable video game voice over performances can be traced back to the Legacy of Kain, where voice actors Michael Bell and Simon Templemen share an exchange that went down in gaming history as a standout cinematic moment:
Find Your Perfect Video Game Voice
The games that captivate players today are more diverse and wide-ranging than video games of the past. They are played across multiple devices, feature larger casts of characters and more expansive storylines, and use the power of the human voice to tell immersive and engaging stories.
The ability to perform video game voice over and write video game voice acting scripts are both unique skills that require a deep understanding of both where the industry is currently situated, as well as where it is headed. On Voices.com, you can launch your video game voice over career or hire video game voice actors with the click of a button.
Sign up, listen to demos, and embark on your Voices journey today.