How to Hire Video Game Voice Actors in 2023
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 3.07 billion gamers by 2023, 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 2023 gaming industry trends that are shaping the way video games are conceived and voice talent is hired.
Types of Video Game Voice Over
There are two main 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.
Creating video game characters that will resonate with your audience is crucial to your commercial success. If the gamer doesn’t care about the development or journey of the character, then there is no motivation for the user to continue to play the game.
Luckily, sound in a video game is an evocative tool that can produce an emotional reaction from gamers. You can determine if a character looks the part he or she is supposed to be based on the aesthetics, but to make a character act the way they are supposed to you will need to incorporate non-visual tools such as dialogue and voice and essentially you are giving your character a voice.
Here’s how to keep the role of sound and voice over in perspective, and how to move through crucial steps of hiring a voice actor who will bring your character to life. Learn more about the importance of a good job posting and a cleverly written accompanying script, and how you can help your voice actor nail the script.
The Basics: Why is Video Game Voice Over Important
Often, the most thought about part of a video game character is the visual appearance of the character. While this is an important aspect of video game development, and probably the first step you will take in your journey to develop a video game, the power of voice should not be overlooked. Along with strong dialogue, hiring the right voice actor to play your video game character is key in making sure that the game is successful and is able to create a connection with gamers.
And on that note, dialogue is important as it is complementary to the way the character looks. Dialogue is responsible for shaping the personality of your video game character. It determines whether or not the character will come across as humorous, villainous, heroic or serious in nature.
When it comes to building a character’s personality, it is important to stick to one role per character. Incorporating too many roles into one can put you at risk of negatively impacting a gamer’s immersion in the game by making the character too inconsistent to care about.
After the dialogue is established, you will then want to focus on how your character will sound. The sound of a characters voice can include the following criteria:
- Tone – The tone that is used can help to convey how a particular character is feeling at any given moment in the game. If done correctly, this tone can also help inspire that feeling in the game player as well.
- Actions – The sound of actions is an important thing for your voice actor to nail. If your character is a tough one, the sound of their actions may be vastly different from, say, the sound of a weaker character. Think of how a tough character may jump over an obstacle. The sounds of this action will be confident and triumphant versus a weaker character who may sound more apprehensive and afraid when carrying out the same action.
- Timing/Pace – Are a few lines delivered over the course of a long scene? If so, then you might want these lines to read at a slower pace in order to extend the lines over the entire scene.
Advanced Tips: What should my video game character sound like?
Now that you know how sound affects the overall experience of the gamer, you can start to narrow down the specific details that will make up the sound of your character’s voice.
If your character is from this world, you should first decide, geographically, where your character is from. This is important in making sure that your character has an authentic sounding accent that people from the region your character is from can identify with. It is also key to ensure that the characters you create are neutral enough to allow your game to be distributed globally – this way you only have to create one iteration of the game and then change the language as needed.
If your character is from a fictional world or location, then you have the freedom to decide what type of accent you will use and how the voice will sound.
Tip! If you want to design a hero character that your players will emotionally connect to, you will want to pick a voice that reflects the demographic profile of the majority of game players for your specific genre of video game. Research has shown that people generally like to hear a voice that sounds like them (in terms of gender, age etc).
Advanced Tips: How can I help the voice actor nail the character read?
Whether you’re looking to get the best voice over auditions out of your Voices job posting, or looking for ways to make your working relationship with your chosen voice over actor as smooth as possible – these four tips can help!
- Provide a Sample of the Script or Dialogue when Auditioning Voice Actors
Let’s say your character is going to be the hero of the video game. You will first want to write sample dialogue for the character.
Once you have the text version of the script, you will want to add in instructions to help your voice actor get into character. On Voices, this can be included in the job description as artistic direction.
- A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Along with the script and artistic direction, you may also want to include an image of the character and possibly a link to the character in motion. You can also include sound clips or scratch tracks of sample voices that closely reflect the way you want your character to sound.
- Outline the Character’s Emotional Development and Share with Your Hired Voice Actor
Provide voice actors with the story line – this is especially important in video game character development so that the voice actor can best act out the way the character might develop. This is referred to as character emotional development and you can make note of how a character is feeling in a particular scene. If you don’t want to share the entire script, at least give your voice actor a basic timeline of events and how the character should react to certain events along the timeline – essentially this component helps the voice actor really get into character.
- A Storyboard Can Set the Scene
You may also want to consider attaching a storyboard for your game so that the voice actor may be able to get an idea of how the entire plot of the game will unfold. A storyboard is instrumental in mapping out the content of your game and crafting a cohesive gaming experience. Creating a storyboard can be as simple as laying out the important scenes within the game and mapping out an outline of the different levels within the game. The ‘For Dummies’ brand crafted an easy guide to crafting your video game storyboard.
Allowing the voice actor to see the context their character is in will help them give a much more accurate performance. For example, if the character is battling against a challenging foe, you might want to visually depict why the battle may be particularly challenging – is the foe 10 feet tall? Showing this information on a storyboard allows the voice actor to place themselves in the scene.
It is also a good idea to get practice in buy reading video game sample scripts, or even by listening to video game characters’ voices.
Video Game Character Design: How to Test a Video Game Character’s Voice with your Audience
Quality Assurance (QA) testing on the video game you create is an important step that you should not skip over. In a recent research paper, it was revealed that 82% of participants surveyed indicated that QA testing is an important part of game development – so important in fact, that they would be willing for anticipated game releases to be pushed back if it meant the game would function as intended.
Part of the intended function is being able to relate to the characters and comprehend the situations the characters find themselves in throughout the game. It is worthy to note that the test audience does not have to be the exact same as your target audience. You can have a QA test audience whose main job is to focus on the characters and ensure their journey makes sense and that their voice matches the visual aesthetics and persona of the character.
Testing with a closed audience before you release the game, is a way to ensure that your characters make sense with your audience. A test audience can even be internal employees who have no familiarity with the game or friends/family to gauge their reaction to it.
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 Your Unique Vocal Qualities
The video game industry early on produced games targeted to a narrow audience, made up of primarily young men. Since this problem has been addressed numerous times and been gradually brought to the forefront, video game creators are now working to create games that appeal to people of all ages.
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 2023
There are a number of trends influencing the video game industry in 2023 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.
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.
Find Your Perfect Video Game Voice
The games that captivate players today are of greater variety and more 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, 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.