Voiceover In Games:: The Good News, And The Very Bad


Voiceover Work Is Increasing Dramatically In Gaming, And The Need For Real Actors Is Recognized.

Finally recognized, that is.  Anyone remember the monotone or stupidly-dramatic voices in earlier videogames? Non-professional (recorded overseas, non-union) voiceover ‘talent’ was who did most of the voice work for no money,  or practically that. That was why.

The gaming industry has grown so dramatically, correspondingly, so has the quality and evolution of  the games.  The good news for actors is that the gaming industry also realized that quality games  needed quality actors.

Quality voices mean quality acting, in case you didn’t know.  A voice is a voice.  A great sounding voice is a great sounding voice. An actor is someone who brings a character to life. Makes the character seem real. Sound real.

Actors Often Think Voiceover Is About Voice Quality.

Whether it’s a voiceover commercial, or animation, or narration; the most important thing is that the actor understand the script, and what’s required for the character to come across, in the reading. How to, successfully, devise the character. How to play out the story correctly, and very well,  with the acting performance.

Especially, for voiceover work.  The voice actor has fewer tools to create a character and situation; it’s all in the voice.

Better Acting Equals Better Games Is The New Physics Equation.

Of the gaming industry. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that is that it’s not their new math.

They don’t want to pay for it; they still want to cheaply, like they paid for the outstandingly crappy, awful voices. Not only do they want to pay nothing or close to it; but they are a business that is doing very well, financially.

And now that they are using American, union, good actors;  yes, they are paying a union-level wage for the hour or few hours worth of work.

That almost sounds like great news, now doesn’t it? NOT.

They want countless numbers of different voices to count as one voice, yet to be paid as all one actor. So yes, they will pay a union wage for acting. And all the characters he or she can voice-alter to create, come along with the actor, for free. Which also means that all those employed to do voices for games will be hired for the amount of voices they can do. They’ll do them all, for free.

Not just quantity over quality, because it also reduces how many actors will be employed for each game. Substantially.  And locks most actors out of having an opportunity to audition.  Especially, novice actors.  (For whom this area would be a great place to try to break in, use as some back up money, even create a niche for themselves.)

That was Bad Number 1.

Bad Number 2:

They also want to redefine, and reduce ,the terminology of different levels of actors involved, which also means less money.  Which lowers the bar of actor respect and value, on the record. For the standard.  For your future. “Limbo lower now…”

Stay with me, here…

If You Think That You Are A Novice Actor So This Doesn’t Affect You

Hoooo. You are especially wrong.

Because there is no such thing as counting on commercials for some starter actor money, anymore. It used to be that commercials were a great way to make some, or a lot, of back up money.  That hasn’t really been true for over a decade. It’s been something that 99% of all actors have not been able to earn enough to live on, and this has been this way for years. It’s even worse, now, in this economy.

Gaming is different. It’s a very successful, growing industry. It’s got two other things that make it wonderful for novice actors.

One, is that you don’t need to be a big name, to get hired as a voice actor in gaming, like you do for animation movies these days.

Two, is that since the actor isn’t seen, and it’s a fairly new industry, newcomers can find their way in. Without a big acting resume. That is not the case, with voiceovers for commercials.

Is The Gaming Industry Is Ready To Pay For Better Acting…

But Not For Talent Or Creativity?

May I summarize it as such, please?

Here’s part of the latest from the LA Times. If you click, you can read the full article. I also have another post on Hollywood Actor Prep about this. (link.)

When Dave Wittenberg began his acting career at a community theater in Boston, he never imagined that one day he’d be making his living as a voice artist for video game characters, portraying the likes of Hades, Tweedledee and Jerry Seinfeld.

But in the last decade Wittenberg’s voice has been heard in more video games than he “can remember.” And, though it’s not the traditional actor’s stagecraft, he still draws extensively on his thespian skills. “You get to create characters you wouldn’t be able to create in any other medium,” said Wittenberg, 38. “From an acting standpoint, it lets you flex your muscles that you wouldn’t ordinarily use.”

What it’s not doing, however, is fattening his wallet. Despite his extensive credits, Wittenberg earns roughly $30,000 a year from his video game work and, like most of his peers, supplements that income by doing voice work for animated TV shows.

Wittenberg is one of hundreds of Hollywood actors who perform in the heard-but-not-seen world of voice acting, breathing life into the virtual worlds of such blockbuster game franchises as Halo, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

The video game sector, once a backwater in Hollywood, has been the fastest-growing segment of the entertainment industry and increasingly competes with movies and television for consumers’ attention and dollars.

As games have become more like big-screen movies, so has their need for more sophisticated stories and emotionally engaging characters. Games once had practically no dialogue but now boast tens of thousands of lines of it — creating opportunities for actors at time when traditional jobs are shrinking because of studios’ cutbacks in film and TV production.

This is from Game Informer:

The relationships between game developers and voice actors are becoming increasingly strained…One of the issues involves so-called “atmospheric voices,” or the background characters such as soldiers, monsters, and other NPCs that populate game worlds. The Screen Actors Guild, which represents about 20 percent of those actors, has proposed a contract that would give actors an $800 fee for up to 20 of those atmospheric voices with up to 300 words per voice in a four-hour session.

Game makers bristle at such demands, and even the voice actors themselves are divided. “Before, you were doing three characters dying a horrible death. Now you’re doing 20 characters dying a horrible death,” voice actor Dee Baker told the L.A. Times. “Not only will this mean less money for more experiences, it’s also going to be a lot more vocally difficult.”

In addition to that dispute, the very nature of compensation for work in the game industry has been controversial with actors. Unlike the film and television industries, actors in games typically don’t earn any residual payments for their work. Actors who are expecting that to change any time soon are bound to be disappointed.

“In our business we’re all employees and any upside we get is purely discretionary, so many of us are not going to have a lot of sympathy for actors who want back-end residuals,” says Uncharted 2’s director Amy Hennig. “That’s why we’re talking two different languages when we sit down at a bargaining table.”

Best,the new commercial


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