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Video Game Voice Actors: How to Choose the Best One?
Every single video game is different.
Some rely more on general narration, while others prioritize elaborate character journeys. Of course, differences in genre, the target audience, as well as the budget play a huge part in how the video game will be voiced.
The one-size-fits-all approach definitely doesn’t work here. However, there are some universal things to consider when choosing the voice talent for a video game voice over.
Experience in the Field
First things first — just like in any other profession, experience gives the voice actor an edge.
Voice acting is used so extensively that it’s impossible for all voice actors to be able to excel in every niche. Some artists specialize in voicing commercials and marketing videos, others stick with bringing e-book characters to life.
As a rule of thumb for video game voice overs, look for someone with experience in voicing video games or other character-based works.
Maybe the voice actor has worked with a comic cartoon in the past and your video game character is funny and easy-going?
You might be a good match! On the other hand, if the artist’s portfolio only contains commercial and e-learning voice overs, they might not be a good fit.
In general, looking for someone with specialized experience in video game recordings is a good idea.
However, we recommend that you listen and audition as many voice actors as possible. Experience doesn’t always mean the person is right for the job.
Usage of Regional Accents and Dialects
It’s important to consider what regional accent and dialect the video game character or narrator should have.
Each well-rounded character has a backstory. So make sure that a selected voice actor tells it as accurately and engagingly as possible.
That’s where the usage of dialects and specific regional accents come in handy. Accent variations hint about the character’s background and portray them as more realistic.
So, think about your character’s roots and voice. Does he or she come from Ireland and have a distinct Irish accent? Or maybe they speak with a thick Korean accent?
Impressively voiced characters with distinct accents definitely leave a lasting impression on the players. Here are two great examples from the game Overwatch.
Widowmaker, voiced by the incredible French-Australian voice actress Chloé Hollings, is a prime example of how a well-done accent can influence the character’s perception by the audience. From first sight, the player doesn’t really know anything about Widowmaker.
Until she speaks. The strong French accent instantly adds a layer of personality.
The character Jesse McCree from Overwatch is another prime example of a well-used regional accent.
Voiced by Matthew Mercer, the superstar of video game voice overs, the character’s distinct American accent definitely highlights his cowboy-inspired personality.
In any case, the best voice over talent for a region-specific accent will be the one who speaks that specific language or dialect.
While it’s possible for a non-native French voice actor to fake a French accent, no one will do it better than anative speaker.
Ability to Switch Between Characters
Depending on how many characters a video game has, you might need to find and hire a number of voice actors to portray them.
Also, your video game might need a neutral narrator to ties the story together. That’s a lot of people, isn’t it?
However, one skilled voice artist can convincingly voice several characters and make them sound absolutely unique.
By changing the articulation, style, and pitch of their speech, avoice over professional can easily manipulate their voice to sound completely different.
A talented voice actor can definitely convince your audience that each character was voiced by different people.
Let’s take a look at the voice over actress Jennifer Hale, the queen of role switching when it comes to video game recordings.
She single-handedly portrays a tough baddie Commander Shepard from Mass Effect and cute and sweet Casi from Ape Escape: On the Loose.
It’s nearly impossible to tell that the same person could have voiced these characters. How can an actor sound so gentle one minute, and so powerful and angry the next? Ah, the power of talent!
So ideally, look for a voice actor with a broad range of styles in case you need them to play more than one character.
Having a flexible voice over professional on your video game team will ensure that recordings go smooth.
Voice Style: Timbre, Pitch, and Articulation
It goes without saying that the voice actor’s style of speech should match that of the game and its characters.
The video game character’s personality should go hand in hand with their voice. Is the hero of the game a roughed-up bad guy? A warm and soft style of voice probably isn’t the best choice.
Instead, opt for an actor who has that gritty, raspy voice and who can speak in a lower register.
For inspiration, take a peek at how Greg Bryk exceptionally delivers the voice over for Joseph Seed’s character from Far Cry New Dawn.
When it comes to video game narration, a clear and well articulated style is often preferred.
While character speech can be slightly un-articulated to achieve a distinct feel and mood, the narration should be clear and consistent.
After all, the players should focus on the story and its intricacies, not on trying to comprehend the ambiguous language.
The game Bastion presents us with a masterclass in video game narration.
At the end of the day, you need to make sure that the voice actor’s style, their voice and manner of speech portray the video game characters in the best possible way.
Gender & Age
Just because the video character is a man in his 50s, doesn’t mean the voice actor has to be. Realistically, experienced voice over actors that specialize in narratives are able to manipulate their voices to portray different age groups and even genders.
Usually, male characters are voiced by men, and female characters — by women.
However, that’s not always the case.
There are many instances not only in video games, but also in television and movies, where characters were voiced by the opposite sex. That’s something to consider for your video game voice over — you’re not actually limited to one gender.
When choosing a suitable actor for the role, consider if their voice can convincingly portray the age of the character.
A voice over artist in their 30s with a deep voice can persuasively portray a butch and powerful hero in their 50s. In contrast, an actress in her 40s with a high-pitched voice can convincingly voice a child’s character.
Just take a look at how a 39-year-old Barry Sloane voiced Captain Price who’s in his late 60s in Modern Warfare (2019).
It all boils down to the personal credentials of the voice artist. So be open-minded — actors’ physical age and gender might not play as big of a role.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the best voice actors to work on a video game are the ones who have experience in the field and are the best fit for the genre.
Voice actors for video games are and should be cast in the same way actors are cast for movie roles — some fit certain roles better than others.