You want become an actor who specializes in video games? Unlike movie and TV viewers, gamers recognize famous voice actors without adding a name or face. Veterans of the video game industry may have fruitful careerlike Troy Baker, although they have not yet received the same wide recognition as Meryl Streep or Morgan Freeman.
Despite their lack of recognition, video game actors reach a global audience, often for a longer time per project than in films or television. But getting through the door is no easy task. How do I find my way to that very first role? What do casting directors look for when they’re hired for video games?
Julia Bianco Scheffling is the casting director and she’s here to help. She has worked in the casting department for a variety of games, from Cyberpunk 2077 as well as Aliens: Fireteam Elite to Tell me why as well as Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Her recently released book, The Art and Business of Video Game Actingis available for purchase online.
The fact that big games even have a casting director during development is relatively new, Scheffling says. Previously, this job was done by the game’s voice director, but directors’ needs are changing. They are looking for a variety of actors who are comfortable wearing bodysuits and face masks to capture performances, in addition to vocal roles. “Casting requirements have become more complex and nuanced,” she says. “The job got too big for the voice directors to handle on their own.”
As a general rule, you should approach playing video games with the same seriousness that you would approach acting in films and television. You may have to become a part Trade Union SAG-AFTRA audition for many roles, especially those offered by major developers or publishers. In his book, Schoffling lays out the basics about agents, auditions, and personal care throughout the process.
What does Schaeffling think it takes to be successful as an actor in video games? “I say acting lessons first and foremost. You can’t replace acting with gear.” When you’re ready to land that first role and feel confident in your acting skills, there’s no need to start by buying expensive microphones and equipment. A wired microphone connected to a smartphone can be a decent enough setup for those who try the water, and you can always upgrade it incrementally by getting feedback on what sounds good and what doesn’t.
You should also be familiar with the differences between a demo, which often shows your general acting talent, and a pre-record, which is a prompt for certain lines of dialogue. You will notice that many people in the industry deviate from the phrase “voice actor”. Why? This is limiting, and professionals are increasingly taking a holistic approach to acting. Especially for performance capture roles, the focus is no longer on those two vocal cords in your throat. Every muscle in your body can be involved.
When going to an audition, make sure you understand if the performance will be recorded in a studio or if you will have to use your own equipment at home. For those with a personal budget to purchase a new microphone and accessories, check out the audio equipment section at our guide to starting a podcast for relevant recommendations. Also, check out the author and reviewer of WIRED products. Thoughts of Eric Ravenscraft on the popular HyperX Quadcast S.
You don’t need to identify yourself as a frequent gamer to get video game roles, but you do need to be familiar with the structure of the medium. Scheffling recommends at least watching other people play. “Cadence, energy and speed. This is different from animation. It’s different from cinema,” she says. Watching long streams on Twitch or YouTube videos gives you a better idea of how other actors are approaching video games.
What do actors who play games in their spare time need to know about the development side? Schoffling says, “I think the most important thing to understand about game development is that it’s a long process. It usually doesn’t happen in a year; this is what usually happens after two or three years, sometimes after seven.”
Try your best to opt out of Twitter shitposting, no matter how hard it may be. Scheffling confirms that in a competitive market, actors go unnoticed due to information leaks or public discussion of discontent on social media. Actors are also often asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. She says: “I think waiting for an NDA, or expecting you are basically under an NDA even though you haven’t signed one, is great practice. Discretion is extremely important.”
Rejection is part of the routine of any aspiring actor, and Scheffling encourages people to understand that much of the decision-making process is out of their control. You may lose roles for reasons that have nothing to do with your demo or pre-recording. For example, you might miss a callback because your voice sounds too close to someone they’ve already chosen. Now stop being so hard on yourself! Seriously.
“The actors will go through hundreds of auditions and not hear anything. The only thing you know is that there are still auditions waiting for you,” says Schoffling. Don’t go to an audition expecting words of approval. Find people you can trust, online or in person, who will support you.
As an actor, it’s important to prioritize your mental health. Find a casual hobby or other ways to express yourself so your passion for acting doesn’t become all-encompassing. Yes, you can make money playing video games, but relying on it to be your only source of income right from the start is financially unwise. Scheffling says, “I know several actors who have decided to pursue another career in addition to acting so as not to be pressured into every one of their auditions to earn a living.” There is no shame in having a passion for creativity that doesn’t pay your bills.
While not always possible, actors from underrepresented backgrounds who publicly reveal their identities can attract the attention of casting directors. “If you’re comfortable making sure the outside world knows about your background and your identity, those things really help us when we’re looking,” she says. “Yes, we search on websites for actors and so on, but we are also on Instagram.” Check out groups like List of voiceovers of people of the global majority, Voices of coloras well as queer vox to generate additional resources for the benefit of underrepresented actors.
Take care of your work and take care exploitative situations. The job of a video game actor isn’t particularly luxurious, even if it’s your dream career. Finding a supportive community can be as important as drinking plenty of water and speaking clearly. Despite the lack of recognition from the general public, Schoffling is optimistic about the future of the acting industry. She says: “Games from the entertainment world are starting to get a lot more respect.”
Credit: www.wired.com /