I had the opportunity to attend a union workshop recently, and the casting director stated something so simple about how to do better video game auditions, it made me wonder why I hadn’t shared this with you before. And I know it’s going to make a few of you (Graydon. Brian. Jennifer.) very, very happy.
One comment I get a lot from technically-challenged friends and colleagues is how facile I am with technology. Believe me, there are tech dudes and dudettes out there that know a lot more about this stuff than I do, but I do know my way around a web property and my various devices.
That only came from the infamous “10,000 hours of practice” that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in The Outliers, a Book Worth Reading. So, for me, it’s lots of exposure and interaction with tech that makes me expert at it. Same thing with studio equipment, same thing with coaching and teaching.
And so, my lovely friends and clients, the key to doing better videogame auditions is simple:
Play more videogames.
I’m not talking about Angry Birds 2 or Solitaire – I’m talking about RPG’s, MMORPGs, FPSs, and the rest – the things you’re auditioning for if you’re auditioning for video games.
And if you don’t know what all those letters are about, then your first homework is to look them up.
Your next homework is to get a Playstation, XBOX or Wii, and don’t just use them to watch Blu Ray DVD’s – use them to play video games. And not the simple stuff, but the kind of games that you want to be cast in. Games with story lines and characters and arcs and editions and playable levels. The kind that will pay you, as a VO practitioner, serious money.
This is not about goofing off – it’s about getting to know the titles, the platforms, the genres, the styles of VO required, the character archetypes (and how you and your brand stack up against those archetypes), even the damage it can do to your voice, and to get a really good listen as to what the best in the business are doing.
When Blindlight’s Timothy Cubbison mentioned that, it was a great reminder how knowing the world of videogames is no different than knowing the world of commercials (by watching TV and listening to radio), audiobooks (by going to Audible and ACX and downloading and listening to a few) or narration (by watching The History Channel for something other than Pawn Stars or Ice Road Truckers) is for their categories.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put in a few rounds of gun play on Call of Duty, just to hear how the characters sound and the skill of the actors.
And I suggest you do the same.
What kind of immersion have you done in an area of voice over to get yourself more familiar with what’s expected of you in the audition? Let us know in the comments below.
Hope this helps.
I will do that homework with passion and a smile!
Jejejeje, I guess I won’t. I’m only good at Pac Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong and Wonder Boy and I can’t duplicate 8 bits sounds… ;)
We bought an Xbox during the holidays but it’s mostly kids games – now I have a good reason to buy Halo 4!
Now I can write off Halo and Arkom as a business expense, brilliant!!
If I may make some suggestions:
Bioshock, for deep character motivations and some almost cartoon-like caricature voices mixed in.
Bioshock Infinite for a refinement of dramatic voice: videogames suffer from the limitation that “people” can only look so realistic and thus a voice actor needs to be able to push more authenticity in their work using only the sound of their voice.
Fallout 4, for good examples of multi-threaded dialogue: conversations are put together piece by piece because how you answer each dialogue choice drives what response comes next–but it all still has to flow to the player’s ears as close to a natural conversation as possible. Go through a conversation, then re-initiate it and try it another way to see the differences.
The Batman games: Arkham Knight, etc., are both a good example and a bad example–in that the voice of Batman sounds like the kind of role that might burn your vocal cords over time, and how Harley Quinn’s voice direction dumbs the character down over the progression of the titles. Batman is a physical icon with most of his face covered, so Kevin Conroy has to convey a lot of the humanity of him through the sound of his voice.
The voices in Gears of War – I can’t imagine how the guys doing those voices managed to survive the ordeal–everything sounds so rough around the edges…
Even if you aren’t good at videogames, or don’t want to get sucked into endlessly dying before you hear any monologues, you can watch Youtube videos of others playing. This allows you to see the overall story, hear more dialogue, and get through a game faster. But, buying a console and playing is a good reason to do your “homework” too.
Oh man! This post makes me so happy. My husband has seen some of my “inner nerd” over the years, but now? GAME ON!
And it’s “research”!
I also recommend Destiny 1 & 2. All star acting talent like Nolan North, Nathan Fillion, Claudia Black, and more. Great article David.
As Grant mentioned, if you don’t really want to play video games, *tons* of video games have their cutscenes posted on YouTube. A good way to search for them is to type in the game’s name, then “full movie,” “game movie,” or “all cutscenes.” And really, while there’s nothing wrong with playing video games (what, it’s research!), as they are tremendously fun, the cutscenes in and of themselves are incredibly entertaining, with some phenomenal acting that’s on-par with the acting found in feature films and TV shows. Just think of it like you’re watching a CGI movie. Like, I thought my favorite actor to play Spider-Man was Tom Holland, but after playing “Marvel’s Spider-Man” on PlayStation 4, I’m honestly very conflicted now over whether my favorite actor to play Spider-Man is Tom Holland or the game’s voice actor, Yuri Lowenthal. Lowenthal gave a *phenomenal* performance, quite possibly the performance of his career.