Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Celebrity Voice-Acting Trend

Voice-acting has recently become an integral part in the storytelling aspects of videogames. When in the earlier years of videogames text could fulfill the need of talking to the player, now it has become crucial for an actual voice to be heard. Although not all games support voice-acting (in fact, there are many AAA titles such as LittleBigPlanet and Pokémon that rely heavily or fully on text), it has become increasingly more difficult to find single-player games without this feature. That is why professional voice-acting has become much more sought after in the gaming industry. With this higher demand, specifically with the larger studios that are able to back their demands financially, there has also been a higher supply of people outside the business willing to do the voice work Рsometimes the people attracted are celebrities.
With more prevalent names from other industries coming over into the gaming industry, a trend has begun to occur. This trend, the celebrity voice-acting trend (CVAT), focuses on the implications of more and more well-known actors lending their voices for videogame characters.  There are many examples of such people contributing to CVAT (three such examples include Martin Sheen as the Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2, Felicia Day as Victoria in Fallout: New Vegas, and Neil Patrick Harris as Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions), which should all be viewed as very lucrative for the gaming industry because of an obvious fact: a famous person always attracts attention.

Felicia Day proves that sarcasm can be quite lovable.

 The added attention brings a new platform for marketing a videogame and thus profiting from it. The voice-actor, much like actors in film, can be used as a buying motivator for consumers. Almost everyone has wanted to watch a movie or listen to a new album when a certain person has (or people have) contributed to them. A personal example of mine is when I had heard Liam Neeson would be starring in Taken, which made me want to watch the movie as I had loved his performance in Schindler’s List. (His role in Schindler’s List also piqued me into buying Fallout 3 when I learned he did the voice of the Vault Dweller’s Dad.) By adding a well-known name as a voice-actor in a videogame, more people become interested in said title and thus the basic business desire of raising demand is fulfilled - a driving force in economic decisions. On an even broader note, the actor himself can promote the game they have been a part of which opens plenty of doors of opportunity down the road for the game.
Besides CVAT benefiting gaming from a business perspective, it also does so from an artistic perspective. A professional actor who has well-regarded performances under his belt can provide much-desired quality in his voice-acting roles. For games to reach beyond the limited scope and design they can fulfill at this moment, they must push the boundaries of four different variables. (The four variables are technology, aesthetics, gameplay, and storytelling.) High-quality voice-acting pushes at least one: storytelling. Although a game cannot survive on only voice-acting, it certainly can make a good game into a great game. And for this industry to get better as it goes along, it needs to thrive off of greatness.

The Illusive Man would not have been nearly as interesting without the voice of Martin Sheen.

 That is exactly what CVAT provides: greatness. Although true that not all games need voice-acting and equally true that a game with a celebrity voice does not necessitate a game worthy of a buy, the business and artistic rewards gained by implementing CVAT has the pros outweighing the cons. More attention by the media to a game (and videogames in general) promotes the art and venture or this industry, and makes it stronger on the roads ahead. That is why CVAT should be always seen as something good for the business, and why it should always be shown appreciation with open arms and welcoming approval.

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