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The Problems With Video Game Voice Acting 251

The Guardian's Games blog explores the tendency of modern video games to suffer from poor voice acting, a flaw made all the more glaring by increasingly precise and impressive graphics. Quoting: "Due to the interactive nature of games, actors can't be given a standard film script from which they're able to gauge the throughline of their character and a feel for the dramatic development of the narrative. Instead, lines of dialogue need to be isolated into chunks so they can be accessed and triggered within the game in line with the actions of each individual player. Consequently, the performer will usually be presented with a spreadsheet jammed with hundreds of single lines of dialogue, with little sense of context or interaction. ... But according to David Sobolov, one of the most experienced videogame voice actors in the world (just check out his website), the significant time pressures mean that close, in-depth direction is not always possible. 'Often, there's a need to record a great number of lines, so to keep the session moving, once we've established the tone of the character we're performing, the director will silently direct us using the spreadsheet on the screen by simply moving the cursor down the page to indicate if he/she liked what we did. Or they'll make up a code, like typing an 'x' to ask us to give them another take.' It sounds, in effect, like a sort of acting battery farm, a grinding, dehumanizing production line of disembodied phrases, delivered for hours on end. Hardly conducive to Oscar-winning performances."
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The Problems With Video Game Voice Acting

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  • by dingen (958134) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:21AM (#31506554)
    Mass Effect 2 has outstanding voice acting, performed by quite a few well-known SciFi actors. That game doesn't cost $100.
  • by nicodoggie (1228876) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:58AM (#31506792)

    It's basically because Japan has a HUGE pool of voice talent. They make hundreds of anime and interactive novels every year, it makes sense that they'd have decent voice acting.

    Plus, how hard is it to say "ahn ahhhn, yamete kudasai!!" a hundred times over?

  • Re:Hey now... (Score:2, Informative)

    by illaqueate (416118) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:27AM (#31506988)

    Amy Hennig who wrote the Legacy of Kain series is also director of Uncharted. She has a film degree and the good voice actors in Legacy of Kain come from a theater background.

  • by delinear (991444) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:37AM (#31507070)
    Clearly further evidence then that the issue isn't the format, nor is it the money that's thrown at it, but rather the way it's carried out. If one company can manage to do this consistently well without charging a premium then others should be able to do the same.
  • by HopefulIntern (1759406) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:48AM (#31507140)
    What really threw me is the word "lieutenant" which in US english is pronounced lew-TEN-ant, but in British english "leff-TEN-ant". When one of the british guys in COD4 said it the latter way, the subtitles actually wrote out "leftenant" complete with the quotation marks. A similar thing happens in Need for Speed Shift. The "coach" which appears simply as a voice instructing you, is British. The courses you drive are also mostly British. And yet, instead of driving a "nis-san three fifty zed" he makes you drive a "nee-sahn three fifty zee".... On a similar note, can Seth McFarlane please learn british words/phrases properly, rather than just putting on a faux accent?!! Case and point: "fanny", "sweater", "sneaker" (words americans use, or have a different meaning for).
  • by wjousts (1529427) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:30AM (#31507508)
    No, not catching what a character said because of their stupid, highly affected accent and not being able to ask them to repeat it kills immersion. Not being able to interrupt the cliched wised old man character and tell him to cut the exposition and just get to the fucking point kills immersion. Just turn the subtitles on and let me read it instead, or skip it altogether, especially if this isn't the first time I've play through this part.
  • by mister_playboy (1474163) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @10:41AM (#31509262)

    That's why Final Fantasy X had decent voice acting.

    You're joking, right? The VA on that game was so embarrassing I hesitated to initiatie a cutscene whenever someone else was around.

On a paper submitted by a physicist colleague: "This isn't right. This isn't even wrong." -- Wolfgang Pauli