Voice acting for video games

This blog post discusses voice acting for video games. It also discusses techniques for bringing video game characters to life, standard industry rates, and more!


Rafael Botelho

2/21/20249 min read

man in blue long sleeve shirt holding black gaming controller
man in blue long sleeve shirt holding black gaming controller

Voice Acting In Video Games: Evolution, Impact and Importance

Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry that captivates players with immersive worlds and compelling narratives. An often overlooked yet crucial element in games is voice acting, which is the art of bringing the characters to life!

Integral to the industry, voice acting elevates gaming experiences to new heights. It spans from high-energy performances in action-packed games to nuanced portrayals in RPGs, creating the vital link between players and the game's virtual worlds.

Voice acting is pivotal in enriching the player experience by infusing characters with depth and personality. A well-executed voice performance can transform a virtual character into a vivid, relatable entity, drawing players deeper into the game's narrative!

Beyond character depth, voice acting shapes a game's overall story arc. It conveys the narrative, provides context, and guides players through their journey.

Skilled voice actors deliver dialogue that enhances the game's atmosphere and breathes life into the storyline. In early gaming, stories and character dialogues heavily relied on written text.

However, technological advancements revolutionized the industry and incorporating voice acting added layers of depth and personality to characters, making them more memorable and relatable.

Games like 'The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time' and 'Metal Gear Solid' were pioneers in popularizing voice acting, setting new standards for storytelling in gaming.

The profound impact of voice acting on the gaming experience cannot be overstated. It's more than just storytelling enhancement, and helps foster a deeper connection between the player and the game.

Voice performances evoke a spectrum of emotions, from empathy and humor to fear and excitement, creating an immersive and unforgettable gaming journey!

Essential Skills For Aspiring Voice Actors

Bringing virtual characters to life requires a range of skills that go beyond simply reading lines. Voice actors must be able to:

  • Convey emotion;

    • This is crucial, allowing players to connect with the characters deeper.

  • Create a believable and engaging performance;

    • Convincingly portraying a character's unique personality is essential to creating a memorable and immersive gaming experience.

  • Adapt to diverse roles;

    • Voice actors must be versatile and able to adapt to different roles. They are often required to portray various characters, from heroes to villains, from humans to fictional creatures.

You must possess a wide range of skills to excel in voice acting. This also includes exceptional vocal control, understanding the technical aspects of voice recording, and having good microphone techniques.

Breaking Into The Industry

Breaking into the video game industry as a voice actor may seem daunting, but it's achievable with the right approach and persistence! One crucial step is to develop a strong voice acting portfolio that showcases your range and versatility.

This can be achieved by:

  • Building your voice acting portfolio;

    • Your voice actor portfolio should include a range of voice samples showcasing different characters, emotions, accents, styles, and game genres to showcase your range and versatility. Consider participating in local theater productions or offering your voice for independent game projects to gain experience. A strong voice acting portfolio makes you more attractive to game developers and casting directors and enhances your chances of landing roles in video games!

  • Taking acting classes and workshops;

    • While formal education and training in voice acting are not mandatory, they can provide valuable skills and techniques. Various institutions offer courses in drama, voice training, and even specific voice acting programs. These courses provide a solid foundation in voice control, script interpretation, and character development.

  • Attending industry events;

    • Networking is key in the gaming industry. Attend gaming conventions, voice acting workshops, and industry conferences to connect with professionals. These events often provide opportunities for auditions and learning about upcoming projects.

  • Creating an online presence;

    • Establishing a strong online presence through social media and professional websites can showcase your work to potential clients. Post your voice acting samples, share insights about your journey, and engage with the gaming community.

  • Seeking representation;

    • Consider working with a voice acting agency. While they take a commission, they can provide steady opportunities and help you navigate the industry.

Remember, breaking into the video game industry requires voice talent, persistence, and dedication. Keep honing your craft, seeking feedback, and staying updated on industry trends. With time and effort, you can carve out a successful career as a video game voice actor.

Voice Acting Challenges Unique to Video Games

Unlike voice acting for movies or radio, video games often require actors to record lines out of context or react to various in-game scenarios.

This demands a high level of imagination and adaptability from the actors, as they must deliver lines that fit a wide range of possible player actions.

One of the biggest challenges in video game voice acting is maintaining consistency in character voices, especially in games that require extensive dialogue recording over long periods.

Additionally, voice actors often have to deliver lines for physically demanding scenes, like combat or emotional breakdowns, which can be vocally straining.

Study The Gaming Industry's Market

As a voice talent, you need to understand the gaming industry's market dynamics to find success when voice acting for video games. This includes knowing the types of games in demand, the studios hiring voice actors and other industry trends.

Working with Game Developers

To have a successful career in voice acting for video games, you must combine your voice talent with openness, availability, and flexibility when collaborating with the game developers.

Understanding their vision and adapting to different studio environments is crucial for bringing characters to life. This collaboration includes script analysis and reading, studying the character you'll voice, and frequent feedback sessions.

Ideally, the relationship between the voice actors and the game developers should blend creativity and technicality, supporting each side to create a cohesive and captivating gaming experience!

Emotional Range and Character Development

In-depth character development is essential for compelling voice acting. As a voice actor, you contribute significantly to building a character, from understanding the character's backstory to expressing complex emotions.

You should inhabit the character and understand its fears, motivations, and aspirations!

This deep dive into the character's psyche allows for a performance that is more than just reading a few lines off a script, creating a character that players can connect with and believe in.

In video games, characters often experience various emotions and development arcs. A voice actor must be capable of convincingly expressing these changes, adding depth and authenticity to the character.

When voice acting for video games, you bring a character to life. You can't do this by simply reading a script while recording your voice. You need to understand the backstory, personality, and emotions of the character you will portray.

Demands of Simulation Games

Simulation games, such as life simulators or strategy games, require a more nuanced and subtle approach to voice acting. The focus is often on creating a realistic and immersive experience for the player.

Actors who voice characters in these games must convey authenticity and relatability since they often portray everyday scenarios and complex strategies.

The challenge is making the mundane sound engaging and ensuring that each character, whether a city mayor or a farm owner, has a distinct and believable voice.

Voice Acting in Action and Adventure Games

Action and adventure games often demand high-energy and dynamic voice performances. This includes delivering lines for intense action scenes and conveying a sense of urgency and excitement.

In these genres, voice actors must be able to portray a wide range of emotions, from adrenaline-fueled enthusiasm to profound despair.

The voice became a tool to immerse players in a world of daring escapades and dangerous journeys, making every battle cry and whispered secret crucial to the gaming experience.

Voice-Over in Horror Games: Setting the Tone

Horror games rely heavily on atmosphere and voice acting, which helps build tension and fear. Techniques for voice acting in horror games include tone and pacing to enhance the eerie and suspenseful atmosphere.

As a voice actor, you must learn how to create suspense and use your voice to lead the player through a rollercoaster of emotions, from the subtle creaks of a haunted house to the panic-stricken screams in the face of jumpscares!

In this scenario, your voice can and should evoke fear, making every whisper and scream a vital part of the horror experience.

VO for Non-Playable Characters (NPCs)

Voice acting for NPCs requires versatility and the ability to bring life to background characters. Although NPCs are not the main focus of a game, they enrich the gaming experience for the player.

For example, I'm asking for an autograph if I ever meet anyone who voiced a GTA NPC. A well-voiced NPC can make a virtual world feel populated and vibrant, adding layers to the story, providing essential context, and making it sound more real.

Each NPC's voice—from the friendly shopkeeper to the random stranger — contributes to a more fun experience for the player!

Voice Acting in Role-playing games (RPGs)

Role-playing games (RPGs) offer unique challenges for voice actors and require you to inhabit a character fully to contribute to an immersive gaming experience.

RPGs are known for deep storytelling and complex characters; players spend hours interacting with them. Therefore, you must deliver consistent, believable, and memorable performances as a voice actor!

You need to understand details about the game's world and lore to ensure your performance aligns with the narrative and enhances the player's journey through diverse landscapes and storylines.

Acting and Game Localization

Voice acting is integral to game localization. Adapting voice performances for different languages and cultures is crucial, ensuring the game resonates with audiences worldwide and succeeds internationally.

Localization is not just about translation. It's about cultural adaptation and ensuring that the voice performances are appropriate and engaging for players from different backgrounds.

This often involves working with localization teams and voice actors from different countries to capture the essence of the game in multiple languages.

Role of Audio Engineers in Gaming

Audio engineers play a vital role in the voice acting process. They are responsible for recording, editing, and mixing the voice tracks to ensure they align perfectly with the game's visuals and sound effects.

A professional audio engineer can make a significant difference in the final quality of the game's audio.

Future Trends

As technology advances, the video game voice acting world is constantly evolving. One significant trend is the increasing demand for realistic and nuanced performances.

Players now expect more from their gaming experiences, and voice actors must meet these expectations by delivering authentic and natural performances.

Another trend is the rise of motion capture technology, which allows voice actors to provide the character's voice and perform their physical movements.

This integration of voice acting and motion capture creates a more seamless and immersive experience for players.

Additionally, the growing popularity of virtual reality (VR) gaming presents new opportunities and challenges for voice actors. VR games require a heightened sense of realism, as players are fully immersed in the virtual world.

Technical Aspects of Audio Recording

Having the right equipment is crucial for producing high-quality voice-over recordings. This includes a professional-grade microphone, a soundproof recording space, and reliable recording software.

Knowing how to use these tools effectively can significantly enhance the voice-over quality. The proper microphone technique can capture the nuances of a performance, while soundproofing ensures clarity and purity of sound.

Editing is the final step in polishing a voice performance, removing unwanted noises, and ensuring the voice seamlessly integrates with the game's audio landscape.

Business Side of Acting

Like any other profession, if you're getting into voice acting, you must learn how to navigate the business side to have a successful career.

This includes understanding the market demand, standard voice acting rates, where and how to find online work, dealing with contracts, and understanding royalties.

You must consider whether or not you should find representation, the best practices for a voice acting audition, and how to build a professional network and connect with like-minded peers.

Voice actors need to study contracts, negotiation techniques, and the overall landscape of the gaming industry. Building a strong network can lead to more job opportunities and collaborations, helping voice actors grow their careers!

Where and How To Find Work: Agencies vs. Freelancing

As a voice actor, you can find work through agencies or freelancing. An agency can provide steady opportunities but often takes a commission. On the other hand, freelancing offers more freedom and control but requires more effort in marketing and networking.

Contracts and Royalties

Understanding contracts and royalties is crucial for any voice actor. This includes knowing your rights, learning how to negotiate fees, and understanding the terms of your involvement in a project.

You must be 100% clear on usage rights, residuals, and credit for your work.

Key Insights

Video game voice acting is a captivating and dynamic field that offers exciting opportunities for aspiring voice actors and gaming enthusiasts. From action-packed adventures to immersive RPGs, the voice actor plays a pivotal role in bringing game worlds to life.

Whether you aspire to be a voice actor or want to appreciate the behind-the-scenes magic, understanding the process of video game voice acting will deepen your appreciation for the incredible talent and dedication that goes into bringing virtual characters to life.

By honing your skills, networking with industry professionals, and staying abreast of the latest trends, you can break into this niche as a voice actor and contribute to the immersive worlds players love.

As the industry evolves, so do the opportunities and challenges in voice acting, making it an exciting and rewarding career path for voice talents passionate about this craft!

gamer using Sony PlayStation VR
gamer using Sony PlayStation VR
a man gaming and holding a controller in front of a monitor
a man gaming and holding a controller in front of a monitor
three game developers sitting and enjoying a fun gaming experience
three game developers sitting and enjoying a fun gaming experience