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When voice acting goes wrong…basically, most of the time

Usually I’d do a Video Vault on Fridays, but as my computer is having trouble with YouTube today you’ll have to settle for this instead: me having a bit of a complain. Well, it’s Friday, ok? It’s good to have a bit of a vent.

In the past week I’ve played two games with voice dialogue that ranges from the absolute nadir of vocal performance (Mindjack) to the utterly overdramatic and histrionic (Kinghts Contract). I’m beginning to wonder just how these kind of performances  slip through the net. Games are bigger, more expensive, and more cinematic than ever before, and yet somehow ADR and sound technicians can sit in a sound studio, listen to Mindjack’s protagonist whine, “But this was supposed to be an EASY mission!” and think “YES. Yes, that is the take I want to put into my game.”

Are these people not listening? Are the voice actors simply not trying? I have a pretty monotone, droning, mumbling voice that causes most people to switch off the moment I open my mouth (good job I’m a writer) but still I reckon I could do a better job than anyone in Blandjack. All it takes is a little emotion, and a little effort, and you’ll have a half-decent performance that will give your game just that little bit more dramatic intensity.

But no. Many developers these days are happy with sub-par performances that wouldn’t be out of place in some horrible Nickelodeon cartoon. In Knights Contract the characters talk as if attempting the most melodramatic line readings of all time. It can get a little irritating.

Not that all terrible voice acting is necessarily a bad thing, however. In Two Worlds the voice acting is so bad it becomes a thing of utter beauty. Having a bear run towards you and hearing your character shout, “Ah, bandits!” is so ridiculous you can’t help but admire the sheer silliness of it all. Similarly, Deadly Premonition’s camper-than-camp line readings add to the whole B-movie feel of the game. It just works.

But in games that take themselves a little more seriously, acting like that in Mindjack feels totally amateur, particularly when there’s titles like Uncharted and Heavy Rain out there delivering a new cinematic standard.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just wanted to make the point that the people recording and directing such terrible voice acting should open their ears a little more, pay attention when the actor’s not giving it their all, and push for a better performance. That way such a core part of the game’s narrative and character won’t feel so detrimental to the overall feel of the game.




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