Video game developers as well as players know what it’s like to spend a lot of time on a game. As technology evolves, so does the gaming industry, and developers are creating video games with gorgeous visuals, compelling plots and movie-worthy scores.
Unfortunately, the voice overs aren’t always up to par (as Peter Dinklage recently highlighted).
Video games have become a real medium for storytelling, and the scripts and dialogue for many games have become increasingly complex. That means it’s even more important to have high-quality voice overs that don’t detract from the quality of the game.
A History of Video Game Voice Overs
Voice overs in video games have come a long way in the past few decades. In the early 1980s, the Intellivision console — an early competitor of the Atari 2600 — introduced Intellivoice. Intellivoice was a voice synthesis device to be used with revolutionary speech-supporting games, but it did not sell well and was phased out after only a few years.
In 1983, Disney released the iconic laserdisc arcade game “Dragon’s Lair,” which featured some of the first human voices on a video game. Due to a very limited budget, the voice overs were provided by the game’s developers and animators rather than professional actors.
Over time, video games added more and more dialogue, which became less of a novelty and more of an essential plot point.
The year 2000 saw the release of “Seaman” for Sega Dreamcast featuring the voice over talents of famed actor Leonard Nimoy, and “Hey You, Pikachu!” for Nintendo 64, which included relatively sophisticated voice recognition technology that allowed players to give voice commands to characters. The characters were even able to respond with appropriate dialogue.
Keys to Better Video Game Voice Overs
As video games become more advanced, game developers must create well-rounded characters with appropriate dialogue. The script and the voice overs need to be an integral part of the video game developing process — not just an afterthought.
A voice actor often isn’t given a full script — just isolated lines that will most likely be bewildering without any context. If this is the case, the voice over talent should have a deep understanding of the characters they will be portraying, as well as the game’s plot. When game designers take the time to harness the power of a voice over, the results speak for themselves.
Translated and Localized Video Game Voice Overs
Voice overs must be kept in mind when translating and localizing a video game for an international audience. All too often, the visual aspects of a video game receive the most attention during the localization process.
Saving the dialogue work and voice overs for last often results in poor translations and subpar voice acting. A game that is visually stunning with an exciting plot is then marred by cliché, confusing or implausible dialogue.
A good localization company won’t put video game voice overs on the back burner. The success of the video game depends on every aspect of the game being as engaging and authentic as possible. When it comes to dialogue, this includes not only accurate translations, but also the artistry and tone of the characters’ lines.
A video game won’t be successful if developers, translators and localization specialists view it as just a piece of software. It must be viewed as a separate world that is capable of invoking emotional reactions.