Where Are All of the Voiceover Artists?
Isn’t it funny that work can bloom out of the most unconventional things? As a kid growing up in the nineties, who would have thought playing games or watching TV would be a pioneering force for my career as a voiceover artist for video games? I remember being told to be quiet so much in school, and on any parent’s evening, they would always comment that I chat just a little bit too much. That reality does amuse me now, and it is essential to me that everyone’s voice is heard. But because every voice is heard, it does not mean every voice is found – we will come on to that shortly.
Video games are the most heavily over-saturated and competitive niche of voiceover. Some statistics show how it makes more money than the combined forces of music and movies. This is evident in the amount needed for a game or console, which is getting pricier. With every game comes countless sequels and prequels, so it’s easy to say that video games are a massive moneymaker.
So, if it has that much money behind it, where are all voice actors? Where are all the jobs, and where are all the auditions? The products on the shelf in the video game store are massive titles which means they are certainly going through agents, so people starting in voiceover may not have access to these types of auditions, though there will be plenty of indie jobs out there.
Video Games Voice Talent Finding Their Space
As an actor with an agent, voiceover experience, acting experience, and performance capture experience, I consider myself a viable candidate for video games (especially with the number of training courses I’ve taken). But going back to my point in the previous paragraph, it’s about being found! Are you in front of the casting director when he or she needs you? If you did not audition for the job, the answer is no. Over the years, I have made friends with many casting directors in video games. I have drafted articles on and with them, hosted them on webinars and workshops, and even been with them at mutual industry-relevant events. One good friend of mine, a worldwide casting director, turned to me one day during a conversation and said, “you are a Northern British voiceover artist, right?” To which I replied “yes“. He said, “where were you when I was casting Lord of the Rings? I needed your accent.”
So, it shows that voice talent isn’t the only ingredient. Networking is vital because your talent goes unused if you are not getting the auditions. Video games invite various unconventional character types depending on the genre. Sometimes, the accent does not even matter when it comes down to a fantastic performance. I do adore video games!
For this reason, playing a dragon, a goblin, or a mage just invites so many theatrics, which is how I was initially trained in the arts. It demands that child-like imagination come at the forefront of the performance to encapsulate the power of play! Why is play important? Because it allows us to try different things until the director is satisfied and has been given sufficient performances for the task
Voice Actors Need Competitive Awareness
I remember my early days working in voiceover, I was so desperate to work in video games, and I hustled unrelentingly to get in front of whoever I could that might be able to give me a shot. I soon learnt the big players were hearing close to a thousand auditions regularly with only a small handful of roles at their disposal. Smaller companies approached me, many based in Asia developing apps for phones. What is fascinating is how the rates in the UK and US are so much higher. It almost makes it seem like a rip-off when working internationally sometimes. Sometimes the rates are excellent. But in this instance, they are not. The client wanted me to work for a rate that was a fraction of industry standard, and we haggled and negotiated until we had to agree to walk away from it because no common ground was being made. It was simply too low.
The company felt $50 per session was enough with continual work in the future, whereas I know the rates are four/five times per hour. Of course, like in any good negotiation, I came down a little, and they came up a little, but fundamentally the price was too low, and they felt it was too high, and we just could not get to where we needed to be. The sad truth is contractors are working under duvets in university halls to get a quick buck for the weekend recording on an iPhone that will take these jobs in a heartbeat.
The Future of Voiceover for Video Games
Regardless of the above, you pay for quality. The client would be in a tricky position should they have needed a pickup from that contractor, as who knows where they will be on the other side of the weekend. So, to close, I knew that this genre had a lot more to offer me in the way of payment and experience, so I did not want to give my voice away to something which offered no pay and little enjoyment, especially not for my first video game.