Friday, May 1, 2009

Voice acting: The Gift and the Curse

The first video game I played was Super Mario Bros. on my Nintendo in 1988. I lived in a 2 family house, and our landlord lived below us on the first floor. He had two sons who were my first friends, through the passing of time has clouded their faces from me. Rondel and Ruel were their names. The two had a plethora of games, and they introduced me to the lot of them.

Back in those days, it was common for games to have stories. However, they were usually brief back stories to the game proper, and tucked away in the games User Manual, which gamers discarded the minute they opened their game. So in reality, imagination played a major part in the games story. We were given a name, place, and time, and essentially set free in the games' world. Voice acting was very, very uncommon, mostly because of the limitations of the hardware in those days.

The advent of the PlayStation introduced larger, meatier system specs., and the expansion into the world of voices really took hold. Voice acting added a new level of immersion to games that could only be achieved before through our imagination. In fact, there are plenty of die-hard fans out there who adamantly reject voice acting in their favorite series,simply because they feel voicework would ruin "how they imagined it would be". (I'm looking at you, Zelda fans).

The problem with video game voice-work is the same problem that Anime faces: the crappy Voice Actor (VA). I feel that voice work has gotten gradually better over the years. It is rare that you get games with really bad VA's. (Click here for hilarity). As you can see, there are instances where the VA's are genuinely bad, or miscast, or simply don't give their performance there "all". Voice acting then becomes one of those things you define by it's bad, instead of it's good.

Now, I'm not condoning crap voice work. Quite the contrary; I am very critical of games regarding both their stories and their VA's. However, unless the voice work is miserably bad, I don't let these criticisms interfere with me playing my game. It just doesn't get to me like it would the typical wapanese otaku. I do understand, though, that bad VA's can easily ruin the immersion aspect the game was trying to achieve in the first place.

Mediocre though many claim American VA's to be, I sure as hell don't want to listen to Japanese VA's, who follow nothing but archetypes. Added to the fact that I don't know a lick of Japanese, and you have an unfun-filled gaming experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment