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Do Actors Have A Place In Games?

Posted on 12th Oct 2009 at 11:36 by Mark Mackay with 31 comments

Mark Mackay
It would be true to say that there have been many a great game with actors in it. Actors (or celebrities, to be exact) don’t necessarily make games bad. It just seems to me that there are so many terrible games with actors in that you've really got to question why developers bother.

Let’s start off with Red Alert 3, a game which Joe liked, but I thought was an overworked load of pants. And then lets take Gemma Atkinson, for example. Now, most people that live in the UK will be familiar with Hollyoaks. It’s a teen-type soap opera of epically fail acting.

I’m not the sort of person that goes to see a movie and walks out afterwards saying things like, ‘wow like, yah, I really feel that Depp did a fine job to develop the sub plot of his character, hinting towards the troubled childhood that he must have experienced', but the acting in Hollyoaks is a joke.

Why then would you want to get some chick from such a program in your real time strategy computer game? Yes, I appreciate that it brings some boobs to the table, but I still didn’t enjoy the game and no amount of boobs would make me think the gameplay was good. Even though Tim Curry has been entertaining me in films such as Peter Pan and The Worst Witch since I was but knee high to a Mammoth Tank, I still couldn’t give the faintest of craps that he's in the cutscenes surrounded by hotties that cant act.

I want a good game, not bad soft porn. If I wanted to gawp at chicks there's no end of places on the interwebs that cater for than need specifically.

Do Actors Have A Place In Games?

Next up? Oblivion. It flat-out sucked. Probably the biggest disappointment in my gaming career. Now that the modding community has salvaged it from the depths of utter trash, it’s due another run through. Still though, Patrick Stewart in the opening scene? I just couldn’t give a crap. Having an actor and narrator (he was awesome on Planet Earth), even one that I like at the beginning doesn't compensate for the fact that I can level my character all the way to max and then find a wolf that's a challenge to take down because there’s some ridiculous mob-scaling system.

Do Actors Have A Place In Games?

Then on the other side of coin, let’s take a look at Brutal Legend. Tim Schafer worked closely with Jack Black for the game. Many feel that Jack Black has become increasingly more obnoxious since his springboard to superstardom from Tenacious D. In many respects I would have to agree with them. But what Jack Black does is rock (as in the music genre and not the adjective) and he does it very well. Brutal Legend is a game set in the world of metal (the genre, not the material) and it’s a comedy. For this reason, Jack Black was man for the job, no questions asked. The combination of the Schafer and Black has resulted in an awesome, original game because two people have collaborated on a project doing what they do best.

Do actors have a place in games? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

31 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Omnituens 12th October 2009, 13:03 Quote
I think they do have a place in games; its just getting the right actor for the right game, and making sure that actor is enthusiastic about the project - being gamers themselves would help too.
will. 12th October 2009, 13:14 Quote
I think you mean 'celebrities'. All games with characters have actors in some shape or form.

For example, Uncharted wouldn't have been the same without it's actors.

Some games to benefit sales wise from celebs though. World At War was marketed with Jack Bauer for a reason :p
Xir 12th October 2009, 13:25 Quote
+1

Tim Curry might fit for the "fun" game world of Red Alert.
Personally a "C&C" without Joseph Kucan (Kane) wouldn't be the same!

If you have to have cutscenes they may as well be acted. Though I guess this comes from times when animations were just too bad for cutscenes.
dextro 12th October 2009, 13:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by will.
I think you mean 'celebrities'. All games with characters have actors in some shape or form.

For example, Uncharted wouldn't have been the same without it's actors.

Some games to benefit sales wise from celebs though. World At War was marketed with Jack Bauer for a reason :p

And don't forget David Hayter on Metal Gear Solid. Like him or not his voice is instantly recognizable as Snake :P
Cutter McJ1b 12th October 2009, 13:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by will.
I think you mean 'celebrities'.

I do indeed mean celebreties. Well spotted.
Zero_UK 12th October 2009, 14:21 Quote
Liam Neeson in Fall Out 3 adds the +1 from me.

In Fall Out 3 Liam's voice acting impacted the game play so much, he usually takes the father figure role. By that we could already relate with him, we liked his character before we even got into the game. He made the game seem more real, as we could easily bond with him as we already knew him.

On the other hand, RA3 hiring "actors" consisted of hiring models for an audience who'd pay to wakoff in the cut scenes, and the main actors for advertisement - publicity. When it was just goofing around in briefings. Marketable? sure, did it effect the game play? nope.
Blackmoon181 12th October 2009, 15:06 Quote
Leonard Nimoy in civiliszation4 really adds some character to the game. There is no better voice telling you the wonders of researching animal husbandry!
NethLyn 12th October 2009, 15:14 Quote
Well the casting is absolutely everything, I don't watch House since it went to Sky so I'm not bothered about the person that played Dr Cameron turning up in CnC 3 - and Michael Ironside was already well known from Splinter Cell so that was good that he extended to being on-camera, not just a voice.

Also sometimes it depends if you're spotting good favourite actors like Michael Rapaport and Ray Liotta from the GTA games. Frankly as long as they don't start demanding repeat fees that drive up game prices, I'm fine with them.

And Xir already pointed out that some of the greatest cutscene acting came from an EA employee for the past 14 years!
Xir 12th October 2009, 15:47 Quote
Nor were the actors alwas second rate:

Don't forget Wing Commander...the Mother of all cutscenegames with:
Mark "Luke Skywalker" Hamill
Malcolm McDowell

Privateer 2
John Hurt
Clive Owen
Jürgen "das Boot" Prochnow
Christopher Walken
stoff3r 12th October 2009, 15:55 Quote
I don't think patrick steward was in Planet Earth at some point? If you mean the Nature series it would be David Attenborough. But You probably mean some sci-fi series or video game i can't find on IMDB :)
Psytek 12th October 2009, 16:51 Quote
I was nodding along in agreement until you said that oblivion sucked...

I agree that actors aren't necessary in games, but other than that, guy you are crazy.

Oblivion won game of the year awards...
delriogw 12th October 2009, 16:53 Quote
hmmm i suppose one could argue that all actors are celebrities (althought that of course requires them being well known enough and 'popular') but not all celebrities are actors (although too many of them try for my liking).

i think PROPER actors have a place in games, i thought the voice of patrick stewart lent an amount of brevity to the king in oblivion (or was it an emporer? meh), and i was disappointed he had such a small role to play.

in an industry where the story is often fail of epic proportions, i can see a real benefit for using proper actors who bring real experience. but then the story/script has to be there for them to work with, and it need to be an asset to the the game not there instead of the game.

as a rare female on this site i could have told you there's far too many scantily clad women in games in general, never mind crappy hollyoakes totty.

so i suppose in summation, i think genuine acting talent can only be a positive thing in gaming, but... and this is the big but, the game has to be strong anyways or you're effectively putting a fairy on top of a christmas tree that was dead before it was chopped down and brought into the house.
thehippoz 12th October 2009, 17:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Psytek
I was nodding along in agreement until you said that oblivion sucked...

I agree that actors aren't necessary in games, but other than that, guy you are crazy.

Oblivion won game of the year awards...

lol yeah I can tell he's not a rpg guy.. or never really played oblivion =] you could make your character insanely powerful- that was without mods.. and patrick stewart made the opening pretty memorable too
Omnituens 12th October 2009, 17:22 Quote
I must agree Mark - Oblivion sucked, mainly due to the awful monster scaling and dire combat system. It sucked so much I can't play Fallout 3 without that voice in the back of my mind going "YOU ARE JUST PLAYING OBLIVION WITH GUNS". Which is a shame, because I like LAZORS PEW PEW PEW.
Xir 12th October 2009, 20:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by delriogw
...there's far too many scantily clad women in games in general...

Nope...that's like a perpetuum mobile, just not possible :D

Thank you all for bringing this up, I've been trying to remember this game for about 6 years* and today I finally found all the cutscenes of privateer 2 in the net

Xir

*kept mixing it up with freelancer
C-Sniper 12th October 2009, 20:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xir
Personally a "C&C" without Joseph Kucan (Kane) wouldn't be the same!

Agreed!

I think that the actors should fill their parts in a game and just be there for eye-candy (see: RA3).
dublos 12th October 2009, 23:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by stoff3r
I don't think patrick steward was in Planet Earth at some point? If you mean the Nature series it would be David Attenborough. But You probably mean some sci-fi series or video game i can't find on IMDB :)

Earth, by Lionsgate. The same footage is used by Planet Earth, narrated as you mention by David Attenborough.
dublos 12th October 2009, 23:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cutter McJ1b
I do indeed mean celebreties. Well spotted.
Actors yes, a vital place in games.. celebrities, not so much unless it's a celebrity based game. Rock star appearances add something to Rockband, Guitar hero, etc, where they appear as themselves. Celebrities appearing as a game character rather than themselves.. fine if they are working as an actor and I'm forgetting who the celebrity is playing the role. Not so fine if I'm seeing the celebrity instead of the character they are playing.
SimoomiZ 13th October 2009, 01:11 Quote
It's an interesting topic this,worthy of a full piece imho, that is if it hasn't been covered already by bit. As the environment graphics get better the believability of them is drifting towards the "uncanny" especially with the next gen tech . I recently played a game with fantastically realised environments, lighting and sound, you get a glimpse of how realistic games could one day become. But like with all current games the thing that ruins the immersion is the rendered human characters. They're becoming more and more lifelike and yet it's more and more ,game- breakingly obvious that they're not really like humans, with their fixed stares and odd robotic movement i.e we're nearly at the "uncanny valley " problem. We notice these obvious errors in humans -from eyes- to hair and smile, more than anything else in the game and feel disconnected from the characters we're supposed to like, even when the voice acting is fantastic.

So yes, where possible , real(quality)actors should be used, because it's clear that rendered environments are going to become photo realistic long before rendered characters do(if they ever do), due to the complexities involved. Many game artists probably think that their fantastic environments are becoming too good to populate with the plastic-like rendered characters.
simonw 13th October 2009, 08:40 Quote
Having voice acting is great, doesn't matter if the actor is famous or unknown, just as long as it is done well.

Having an actor or celebrity starring as a character in a game, I can take it or leave it.
Cutter McJ1b 13th October 2009, 11:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Omnituens
I must agree Mark - Oblivion sucked, mainly due to the awful monster scaling and dire combat system. It sucked so much I can't play Fallout 3 without that voice in the back of my mind going "YOU ARE JUST PLAYING OBLIVION WITH GUNS". Which is a shame, because I like LAZORS PEW PEW PEW.

+1

That's totally the case for me too. I wish I'd never went anywhere near Oblivion so that it didn't taint my impressions of Fall Out 3
Cutter McJ1b 13th October 2009, 11:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by dublos
Quote:
Originally Posted by stoff3r
I don't think patrick steward was in Planet Earth at some point? If you mean the Nature series it would be David Attenborough. But You probably mean some sci-fi series or video game i can't find on IMDB :)

Earth, by Lionsgate. The same footage is used by Planet Earth, narrated as you mention by David Attenborough.

Yes, it was in fact Earth that Steward narrated, Planet Earth was done by Attenborough.
Aragon Speed 13th October 2009, 11:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by delriogw
hmmm i suppose one could argue that all actors are celebrities (althought that of course requires them being well known enough and 'popular') but not all celebrities are actors (although too many of them try for my liking).

i think PROPER actors have a place in games, i thought the voice of patrick stewart lent an amount of brevity to the king in oblivion (or was it an emporer? meh), and i was disappointed he had such a small role to play.

in an industry where the story is often fail of epic proportions, i can see a real benefit for using proper actors who bring real experience. but then the story/script has to be there for them to work with, and it need to be an asset to the the game not there instead of the game.

as a rare female on this site i could have told you there's far too many scantily clad women in games in general, never mind crappy hollyoakes totty.

so i suppose in summation, i think genuine acting talent can only be a positive thing in gaming, but... and this is the big but, the game has to be strong anyways or you're effectively putting a fairy on top of a christmas tree that was dead before it was chopped down and brought into the house.

+1
stonedsurd 13th October 2009, 11:52 Quote
Actors can very often make or break a game. I think there's definitely a place for talented actors as well as celebrities.
bpdlr 13th October 2009, 12:51 Quote
Mark Hamill in Wing Commander IV
Clive Owen in Privateer 2

Two games I enjoyed quite a lot, but which had pretty average actors in starring roles. I honestly don't see any correlation between the quality of the game and the inclusion of actors/celebrities.

PS Danni Behr did the ship computer voice in Privateer 2 - that might have swayed me a bit, I guess :p
Xir 13th October 2009, 12:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SimoomiZ
...I recently played a game with fantastically realised environments, lighting and sound, you get a glimpse of how realistic games could one day become...

And its called what???

Clive Owen in privateer2...didn't know him back then, for me he just was generic-space-pilot-No.1 :D

Still the acting wasn't bad
Spraduke 14th October 2009, 10:16 Quote
The actress who voiced alyx from hl2 deserves a mention. The end of ep2 was probably the most moving scene from a game that I have played.
l3v1ck 14th October 2009, 11:25 Quote
Actors don't make games, good characters do.
All hail Minsc and Boo.
Dragunover 14th October 2009, 23:21 Quote
I don't know about you, but I actually like people who can speak in my game. Patrick Stewart was a great choice IMO for Oblivion.
Infact, one of the reasons they're picked ( but sadly not the biggest ) Is because they've become professional speakers.
Abdul Hadi 17th October 2009, 07:38 Quote
I agree with Mark Mackay. But Hell, the movie in NFS Most Wanted was good.
BLC 19th October 2009, 09:39 Quote
I think we may all be forgetting that most heinous of crimes against gaming ever (at least in terms of voice acting), which is Resident Evil on the Playstation. That game alone is an argument *for* professional voice actors in video games. The story wasn't exactly Shakespear, but the flat, lifeless and downright dull voice acting really didn't suck you in to the game at all. I'll admit that RE was a little hindered by the technology: in most cut-scenes (especially the first) you can hear the whirr and click of the CDROM loading the next line of speech, which inevitably led to horrendous pauses in the dialogue... The CDROM in the PSX wasn't exactly a quiet beast...

"Stop!" *pause....* "Don't open that door!" * Longer pause....whirrr, bzzzt, click* "But Chris is...." *Pause...bzzzzt, whirrr, etc... you get the idea...*
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