Despite the incredible advances in technology over the last 20 years, there’s one thing video games still struggle to do good: voice acting.
At this point, the industry standard is to ensure it’s as horrible as humanly possible. Some of the following examples have gone down in legend. They’re so horrific, they become weirdly compelling.
But this isn’t entirely a mockery of peoples’ hard work going wrong. There’s also a nifty highlights reel from an industry expert to explain where things go a bit wrong.
Bad Video Game Voice Acting
This is a very new medium. Only in recent years have video games been capable of managing lengthy, movie-like dialogue.
What’s funny about it is developers trying to be taken seriously – video games as art. And they go for dramatic heft as with above. And it’s cringeworthy.
As we covered recently in our Resident Evil retrospective, the series is famous for bad voice acting.
Now we apppreciate many gamers actually like the story development aspect. They think it adds an extra level of immersion.
Perhaps we’re too old-school with our gaming, but the AAA scene has largely driven us towards indie games to avoid the horrendous voice acting and scripts.
Bayonetta 2, for instance, we totally abandoned after a few hours as you can’t go more than five minutes without being interrupted by yet another cutscene with godawful dialogue. For us, it was insufferable.
Some in the industry suggest this infatuation with movie-esque experiences isn’t for the best.
Nintendo’s legendary Shigeru Miyamoto said recently it tends to ruin the flow of a game. Steven Spielberg agrees – he complains
Industry stalwarts Sega and Sony don’t agree, though, with the latter in particular happy to allows its third party developers to go all out for in-game voice acting.
Although a fantastic game, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is legendary for its awkward in-game conversations.
Yet there is the humour factor there, at least. Although embarrassing for an industry trying to be taken seriously on an artistic front, the bad voice acting is frequently hilarious.
And as we pointed out in our Sonic Adventure review, Sega’s series is now famous for its horrific voice acting.
Hopefully the upcoming movie will be a step above efforts like this.
Nintendo’s stance on this remains solid – although many gamers call the company out of touch for not moving with this industry trend, it continues to not overcomplicate its games with excessive story and cutscenes.
Even the enormous 2017 smash hit The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild almost completely ignores it all to focus on the gaming experience.
As Miyamoto put it (and this guy is a remarkable creative genius, so he does know a thing or two about this):
"I have never thought of games as a means of storytelling. So while many people have approached me in the past and said ‘why don’t you make a movie?’, I had never been interested.”
Miyamoto wrote several short films based on his Pikmin series in 2014. Film critic Robbie Collins interviewed him about it for The Telegraph:
"The fact he didn’t direct the films themselves is telling. Miyamoto doesn’t see himself as a storyteller, and worries that the video game business is now so hung up on providing film-like experiences, with grand themes and complex storylines, that the essence of play is being lost. In films, he explains, the director and the creator are one and the same person, dictating what happens, carving out the story’s arc. But in games, he believes the director should be the player – his job as a designer is simply to equip them with the toys to direct. As a creative philosophy it’s pretty much the opposite of auteurism – though ironically, it’s one that has made him the best-known games designer on the planet."
Miyamoto’s stance is one we fully agree with, as despite a few notable examples we generally can’t stand cutscenes – they’re embarrassingly poor.
Half-Life 2 is a wonderful example of how to tell a story in a video game – the voice acting it brilliant. But that that was in 2004.
We feel developers really should pay more attention to tha game as it’s seamless and delivered to near perfection. Then you avoid moments like this.
It can be incredibly invasive. Playing a game, then you’re forced to sit through yet another godawful cut-scene with terrible voice acting.
So what about examples of a video game getting it right? Take a look at this scene from Half-Life 2.
Natural, flowing, doesn’t invade anything – as a player, you’re engrossed in it entirely. And it doesn’t come across as stupid or inept.
One of the major decisions Valve took when developing the game was to largely stick with the first-person perspective. That and an amazing script work wonders.
Huge openworld games such as Skyrim and The Witcher III do an excellent job as well – on the whole. Due care and meticulous attention go into ensuring it all flows properly.
The script is exceptional and the voice acting world-class.
Why can’t all studios put the effort in for such quality?
Unfortunately, a lot of AAA games jarringly slam you out of the game and force you to watch some inane rambling. That’s our issue with the present situation.
Yet whether we like it or not, it’s a part of the industry here to stay. And lots of other gamers will no doubt be sending us death threats over this post.
Well, we’re the ones trying to fill your dark souls with LIIIGGGHHTTT!!!!
A popular thing on the internet right now is experts examining scenes from films and explaining whether they’re good or not.
So the voice actor above decided to do that for a bunch of films and video games.
Result? Good fun entertainment from that British man. Jolly good show, old bean.
But he does also provide excellent insights into why video game voice acting can be atrocious. It’s not simply down to a lack of talent, there are multifacted reasons.