How To Start Voice Acting for Video Games (With Career Tips)
If you enjoy playing video games on your favorite system, you may consider starting a career doing voice acting for video games. While playing video games and doing voice-over requires two very different skill sets, being passionate about the medium might motivate you to seek opportunities in this field. Learning more about what's involved in a career as a professional voice actor for video games can help you decide if this is a job you want to pursue.
In this article, we explain the skills needed to provide voice-over talent for video games, explain how you can start a career in the industry and offer tips to help you begin and develop your vocal acting abilities for gaming projects.
Related: Your Guide to Becoming a Voice Actor
What's different about voice acting for video games?
Voice-over acting is a broad career field where performers use their vocal talents to record spoken lines for entertainment, educational and marketing purposes. In voice acting projects for video games, performers create sounds and spoken dialog for a character involved in the gameplay. Voice acting for video games tends to be a highly collaborative process with designers, animators, voice directors and voice-over artists working together to determine the best way to bring a character to life on screen.
Recording video game tracks may involve long sessions of repetitive responses or commands used to play through game levels. Unlike animated feature films or television shows, video game voice-overs may not use a straightforward script using dialog to tell a story. Instead, video game scripts may involve an initial monologue or dialog to set the story, then proceed to multiple variants of the character's journey based on commands from users.
Roles for video game voice actors
Here are the roles typically available for voice-over artists working on a gaming project:
Video games may contain narration throughout the game story. Role-playing games typically rely more heavily on narration than other types of games. Educational games may also use more narration to present information in an interesting way. Since this is a technique used in other voice-over work, developing a strong narrative voice may help you expand your career to find opportunities in other industries. Voice actors often use clear, resonant tones to voice narration.
Users typically control one of the story's protagonists to play a video game. These main characters act as a personal avatar for players, speaking as they interact with the game features. Voice actors provide the words and sounds for each protagonist in the game, using acting skills to show emotion and enhance the player's connection with the story.
Voice actors also speak for the villains in a game. This is another chance for performers to use acting abilities to create the character. Voicing an antagonist may involve choices like dropping your pitch and increasing your volume to sound menacing or using a high-pitched laugh to sound maniacal.
Performers can also find work voicing smaller roles in video games. These roles can give new voice-over artists the opportunity to gain experience and exposure in the industry while also honing their craft. Supporting characters may include animal companions, magical guides or incidental background characters that only appear in a certain area or level.
How to become a voice actor for video games
Even if you're trying to find work in a specific industry, you can start a voice acting career by practicing voices and learning more about what voice-over artists do. When you've developed your own style by trying out different vocal abilities and acting skills, you're prepared to begin looking for jobs. Following these steps can help you start your career as a voice actor and find work specific to the gaming industry:
1. Develop your technique
Before you start looking for work as a video game voice actor, it's important to develop your craft. Consider working with a coach who can give you professional industry advice about using your voice to create a character. Study profession resources and read about the careers of other voice-over artists. Determine your vocal style and what kinds of voices you can do. Study voice acting in video games to discover current trends. Follow other voice actors working in the video game industry to determine their techniques and learn how they started a career in gaming.
2. Set up a home studio
Voice-over artists often complete an entire project remotely using a home studio. A high-quality microphone is usually the first piece of equipment performers consider. Next, choose complementary devices to aid in the recording process. This includes software and a computer or mobile device to run the platform and store the recorded audio. Recording software also gives you the tools to edit your tracks. While the cost of a home studio can range based on the quality and type of equipment you choose, this investment is one of the most important steps in preparing for a career in the voice-over industry.
3. Create a demo
Once you establish your strengths in vocal characterization, prepare a demo or sample of your voice acting abilities. A demo typically contains a variety of separate short tracks that show off your vocal range and style. Each track features a different type of voice in categories such as narration, character vocals, advertising content and informational delivery. It's important to create a high-quality demo either through your own audio equipment or in a professional studio. Edit each track by adding background sounds or music, deleting extra time before or after your sample lines or eliminating ambient noise.
4. Establish a portfolio or profile
As a voice-over artist, it's important to market yourself. You can do this through an online profile hosted by a third-party platform or by creating your own website. Include samples of your voice-over work, list the types of voice-over projects you prefer. It's also a good idea to include your top vocal abilities like character voices and narrative qualities such as relaxed or friendly. Update your pages frequently with new projects or revised demo tracks. You can also find services specifically dedicated to connecting video game voice actors with game developers.
5. Find auditions
After you've prepared to promote and record your work, you're ready to audition for video game voice acting roles. Look for listings online through voice-over hosting organizations. Many sites offer free casting calls with an option to subscribe for more advanced audition notices. Consider if it's worth spending the money to receive personalized audition updates or premium access to casting notices.
You can also hire a casting agent to book auditions for you in the video game industry. Although casting agents may have access to more industry opportunities, they require a separate audition process to decide if they want to take you as a client. Whether you pursue jobs on your own or work with an agent, once you're contacted to try out for a role, you may audition in a studio or submit work from your personal studio space.
Tips for voice acting in video games
Here are a few tips to help you make your best video game voice-over recordings and find top roles:
Study the industry. Learn about industry trends and listen to character voices in video games you like. Play through games to gain an understanding of the types of sounds, dialog and narration video games use.
Practice making sounds. Since video games involve action scenes as users play through each level, voice actors also record sound effects for characters. To prepare for a recording session, practice making sounds that represent a character fighting or even a death scene by incorporating groans, grunts and heavy breathing noises.
Work on developing a character. Create or find a practice script for a video game character. Read through the script and determine the character's background and personality to generate ideas for the best way to create their voice.
Use your whole body. Even though you don't appear on screen, using your body to make gestures and facial expressions can help you get into character and add energy to your recording session. Since characters in video games typically use more physical actions, mimicking this in the studio can enhance your performance.
Find small jobs. Check with gaming schools and small studios to find gigs that can give you experience as you work to gain more exposure in the industry. Student projects can be an effective way to try out your skills and determine how you can grow your abilities.
Share your language abilities. If you're bilingual, you have the opportunity to offer your voice talents for multiple markets. Gaming companies often produce different versions of games for international release using performers who can create character voices in other languages.
Know your genre. Gaming companies create products using a variety of popular genres like military, fantasy and science fiction. You may find you have a niche for historical voice-over or fantasy role-playing games and can pursue roles in that sector of the industry.
Grow your acting abilities. Taking acting workshops or participating in local theater can help you develop your skills as an actor, making your voice-over work stronger. Improvisation classes are also an effective way to prepare for voice-acting jobs.
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