×

Customers

USA: +1 332 2131 466

UK: +44 (0)203 603 3676

sales@voquent.com

Talent

USA: 1 332 2131 466

UK: +44 (0)203 603 3676

talent@voquent.com

Guides

How to Become a Video Game Voice Actor: Advice from a AAA Voiceover Director

Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning

19 February 2024

How to Become a Video Game Voice Actor: Advice from a AAA Voiceover Director - Voquent

Voicing creative characters in the world’s biggest video games… that’s the dream, right?

Whether you’ve always wanted to give voice acting a go, or you’re just a superfan of the medium, you might be wondering, “How do I become a voice actor for video games”?

From voice reels to securing an agent, perfecting your performance, to why you should NEVER eat peanuts in the booth, we’ve got A LOT to cover.

Thankfully, with years of industry experience in voice acting and voiceover directing for some of the biggest AAA titles, Thomas Mitchells gives us his advice on how to become a video game voice actor.

 

Q. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your experience in the voiceover industry?

Thomas: I’ve been in the VO Industry for about ten years now. An actor for twelve. I come from a live performance and theatre background where I would literally sing for my supper in bars and hotels on islands like Corfu & Cyprus before moving to London with my now-wife to pursue a career in theatre – I have since moved away from London.

I was very green to VO at the beginning. I didn’t understand anything like rates or correct mic setup, but whenever there was an opportunity to get behind a mic and tape for a ‘gig’, I always enjoyed the process. Do a quick ad for my mate’s small business? Sure! Corporate VO? Absolutely. Want to be involved in Crowd Walla for a Guitar Hero game – I’m sorry, what?!

Being herded into a room with 30 other people at Pinewood Studios to build the crowd audio for the entire game was my first experience of the Game Audio world. This is a job?! That was the seed that needed planting for me.

Since then, I have been drawn to the work and skill involved in Video Game acting. You weren’t necessarily bound to what you looked like, but what life could you breathe into characters far-fetched from your typical castings.

I’ve been soldiers, goblins, peasants, bandits, pirates, ‘chaos dwarves’, wolf people, a ghost, a fallen angel, a high-elf, an unenthusiastic car racing team member, a disgruntled landlord, a timid love interest, a German acrobatic lover – yes, even that.

Thomas Mitchells in the recording booth.

Every time, it’s always been a blast, and I love the work that goes into creating these characters. So much so that when the opportunity presented itself to become a Voice Director during the upheaval of everything in 2020 – I took the opportunity by the horns when I joined the Dialogue Recording Team for Baldur’s Gate 3. That led to a life and career where I found myself truly embedded within the Video Game world that has given me around 45 titles (including Dying Light 2, Jagged Alliance 3, TC’s The Division 2, Forza Horizon 5, Total War: Warhammer III etc.) I’ve Directed and Starred in games that have been released, are in development, or have never seen the light of day. I now title myself a Freelance Voice Director & Actor – never looked back.

 

Q. Of all the projects you’ve worked on, which ones are you the proudest of and why?

Thomas: I can give you a double-pronged answer! As a director, of course, it’s Baldur’s Gate 3. I owe my career to that production and to the team I worked alongside for three years of my life. A herculean effort that truly paid off. I learned so much from my peers and the actors I worked with on that job – lessons and wisdom that I will take with me forever.

Thomas Mitchells wearing a mocap suit.

As an actor, Johannes Von Schmidt in Ad Infinitum is my favourite job to date. It was a passion project being developed by an Indie Studio, and you could tell how much effort was put into getting it to release. I had everything as Johannes: the horror, his suffering, his dysfunctional family, his backstory which sealed his fate in being sent to the front lines in the trenches of The Great War – a story set in the perspective of The Central Powers rather than’ us bally lads going over the top’ which made for such an interesting anti-war landscape. His bitterness towards his younger brother beginning his military career at a higher rank than him yet still wanting to protect him from fatal orders sent from the top for ‘Operation Morgengrauen’. Johannes was truly a harrowing gift coupled with expert direction from my good friend, Natalie Winter. That experience will stay with me for a long time.

 

Q. How does voice acting for video games differ from other genres?

Thomas: Stage & screen gives you the advantage of reality. Costume, set, camera or blocking that allows you to enforce those true thoughts and intentions. Art forms that have their own distinct flavour of techniques needed to achieve a solid performance.

I find Video Games come with more unique obstacles in unlocking a truthful performance. Often, it’s just you in a clinical-looking room or booth, thrown in at the deep end to find a solid character choice, having been told very little about what you’re working on thanks to those tight NDAs. There is no real luxury of rehearsal in the Video Game world until you start going into the realm of MoCap & Performance Capture. Video Game Voice Acting requires, I believe, far more quick thinking, impulse control, self-confidence, cold reading skills, and a team that should support their actors to deliver a performance that is cohesive with a developer’s vision.

 

Q. As a voiceover director, what do you expect from voice actors during a session?

Thomas: Be loose. Get yourself into a malleable mindset. We know that you don’t know the ins and outs of your characters, and we’re there to help steer you. We love enthusiasm and a willingness to try. You will be made to say some strange things; it’s a given. Just go with it and commit to the bit. Some real magic happens when an actor impulsively makes a confident choice with something that ends up being lightning in a bottle rather than trying to over-analyse the text or character’s subconscious before their first take.

Trust us. Directors are there as the in-between for clients and actors. We always have your best interests at heart and do everything to accommodate you. It’s daunting having a complete stranger give a brief introduction and barely have time to get to know you before having to get you immediately saving the world or defeating the villain, but know we are on your side. Your safety is also paramount. Communicate with us if something isn’t right.

Be mindful that time is not always on our side, either. The Game World is far more corporate than these acting opportunities can come across as. We, as studios, often have our targets and deadlines – especially when working with clients on a budget. Be efficient; believe us when we say your take was great, and we can move on – we don’t need ‘One more take for fun’ after every single line. Asking questions about scenes or your character is absolutely important, but keep it relevant – asking what they had for dinner the night before a scene where they are charging into battle because you think the potential addition of gluten in their diet will dictate the way in which they do a battlecry, is just eating up valuable recording time.

Never apologise. It’s my one golden rule to never say ‘sorry’ when in a session. Acting can be an incredibly vulnerable time where a person has to get into a headspace to open themselves up. It is not an easy task. If you fluff a line or maybe misread something or just don’t fully get a line’s context – don’t be apologetic. You went for it, and you’re doing great.

Respect the medium and the team you’re working with. I’ve had the rare experience with actors where they treat this line of work as beneath them because they’re not interested in the type of media their performance is included in, or they see this style of work as unfulfilling. We’re not expecting you to love every second or become unnecessarily verklempt that you’re working in a video game if it’s not your bag. We won’t demand you be super-enthused at every turn, but your attitude really does help decide if we want to work with you again on future projects. One time, I worked with an actor who would always come back late from their breaks, would stop me from giving notes so they could send off an email on their phone and started eating peanuts whilst delivering a line with them still in their mouth – left chunks in the pop shield which the engineer had to pick out! Safe to say they won’t be working with me or that studio again! The most successful actors I’ve worked with respect every aspect of the work that goes into video game voiceover.

 

Q. Do you have any advice for voice actors specifically looking to get more video game work?

Thomas: Do your research. Who records VO for video games? – What are their casting submission requirements? Do they have a dedicated email you can send a reel to? Have you even got a reel? They need to know what you sound like in the context of performance! Networking is also a good tool. However, the reliance of social media these days makes it a lot easier for people to feel confident jumping into the DMs of people who work at studios they want to work with, but not everyone is up for receiving a barrage of messages from Voice Actors who are chomping at the bit for a game role. Focus your efforts on your skill set and where you can appropriately channel them.

If you’re into games, what are some of your favourites? Look at performances from them…why do they land so well? Dissect a scene and ask yourself, why does it resonate with you? What’s the difference in tone when an NPC is talking 1 metre away from the player and three metres away?

Not into games? There are tonnes of videos on YouTube of cutscenes and gameplay. Look up games that have been shortlisted for awards. Look at the different styles of acting used depending on the genre or ‘feel’ of the game. Red Dead Redemption 2 Vs Ratchet & Clank, for instance.

 

Q. Do most of the voice actors you work with have representation? And if so, do you have any advice for finding an agent?

Thomas: As I am often hired by Audio Outsourcing companies as an Actor & Director, I can confidently say that, yes, the casting departments do like to use Voice Agencies. If you are unrepresented, however, don’t let this dissuade you. Some companies offer ‘general audition’ days where they get you in and work with some mock scripts to add you to their database to approach you for future castings. Others will accept a reel or just hold open auditions for roles publicly on social media or Spotlight. You can work in games self-represented. The internet has also led to an increase in independent opportunities across the globe who work with remote talent. If your home studio is up to scratch for recording Game dialogue, you can pursue these opportunities to gain more credits and experience.

Agents do give you an advantage in getting more opportunities, and to get signed, you need to show you have a total understanding of how the industry works. Have reels that showcase your best qualities, look up agents’ books and see if you fill a gap, follow their individual submission instructions to the letter and remember…a huge number of people are doing the same thing as you. Don’t be disheartened or discouraged if you don’t hear back. Agents are incredibly busy people – I should know. My wife is a Voice Agent!

Be patient and allow enough time to pass before doing the rounds again. Overnight success in the VO industry takes years.

 

Q. Is a character reel enough? Or should talent have a voice reel specific to video games?

Thomas: I’ve actually experienced times where people have been cast based off their Narration/Audiobook reels, but I believe that in order to market yourself, you give yourself the best chance by showcasing every skill set you have. Want to do Commercial VO? Have a commercial reel. Radio Imaging? Reel. Video Games? Reel.

Need a new reel? Voicereels.com produce professional voice reels in any medium or style. Book a FREE consulation and the team will take you through practical steps to achieve your voiceover goals and land roles.

It’s the quickest and most effective way for agents, casting directors, and sometimes clients to denote whether or not you fit their brief. Character reels are often associated with Animation and whilst this does land well in some circumstances, I personally want to hear the actor’s own voice first when playing their Video Game reel. Especially if a casting director or I am after a region-specific accent. It’s not helpful looking for a Northern Irish actor and their reel starts with a US accent, as a hypothetical example.

Be mindful of production in your reels, too. It really should focus more on your acting than setting the scene or doing the heavy lifting. Some studios and casting directors actually detest any SFX or Production and would prefer dry recordings of your work.

 

Q. How can a voice actor stand out during the casting stage?

Thomas: Casting Directors will listen to sooooo many tapes in the pre-production stage before compiling a shortlist for the client. With that, imagine listening to the same lines on repeat, all being said in the same way. Think outside of the box, BUT keep it within the realms of plausibility. Does a line offer you a chance to show a different side to you or the character? Can a line be reinterpreted in some way that doesn’t break the scene? Don’t do stuff like random screaming when the direction notes say ‘hushed awe’ or go too wild. Be real, and even if it’s ‘wrong’, being fully committed to the choices you make scores points.

Voice actor recording in the booth.

But don’t tear yourself apart trying to audition for a project. Luck is a huge part of the casting process. Taping an audition and sending it off is effectively buying a ticket for the lottery. Enjoy the process, and don’t be disheartened if things don’t go your way on several occasions – It’s all part of the job!

 

Q. What would be your dream franchise to work on?

Thomas: Oh goodness me. It’s definitely a James Bond IP…*cough cough* IO Interactive. Incredibly jealous of them. They are going to create a superb game, and I know it.

Or maybe Half-Life 3 when that gets made in 2054.

 

Q. If you could direct any voice actor, who would you most like to collaborate with?

Thomas: I’m a bit desensitised to the celebrity of voice actors. I’ve worked with some high-profile people and some who were literally starting their journey in the video game world. But if I had a gun to my head, it’s a toss between Keith David because his voice is pure silk, and I love the work he’s done or Shohreh Aghdashloo… such a unique imprint that I would love to work with in a game – she’s the more recent ‘Voice of Gozer’ in the Ghostbusters movies (the modern ones) as well as Roshan in Assassin’s Creed: Mirage. You may know Shohreh as Commodore Paris if you’re a Trekkie. Both actors could easily be Good or Evil characters, and I love that about their voices.

 

Q. AI voiceover is a HUGE topic in the industry right now. How do you feel about AI voiceover? How does it compare to human talent?

Thomas: Much to my chagrin (and a lot of other people’s), we’re at a point in this Digital Age where we have to accept that AI will be used. I don’t think it will completely eradicate the landscape of human performance, but it will certainly affect studio cultures and executive decisions.

There are games doing just fine at the minute where AI has been used to function on a title that focuses more on gameplay and live service.

I could sit here and explain in great detail why human performances will always trump a machine, but the fact of the matter is the majority of Game Development Execs & Decision Makers care more about profitability and margins.

AI is convenient for those tech bros at the top who think this is another great way of peddling a product with less overheads.

My fear with AI, however, is we’re still in this newborn period with its use. AI has been used maliciously with celebrities’ likenesses to create some harrowing images, for example. We’re in an era of discovery with it, and I worry that regulation and legislation won’t happen until something really, really bad happens. In the same way that Health & Safety rules have come into place. People wear helmets now because before, bricks would fall on people’s heads. We’re waiting to discover where the line is.

Human talent will work in parallel with AI as long as we bring forth things like safe practice and the respect of artist consent. It would be unethical for companies to not hire someone or follow through with a contract because an actor won’t agree to an AI use clause.

 

Summary

Video game characters can be some of the most fun and rewarding roles in the voiceover industry. In such an engaging medium, voice actors known for their game roles are often some of the most celebrated and recognised.

However, becoming a video game voice actor is like any other medium; it takes time, practice, knowledge, and a little bit of luck to make it BIG.

Thanks, Thomas, for all the insights on how to become a video game voice actor! You can keep up with Thomas on his Instagram, LinkedIn, or his website.

 

Sign Up as a Voice Actor 

How to be a Voice Actor in Anime 

Dylan de Koning

By Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning is a narrative writer, script reader and film buff from Scotland.

More from this author

Why Are Dubbing Rates Lower Than Voiceover Rates?

Voice-Over

Why Are Dubbing Rates Lower Than Voiceover Rates?

By Dylan de Koning

19 July 2024

CTV Ads: Reach 93% of Households in the USA

Production

CTV Ads: Reach 93% of Households in the USA

By Dylan de Koning

28 June 2024

Podcast Advertising: What You Need to Know

Production

Podcast Advertising: What You Need to Know

By Dylan de Koning

17 June 2024

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores such as Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, if you click on a link and make a
purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Read more from the Voquent Blog

Why Are Dubbing Rates Lower Than Voiceover Rates?

Voice-Over

Why Are Dubbing Rates Lower Than Voiceover Rates?

By Dylan de Koning

19 July 2024

7 Fun TikTok Challenges for Voice Actors

Voice-Over

7 Fun TikTok Challenges for Voice Actors

By Chloe McWhinnie

8 July 2024

CTV Ads: Reach 93% of Households in the USA

Production

CTV Ads: Reach 93% of Households in the USA

By Dylan de Koning

28 June 2024

Voice Over Marketing: How to Use TikTok, Reels & Shorts

Voice-Over

Voice Over Marketing: How to Use TikTok, Reels & Shorts...

By Dylan Langfield

28 June 2024

How to Become a Voice Actor in 2024

Guides

How to Become a Voice Actor in 2024

By Megan MacBride

27 June 2024