Is there a voiceover gaming clique that stops you from getting voiceover work or is it a myth?
A Bit of Background Information
Cut to June 2009. I was working, as I do now, as a Voice Director at High Score Productions Ltd, directing actors voicing TV spots, and a lot of Games. This was a high point for the industry in terms of the amount of actors being used for games – it had never been this busy and games were rolling off the shelves.
It was at this point that I first noticed the ‘Gaming Voiceover Clique’; I was using the same actors over and over again. Worse than that, my competitors were also using the same voices – there was a very small group of actors within the VO world who were lapping up all the gigs (and getting paid very handsomely for it!)
Knowing too much!
Don’t get me wrong, these were fantastic actors with great performances, it’s just that I was starting to get to know the names of their kids!
The LightBulb Moment – Voiceover Gaming Clique
An example of one of these voices was Peter Dickson. You know, him ‘off of the X-Factor’ with that ruddy huge voice. Rhyddiaaaaaaan! Having recorded our fifth or so game together, and a few beers down at the Soho Sanctum, Peter and I were discussing the gaming world at large and putting the world to rights. Peter explained that with gaming, he’d really learned his craft on the job with games like Fable and Wii Sports and had had no formal training for it. Further enquiry revealed that none of the actors had had any training specifically to gaming…is wasn’t a voiceover gaming clique so much as an industry with people that needed help.
Cue: light bulb above head. It dawned on us that the “Geeky, greasy, masturbating yobbo tucked away in his bedroom” of the voiceover world, aka, Gaming, wasn’t being recognized by the drama schools and the specific skills needed for game-vo were not being taught anywhere…except on the job.
Worse, the voice-agents saw gaming as a niche market that didn’t really make any money, at least not compared to their lucrative McDonald’s and Barclays’ commercials.
Everyone was missing a trick.
I decided to test the theory, and in the next game I did, we did what we always did and effectively trained the voice in front of the client – the game publisher – on how to do the job. Amazingly, no-one batted an eyelid; it was the status quo.
It then became obvious why everyone who was in the clique was in the clique; aside from being great character-actors, they actually knew their craft when it came to gaming. You could trust them in front of the big boys, because they already knew how to do it all, and so were a safe pair of hands.
Why The Voiceover Gaming Clique Exists
Wonderful actors like Dickson, Nathan Nolan, Brian Bowles, Glenn Wrage, Jules De Jongh, Colin Stinton – getting all the work because you could put them in-front of anyone and trust them completely without having to explain the intricacies of why you needed an hour and a half of heavy-breathing and pull-up noises, and how you did it without passing out…
“It’s so hard to get into games!”
This is why the world outside the clique always says “It’s so hard to get into games!”…essentially the casting directors don’t trust them enough that they are trained…not to be a great voiceover artist…but to be a trained gaming voiceover-artist. The two are very different.
The drama schools have only just started to catch-on about gaming, and even the top schools, like RADA are still only doing one-day modules. I’m sure the world will catch up soon….
The New Romantics
…but in the meantime, what about the other 10,000 or so working actors out there who’ve already been through their training? And what about the influx of the New-Romantics (the home-studio, self-directed voice artists who successfully make their living without agents)?
Well, if you’re a famous name, you’re going to get more leeway. It’s not fair but it’s reality. Ironically, Stephen Fry has done heaps of games, but if he hadn’t then when I recorded him for Birds Of Steel, I would have happily trained him on the job. C’est la vie.
Most of us aren’t Stephen Fry
Most of us aren’t famous though, and nowadays it just isn’t enough to say “Hire me, I’m brilliant! Look at all the radio commercials I’ve done!” – it’s really not fair for the Voice Directors to train you in front of the clients. One wouldn’t expect to train the guitarist how to play during the gig you went to watch.
No, actors are taking it seriously now, as are the agents, and today, you have to be prepared – because competition is fierce. The voiceover gaming clique is an anomaly really, it is down to you to show how good you are, but first develop your skills be your best and be professional.
This is why Peter and I decided to start a training course to help otherwise already established VO’s get trained up on the specific VO techniques needed for gaming. By August 2013, we had successfully trained over 200 voices and decided to formalize the courses we were running into a manageable company.
Hence, Gravy For The Brain.
Building A New Community
The biggest problem we have faced with the training courses is that once the course is over, the advice and support structure we provide disappears. So we’ve tried to fix that by creating our forums here.
Both Peter and I, and all the course leaders, are moderators of their associated forum, so once you’ve been through the training, be it a studio course, or an e-learning course, you still have somewhere to turn to, and someone to ask about advice.
So the voiceover gaming clique isn’t that anymore it is a community that we are developing.
See you in there!