Hope this is not… Chris’s Blood

Warning: rant coming up. I really wonder how people can read their lines for voiceover work and not question how retarded some of it is. Harrison Ford hated the voices that were added to Blade Runner and intentionally did them poorly, hoping that they’d never make it to the film as is. He wasn’t so lucky.

Could the same phenomenon be happening? Script, dialog, acting, and general voice work in games tends to be pretty bad. Maybe it’s just a recent thing, but having stories and characters full of incoherent names and items/locations just isn’t working. Is it so hard to speak like normal when a microphone is in front of you?

Maybe the world imagines games are for kids. Cartoons have more complex plotlines than some games. But more-so, they tend to have over-the-top voices with straightforward, two-dimensional characters that always have the right thing to say.

Resident Evil has notoriously bad voice acting, even worse than the B-movies it mimics. By the time the series hit number 4, it seems they’ve improved. The voice work still falls into the same traps as cartoons and good-versus-evil movies. The bad guy spouts off the same, “See if you can withstand this!” rhetoric while the hero gives a snappy retort. The written dialogue, the source, is not so hot to begin with. This seems to be the least of problems though.

The voicing itself is terrible. In VO: Marz, the dialogue pauses after every line. I don’t know if they didn’t figure out how to load from the CD (Ok, it’s clear they didn’t) or if the designers intended a lot of people to play the game on mute and read everything. The random pauses are extremely unnatural. Not only that, but many of the pauses are just in the way that the audio itself was recorded. Yakuza does the same thing. The sentence breaks and pauses are out of cadence, most likely because they were trying to synch up the English text with the Japanese character movements.

Talk to a person. Then, ask them to read a story to a small child. Notice the difference in their voice. It slows down and over-enunciates every syllable. They make goofy voices for each different character. You can see their eyes widen and their facial expressions change in an effort to communicate with the kid.

This is their videogame voice.

I can’t imagine that this is by accident. Maybe it really is that hard to be natural with a microphone in front of you. Not every game suffers this fate, though. Interstate ’76 had a good story and good voice acting to go along with it. But it may be the exception rather than the rule. After all, it was written by a former writer for Cheers.

Sitcoms may also be the problem. These shows are paced so that after every joke, there is a pause for a laugh. Dialog isn’t the most natural, as one person usually plays the “straight man” and sets up the joke while the other gets the line and the laugh.

I guess these same arguments could be made for televisions/movies as well.

On the last note, not every bit of dialogue in a game should be subtitled. If the option for it is there, that’s fine, but I don’t want to read every line before I hear it. Have it one way or the other, but not both. Most of us use our ears to listen and our eyes to read. Let’s take advantage of that and instead of focusing on the unfolding text, let’s watch the action unfolding and let our other sense take care of the words.

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