Monday, September 07, 2009

7 Deadly Sins of Gaming - Sin 7

Sin 7: Voice Acting




This is, without a doubt, the absolutely worst, most terrible sin committed by game designers.

Not including Superman 64, of course.

Obviously, in any game involving dialogue, voice acting is going to be superior to text. Anyone would prefer to hear actual dialogue rather than reading cold, dead letters.

Until the exact moment they actually hear voice acting.

The quality of voice acting in games ranges somewhere between horrible and makes you wish you were deaf.

I'm not sure if I misspelled that last word.

I really don't understand what the problem is. I would really assume that whoever is involved with recording the voice actors is able to hear them.

That would probably be helpful to the job.

And yet, the fact that they could hear these horrendous mockeries of human speech and still press them to discs and charge people money for them suggests that they are all very, very deaf.

Not just regular deaf. Like... SUPER deaf.

I don't know what that means, but even a regular deaf person would be able to hear just how freaking terrible these voices are.

Where exactly do they find these voice actors anyway?

Wanted: voice actor for video game work. Must have references and be completely unable to express appropriate emotion. Being a robot considered a plus.

I'm not asking for Sean Connery doing Shakespeare or anything, but at least get someone who can attach inflections and emotions that suit the dialogue being recorded.

No, instead, we end up with people who not only can't express emotion, but may not even understand the emotions they're trying to express.

They have the acting range of a piece of driftwood.

Bad driftwood.

The driftwood that all of the other driftwood makes fun of.

And these are the people that are trying to create atmosphere and substance in our games, the people that we are supposed to immerse ourselves in.

Not bloody likely.

It's kind of hard to get into a game when every other minute is ruined by inane and annoying voice acting.

Hey, it's a cutscene explaining an incredibly important plot point that ties together the whole game.

And I'm here trying to figure out if the main character is being voiced by that kid from Saved by the Bell: The New Class.

Not pictured: People with future careers

Yeah... Total immersion there, folks.

I don't think there's any one of us, any gamer, that has not played a game involving voice acting and not wanted to bring those responsible to justice.

Hell, anyone who ever played FFX.

Or FFX-2.

I love me some Final Fantasy (Who knew?), but damn. That game could make someone take a power drill to their ear.

And Stella Deus... If you've never played the game, go buy a PS2, find a copy, and then take a few hours to play.

You may also want to buy a hammer to smash the PS2 when you're done.

That MAY get the memory out of your brain.

If not, Home Depot is having a sale on power drills.

Honestly, I think there should be federal punishments for people who put out games with terrible voice acting. Severe criminal penalties for anyone involved with ruining good games.

The actors should be shot before they can act again.

Imagine the fake, tone dead screams.

And the people who made the games... Oh, there's only one punishment that would fit the crime.

They should have to play their own games. Over and over and over.

Wait... That's too cruel. Even for me.

Yeah, we'll just shoot those guys, too.

Even I'm not that evil.


At 7:02 PM, Blogger Tristan Kain said...

To be fair, there are -some- games where the voice acting is, at the very least, not at the claw-off-your-ears level. MGS1 wasn't too bad, and there are the occasional RPG respectables. Then there's drivel like .hack or Disgaea.

Why is it that even in the best voice-acted games (not that the aforementioned count), the main protagonist has the absolute worst voice? Just glancing at my shelf, I shudder at the voices of Kite, Adell, Ethan Waber, X, and the worst of the batch imo, Alex of Burg. Even Sora pales compared to the rest of his cast, and Kingdom Hearts was one of the better offerings in that department.

Maybe part of the blame can be laid on the voice-over companies. Since they almost never credit the voice actors in-game, the actors don't feel the need to try since their names won't be easily associated with the garbage? (ZRO, this means -you-)

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Music-chan said...

Ironically, the couple of times I've gotten to play a game with the Japanese voices (I read the English text), I've noticed that Japanese voices in games usually sound fucking amazing!

Maybe it's just because i speak very little Japanese (a year in college isn't really a lot, you know?) but I always feel like there is emotion behind the voices.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger King of Solomon said...

@Music-chan: I assure you, the Japanese voice acting is actually just as bad. The fact that you don't know much Japanese just does a wonderful job of hiding this.

That being said, knowing there are games with terrible voice acting just makes the ones with good VA that much better.

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Kahsha said...

2 words...


At 8:42 PM, Blogger Mil'bereth said...

Take a look on You might find credits for some of your favorite games there and the voice actors responsible for utterly ruining them. You'll also find these are the same assholes that perfectly ruin any television show or anime from Japan by dubbing in into English.

Examples: Wendee Lee, Stephanie Sheh, Stephanie Nadolny, Christopher Sabat, Sean Schemmel, and Steven Blum (who while sounded awesome as Spike in Cowboy Bebop you'll find sounds exactly the same in every piece of work he's EVER done!)

Why don't they hire talented voice actors like Billy West, Hank Azaria, Dan Castellaneta, or anyone else that can actually manipulate their voice beyond the spectrum of their normal social vocalizations!?

Again...cause the people in the first catagory are cheap. Bottom line. Alucard from Castlevania Symphony of the Night was voiced my a dev due to cost constrictions.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Ricardo said...

"I assure you, the Japanese voice acting is actually just as bad. The fact that you don't know much Japanese just does a wonderful job of hiding this."


Just look at MSG4. Thats good English voice acting! Now compare it to other games and you'll notice a great difference. In other games it just sucks..

Same goes for animation. Only good voice english dub animation out there is Avatar. Everything else, specially japanese one, you're better off watching it subbed.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Ricardo said...

Also, there's a huge market for voice acting in japan. Some voice actors even get to release music CDs, which I believe is a factor for the higher qualuty.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

Really, not a fan of FFX's VAs? I mean, I was no fan of Rikku, and Brother's voice was awful, but it fit him well. But I think X's VAs were pretty good, and I do enjoy listening them when I play the game. I've done so at least 20 times.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger john said...

That one part of FFX where Yuna and Tidus 'Laugh'... Not only did it make me want to hide behind my chair from embarassment, but it also made me wonder just what the fuck the devs were smoking to let that crap out... I guess it must have been worse at one time and they finally gave up. I'd have cut that out of the game.

Aurron was the only char I didn't want to stab in the larynx.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Bufuman said...

Yeah, FFX's voices were pretty damn good. Sure, the laughing scene was horrendous (though bear in mind that it was probably the developer's INTENT for them to sound stupid while doing it), and Yuna's VA really showed her inexperience early on (though she did get better as the game went on), but overall, it wasn't bad. Now, you want terrible voice acting, go play Legend of Dragoon. Great and fun game, terrible and terrible voice acting.

At 11:27 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Half life 2 had the best voice acting that I've heard, especially for the character of Alex Vance. Portal also had awesome voice acting, because in that case sounding like a robot was the point. The worst I've heard was Way of the Samurai 2, in which everyone in feudal Japan sounds like a redneck.

At 2:16 AM, Blogger Beniki said...

I get this feeling whenever I watch dubbed anime. Yes some of it's good, but sometimes, especially with the older titles, you wonder if the voice actors are even trying to sound like the person on the screen.

Still, things are getting better all the time.

Or worse.

One of the two.

At 3:58 AM, Blogger Gelatos said...

Well, I tend to consider the Tales of series to have good, or at least above average voice acting.... except Tales of Symphonia 2, that had some horrid VA.

At 6:56 AM, Blogger Cidolfas said...

Tales of the Abyss was pretty good - Jade was awesome incarnate.

Generally speaking I feel that most games I play have at least adequate voice acting - they aren't *worse* than it would be without any acting at all. It's rare that I find myself wishing that there were no voices.

FF12, for example, was generally excellent (if we ignore the strange echoey quality to the sound clips). And I'm going to also get on the MGS bandwagon, which generally had good stuff there.

XenoSaga was hit or miss, but the hits were great (Albedo anyone?).

Also, whoever did Kefka in Dissidia. So far the only remotely interesting part of the story.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger guario said...

I think GTA 3 and 4 have done a exelent work. At least in the main characters.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Hala said...

Funny that several of your complaints this week (realism and voice acting, off the top of my head) apply to Final Fantasy XIV. Which I'm still looking forward to, even though the addition of voice acting makes me a little worried...

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Autumn said...

I thought Mass Effect's voice acting was all right -- in part because at least a few of the roles were voiced by experienced voice actors (including, IIRC, Keith David and Seth Green). And Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines had decent voice acting in most parts.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Mil'bereth took the words right out of my mouth.

You'd think these were just faceless drones doing these horrible acting jobs, but they are the same guys that do decent-to-poorly in any dubbed anime that has ever been released.

My guess is that they don't care about games and figure they don't need to put any effort into it.

That, or hearing a familiar voice just makes it impossible to take it seriously.

E.g., Valkyrie profile. During a particularly emotional scene, the voice actor of Ash Ketchum was attempting dispair, to which I could only imagine him saying, "NOOO PIKACHUUU".

Sorry, wrong game for this guy. Really.

I blame the studios for hiring these guys. They make abysmal choices for who should play the voices in their games. The actors themselves are relatively innocent. They have proven they can adequately play certain roles.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Jon said...

Anyone remember the very first Resident Evil? Oh my.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Shaun said...


Interesting you should mention Billy West, because John Di Maggio (Bender) was in FFX. He was Wakka. It still wasn't very good. So some of it has to be blamed on the directing. "Do a goofy fake Carribean accent!" "What, like this ya?" "Perfect!"

Not all VA in games is evil. Batman: Arkham Asylum was enhanced by having voice acting. Having Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles from BTAS really added a lot to the game.

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good voice acting can make a an average game seem good or a good game seem bad.

One example is Soul Reaver. I'll probably get flamed for this but the plot was cliché and the game itself was strictly average.

But it had amazing voice acting (quite possibly the best voice acting of any game before or since) and that elevated the entire game.

As to why so many games have terrible voice acting. They're too cheap to pay scale for professional voice talent. So instead they grab people out of the office.

You see games with a budget of 30 million skimping on voice acting meanwhile there are small budget games like Odin Sphere that somehow can afford to use professional voice talent.

It's a stupid excuse. The real reason is that they know people will buy their big budget "must have" game as long as it looks pretty so they skimp as much as they can in areas they think people won't notice so they'll have enough to buy an couple extra Ferraris or whatever.

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Brick said...

I'd say that your judgment of voice-acting is unfair.
For good voice-acting, there is one game you must play.
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
And none of that console crap.
You can't enjoy it without a high-end PC and some UI mods.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

@Tristan Kain:
I loved how they got almost all of the Disney VAs to reprise their roles for Kingdom Hearts, but they seemed to skim a little off of the budget to get the Squenix characters. I mean, seriously, the character who everyone seems to have the biggest hardon for is voiced by Lance Bass? Personally, I loved the choice, because I hate Sephiroth.

No kidding about Xenosaga, but when it hit, it was a direct target with a nuke.

@Atomic Skull:
Of course Soul Reaver had great voice acting. Raziel's alter egos were Groppler Zorn, Sven, Lance, Quackerjack, Prowl, Swoop, Mother Fucking Duke, Xamot, Handy Smurf, Lazy Smurf, Grouchy Smurf, Zan, Gleek, Allstar, Bruce Fucking Banner. Seriously, he was fucking Duke, Bruce Banner, and he helped form Voltron, and now he eats souls? You don't fuck with Raziel.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Tristan Kain said...

@Kenny: I rather enjoy the KH voicework - given that the Final Mixes uses the English voices, apparently so did the SE execs. I was just pointing out that Sora (the main protagonist) was probably the least-well-done of the bunch. Osmont still did much better than whoever they dredged up for Alex or Kite.

At 10:38 PM, Blogger Skill said...

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Generally, I prefer the Japanese VAs when available. Moreover the fact that you can generally feel a bit more of feeling on the Japanese VAs, something about it...

And as someone who has a decent knowledge of the language, I know they say pretty much the same thing (Dissidia Final Fantasy is an example-- battle lines and stuff, for example, are pretty well translated, but they sound a lot more cheesy in English somehow). So I don't know what makes it so different...

Though I generally enjoyed all of KH and the FFs voiceovers. Including X, I thought it was pretty well done (heck, even X-2).

At 11:24 PM, Blogger Hawklord2112 said...

Star Ocean: the Last Hope.

so many cutscenes.... such bad VA...


At 7:03 AM, Blogger Cidolfas said...

Lance Bass was only Sephiroth in the first game, where his lines were only in battle and hard to hear over the music. In KH2 he was voiced by George Newbern, who has voiced him ever since (Dissidia, Crisis Core, Advent Children etc.)

And the truth is that sometimes even bad voice acting can be enjoyable. Valkyrie Profile had some deliciously campy lines ("It shall be engraved upon your soul!") and who can forget Dracula's classic speech in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? ("What is a man? A miserable pile of secrets!")

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Charlie said...

All of this being said, there are indeed some great VA games out there. MGS games, Splinter Cell series, and Batman Asylum come immediately to mind.

@Hawklord - Oh my goodness, SO:LH was probably the WORST VA EVER. EVERY female character made me want to shove a blockbuster in my ear and light it.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Hylian said...

all of legend of dragoon's voice acting consisted of the characters saying what their special move was like some sort of dragonball z episode. "DOUBLE SLASH! GUST OF WIND DANCE!"

when that's the voiced part of the game, you can't be but so angry at the voice acting. i feel bad for the people doing it. i mean how are you going to make every single move spoken out loud sound cool?

devil may cry 4 is another example. whenever nero says "slam-dunk!" i'm ready to shoot him myself. or another game that i'm sure some of you know about ... "hoo hah YAH!" i mean is all of that really necessary? "woota wooya wooo aiyyaaa!" it's lame, nobody wants to hear it, not even children of the next generation find it amusing.

but if you want bad voice acting, play the first silent hill game. great game, but everyone sounded like they were high or something... i mean the freakin city looks like hell's pit and you're "oh... yeah... strange things are going on... uh-huh... ... drooooone" the hell? you have a half-dead NURSE with a scalpel swiping at the window! i don't care how much crack you're on, that's freakin scary! act like it!

and speaking of mgs1, the first one was great for voice acting, now play the gamecube remake. not so good anymore right?

"...snaaake... noooo... -.- snaaaaaake...."

what, did you all take acting lessons from keanu reeves and shaquille o'neal?

FFX's voice acting was mediocre. there were some good voice actors like lulu, tidus, and auron... and then there was what the hell dialogue like wakka "ya?" rikku, and yuna. good god, yuna was monotone throughout most of the game until somewhere near the middle after she and tidus had their moment in the water. then suddenly she started acting. guess that's all she needed. get laid with a figment of a god-spirit's imagination. suddenly your voice has complexity now.

(and is it just me, or did they totally screw up with ffx-2? beyond all the things wrong with it that you can find on first glance, it's like yuna's character changed entirely! she was practically a nun when ffx was around... humble, modest, scared, innocent, intelligent, and quiet. then give her 2 years and suddenly she's got girly squeals and retarded sayings for things. hell, i'll refer to one line that totally lost me. right near the end where they told her to sacrifice a friend or something. "i don't like that idea. it sucks." it sucks? no, your story and character developers suck, retard!

squaresuck and anux are really starting to piss me off...

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Mil'bereth said...

@ Shawn

You made me think of an excellent example I forgot about.

Mark Hamill is an EXCELLENT voice actor. He did the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and The Fire Lord in Avatar, as well as many many more.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Jakk Frost said...

"Same goes for animation. Only good voice english dub animation out there is Avatar. Everything else, specially japanese one, you're better off watching it subbed."

Hate to break it to you, but that would be because Avatar isn't a dub. It's an American-made cartoon made in the anime style, and while it uses dubbing the same as any television show ever produced, there were no original Japanese voices that were dubbed over, English is the original language for that one.


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