I turned on my Xbox One (Don’t hate me) and found the long awaited Call of Duty Advanced Warfare trailer. I clicked and instantly found myself watching House of Cards. My bad! Wait, no way. Kevin Spacey delivering a menacing monologue in a video game?! He has seamlessly immersed himself in a new art form. Shame its Call of Duty. Well this is not the first time we have seen a famous actor in a game and won’t be the last. So why have actors now given their faces to games?
Well for starters, the improvement of graphical representations. Err, prettier graphics, have always been an important factor in the evolution of video games and with each new era comes better visuals. Meaning, developers can render and create models which look more organic and life like. Why the famous face? We see the same actors in dozens of films and it doesn’t break the illusion of disbelief due to their great talent. So could using a famous face now be a means to immerse players into the game? Let’s look at the dialogue delivered by Kevin Spacey and to think if a standard voice actor delivered the same speech, would it truly have the same impact? We respectfully know Kevin as a sinister President in a hit series and one of Brad Pitt’s worst nightmares as the infamous serial killer in Seven. This being the main reason he was chosen, as most people will gather an unpleasant and fearful feeling towards this character as they know of Spacey’s portrayal of dark characters. To have him in a game speaking to you directly is like feasting on melted gold.
For many years, famous actors have been used to heighten a game’s dramatic tone. 2006’s GUN offered us Tom Jane and Ron Pearlman as murderous cowboys in the Wild West. Their voices helped create a gritty and unpleasant tone which brought players an experience close to the spaghetti westerns which inspired the game. Movies play an important role in this integration of famous actors to games as many if not most games now want to offer a movie like experience. Technology was limited back in 2006 and best we could do is to have their voices. We could have the face, but it wouldn’t be the same. Look at Bruce Willis in Neversoft’s Apocalypse, not the best representation. Come to 2013 and motion capture has improved vastly and a perfect example would be Beyond: Two Souls with Ellen Page, a geek’s favor. Her appearance can help players/fans connect to the character and story on a personal level. Actors could now be used as an emotional attachment, bringing players closer to the character. I mean, If I was playing as Ryan Gosling in a game I would do everything to protect him and if he died I would cry. . . forget I said that.
Yet, faces are more of a recent craze, mostly because of the technology and that developers can spend more money on the talent. Some characters don’t need a famous face as they already have one or the actor’s identity wouldn’t suit the character. Unless it was altered. Mark Hamill was the sickly brilliant voice of the Joker in the original series and so the Rocksteady thought best to return his vocals for two of the Arkham games, having a distinctive and disturbingly brilliant take on the Joker. The game didn’t need his face as his voice alone could he portray the Joker in such a magnificent light, but the Joker already has a face that everyone knows.
Will other actors use their face for a portrayal in video games? If the developer thought it would benefit the character, then indeed an actor’s face might appear to strengthen the impact made on the player. So that players can love, hate or fear that famous face they have seen before and with our wonderful technology it can be done ever so brilliantly. Do we need famous faces for an emotional connection? Patrick Stewart has one hell of a voice and for many years its all we needed. His voice alone gives the perfect representation of the character he portrays and his face on the model might just be over kill, considering since he has been in so many games. His face/likeliness is not used as his voice alone is so recognisable that we instantly have a connection to him and the character. But designers such as David Cage (Beyond: Two Souls) consider themselves film makers in nature but express their film experience in video games. This meaning he follows a film’s concept closely and now does so by getting in famous actors to be the playable/non-playable characters to complete that film like experience.
For Fame and Fortune
A face is important for the identity of a character but a voice can be for hundreds of others. Do certain games feel the need for star power to make itself interesting? Tell us in the comments below!