Lack of prep time for game voice actors is 'crazy'

Lack of prep time for game voice actors is 'crazy'
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

May 13th 2013 at 12:05PM

Actors often only see a script five minutes before recording, say Hugh Edwards and Peter Dickson

Voice game actors will often only see a script just minutes before recording, High Score’s Hugh Edwards and Fable actor Peter Dickson have told Develop.

Speaking in a newly published interview, voice acting director Edwards said the lack of time was an illustration of how young the game industry is, given how long actors in other sectors such as radio and film get to study their scripts.

He said the issue could be down to a number of factors such as timing or a lack of resources given to Voice over work, and stated it was “crazy” for some developers to base a large production on a last-minute script and little preparation time for voice actors.

“The more preparation time you’ve got, the better,” said Edwards.

“This is an illustration of why the game industry is still quite young. Because with an audio book or radio play you wouldn’t dream of getting an actor into a studio without either rehearsal or a good two or three weeks worth of prep work to be able to make notes and all of that kind of stuff on an entire script.

“I don’t know if it’s because of the secrecy or because of the timing issues or a lack of resources they have, but to base an entire four or five hundred thousand pound game and get a script out to the actors a day before is kind of crazy, and the industry hasn’t really turned round and asked themselves why they’re doing that, because the voice is such a massive, integral part of the atmosphere.”

Dickson, who has provided his voice acting to games such as Fable and TV show the X-Factor, cited experiences where he had only seen a script five minutes before a recording session. He said this was likely down to a number of factors, such as a script not having been written till the last minute, or confidentiality issues regarding a game’s plot, and that actors should however be able to deal with the restrictions.

He added that he hoped a new course he and Edwards had set up at High Score Productions would educate actors in creating characters on the fly, to ready them for the small turn-around times actors face in the game industry.

“More often than not you don’t see sight of the script until literally five minutes before you’ve got to do it,” said Dickson.

“Some people, I can see your face, you’re quite shocked by that, because in film, radio and theatre you get to see the script months before.

Again, there are reasons for that. It could be the script hasn’t been written till the last minute or it could be that there are certain confidentiality issues with the game developer that they may not be able to release the script to third parties without having them sign a non-disclosure agreement or confidentiality contract.”

Edwards said that he hoped during the next five years, story structure would become a more integral part of game development and be built in from the beginning so actors could receive scripts in advance and be given enough time to prepare.

"Well Peter mentioned earlier that game VO has kind of traditionally been the ugly sister in the corner of game design. It’s definitely not like that now, but that’s how it started," said Edwards.

"The actors have a responsibility, by coming on this course and doing their upmost to get their technique right and get their characters right and whatever.

"But if you put an actor in a room with 30 seconds notice of a script then that’s the game developer’s responsibility to try and change that and write these things in advance, or put it out to writers, and get writers in."