I wrote about celebrity voices in games.
The topic has been on my mind as of late, as I feel like the medium has reached a strange point in terms of voice acting. In story-driven games, dialogue is more important than ever. However, many games are trying to create their own self-contained world, so having a clearly-recognizable may detract from the player’s immmersion. Additionally, actors like Nolan North and Jennifer Hale are quickly becoming minor celebrities within video game culture. Perhaps the talents of celebrities who gained fame outside the medium are just an unnecessary distraction?
Then again, celebrities can sometimes strengthen a game’s artistic or cultural relevance. In addition to the sheer talent of actors that honed their craft on stage and on screen, famous actors often have personas that stretch across multiple art forms. For example, would Brutal Legend been as charming without Jack Black? The game’s mixture of camp, humor, and rock and roll reverence fits perfectly with Black’s persona. If Eddie Riggs was played by anyone else, I suspect the character would simply have felt like a Jack Black knock-off. This type of casting dances on the line separating the earnest from the self-aware.
What should we make of God of War III, in which Kevin Sorbo is cast as Hercules? While he plays it straight as far as his performance in the game, his very appearance is a wink at an audience who has come to associate him with a very different version of the famous Greek hero. He does a good job blending in with the game’s tone, which makes sorting out the intent behind his casting even trickier.
Ultimately, I suppose it all comes down to the highly-subjective measure of whether an actor “feels” right for the job. There are times for both bold assertions of celebrity and transformative performances. The trick is figuring out which approach to take, and when to take it.