As someone who always appreciates a good laugh now and again, it always makes my ears prick up when I’m playing a game, no matter what the production quality and I hear a dodgy accent or some really bad diction. At least every generation, the producers of a game will hire someone, regardless of talent and style, that can turn what should be a pleasant aural experience into a source of humour.
For instance, there can’t be many people out there who haven’t dipped their toe into the world of Skyrim. A game steeped in a large budget, high production values and with a lore that extends over an eight chapter history, yet still the voice acting, in parts is highly amusing. A good few score of supposedly unique guards that proclaim they took an arrow to the knee in the Austrian baritone of an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator, whereas Nazeem, possibly the most bullied NPC in a game ever, sounds like a nasal Mr. Burns from The Simpsons and deserves every punch, drowning and dragon attack set upon him, the arrogant git…
I’m not saying that the voice acting is terrible, just that it brings a sort of mirth, when you realise that the actors are trying desperately to inject some character into these denizens of our worlds and at points, fail miserably in a successful way.
Recently, I was having a stab at the campaign for Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and while the acting is top-notch, the repetitiveness in one particular mission can grate in a spectacular fashion. The offending quest would be Outbreak. A mission that sets you to destroying one hundred and forty-four Zerg infested buildings using an army of vehicles during daylight, while defending your base in the night cycle. If you choose to defend your buildings with the flamethrower-toting Firebats, you’ll hear, “My goose is getting cooked,” just about every two seconds. This pissed my partner off something awful, so I replayed the mission again straight after, just for the annoyance factor.
The most similar experience of repetition was while playing Mass Effect 2 and hearing the now popular phrase, ‘I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favourite store on the Citadel’. It became a huge inspiration for the meme culture of today’s internet community that even after four years, they’re still popping up all over the place.
Survival horrors, especially the Silent Hill series, seem to have a strict code when writing the script, that it must contain at least fifty instances of the phrase, ‘What is this’, ‘What is it’ or some form of question regarding anything from an old mug on a desk, to a corpse, flayed and hung on the wall of a mass murderer’s bedroom wall with a sign hanging around it’s neck describing exactly what the hell it is. I won’t even mention Resident Evil here, as it already has an infamous reputation for being the best/worst acted great game in controller-juggling history.
If you prefer fantasy games, you would probably have played the Souls series. Each and every character, from depressed knights to weird, talking cats punctuate each and every conversation ending with a laugh. It’s like that friend on Facebook that will type ‘lol’ after everything, including statements so banal and unfunny that you’ll begin to question their sanity. That’s probably why it works in Demon’s and Dark Souls, as living in any of these worlds would probably knock your mental health south of the baseline.
Warlock II had me in stitches, listening to the introduction by an actor who fancies himshelf… Sorry, himself, as Sean Connery. Whistling ‘esse’s and shushpishioushly alliterated shentenshesh abound…
One of the most sought after voice actors in gaming at the moment has also had a bit of a hiccup in his career, although it just adds character to the game. Take Batman: Arkham Origins… Nolan North is a world-renowned talent and has headlined some of the greatest AAA games in recent years, including the Uncharted series and Assassin’s Creed. His version of The Penguin however, makes me cringe a little. It’s like Mr. North has been watching Mary Poppins and graduated from the Dick Van Dyke School of Cockney Accents. His pronunciation of the word ‘bollocks’ sounds like he had one in his mouth at the time. Sorry Nolan…
Roth from the new Tomb Raider reboot seems to have as many accents as Sean Bean’s idiotic American/Scottish/Sheffieldian voicing in Silent Hill: Revelations. I can’t tell whether he’s supposed to hail from Liverpool, Sheffield, Coventry or Glasgow in the muddled pronunciation of words and vowels. Despite it’s horrible execution, it still comes off as an amusing way to give the heavy impact of the game’s dark storytelling a swift hint of silliness to break the gloom.
Leading on from generations of games where the role seemed to require standing someone off the street in front of a microphone and painfully slow teleprompter and hoping for the best, voice acting has come on in leaps and bounds. We now have our very own A-Z list of top talent that can make what would be an average gaming experience into a fantastic, immersive one and we look forward to our hobby when we know our favourite cunning linguists are heading the cast.
We tend to disregard bad voice acting in gaming as intentional efforts to amuse, possibly tacky script-writing or just the fact that it may be expensive to cast someone with the correct regional inflection… But for all those issues, we still love an aural experience that will roll you through a virtual world with a giggle and the opportunity to post more stupid memes on social media sites.
What are your favourite amusing voice acting memories? Is there a certain character that makes you cringe like you’ve just seen John Hurt naked every time they pop up on-screen? Let us know in the comments below!