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Careers Clinic: voice-over work for games

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My brother has always been a computer-games geek, while my own geekiness has been more directed towards musical theatre. Despite that, we get on very well – we’re currently sharing his flat while he builds his dream career as a games programmer and I try to get mine off the ground as a new drama school graduate.

But his career is moving a bit faster: he’s recently landed a contract with a games development company where they use freelance actors for the voice tracks. As he’s already a golden boy there, he reckons he can get me a foot in the door. When I told my (newish) agent this, they got really excited and would have shot my voicereel off to the company the same day, but I’ve told them to hold off a bit.

Having spent the last two decades watching games over my brother’s shoulder, I am not sure clips from last year’s panto commercial and a fake top 10 countdown are going to impress people who make this kind of stuff for a living. I’d love the gig though, so can you give me some tips on what will give me the best chance of securing it?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE It is always a good idea to act quickly whenever a potential opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately, even proactivity can be taken to extremes, hence the flood of hasty, unsuitable and time-wasting submissions the casting world gets flooded with (agents can fall into this trap as much as individual performers, especially when outside their comfort zone).

Obviously some chances are, by nature, fast turnaround. But when you do have some leeway, as on this occasion, I agree that it makes huge sense to do whatever research you can to make the most of that chance.

I wanted to get some insider advice for you, and there is no better person to give that than Matt Wieteska, the very experienced audio director at games developer Six to Start. Here is what he told me: “My advice would be pretty simple – if you’re looking for work in games voice-over, have a voicereel that fits the games you’re working for. I see a lot of actors with reels labelled ‘Video Games Characters’ that are all super-cartoony, over-the-top character voices. That’s just not where the industry is any more. We’re looking for grounded, human performances.

“It helps to have a lot of versatility, but the main thing we need is honesty. Pay attention to the companies you’re applying for, what they’ve made in the past. You wouldn’t audition for a play or a TV show without knowing some of the house style, so don’t think you can skip that research for games. If they’re making big action games with lots of short dialogue snatches, get some of that into your reel. If it’s something more thoughtful, more emotion-driven like The Walking Dead, I want to hear that in your reel as well.

“YouTube is overflowing with videos of people playing games, so doing research is as simple as typing ‘game title let’s play’ into Google. You’re much more likely to be successful if you can show familiarity with, and love of, the material, the style.

“There isn’t enough time for me to fish through 12 different radio advert voicereels trying to convince myself that you’re worth auditioning. I won’t do it. If you want the work, it needs to be clear immediately. Actors who show a love of the material and give a clear, honest, passionate performance are going to get the job every time.”

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

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