“I like it. Kinda. Usually!” This is the phrase that captures the essence of attracting the millennial ear. It is one that I am hearing more and more these days. This new trend is appearing in all sorts of audio productions but mainly in commercials and corporate voiceover productions. Voiceovers by their very nature are no stranger to trends and over the decades we have seen the move from big bold advertising announcements proclaiming the benefits of a brand, product and service to the witty/sassy mood of the nineties to the sharpness of the naughties and finally now to a distracted, yeah whatever type trend. This new trend is what the most amazing Nancy Wolfson has dubbed the “Millennial Float”
Over the past year and certainly in the past month I have been in many sessions where the end client has sought something less “sales-y” – it is hard at times to decipher what clients want but suffice to say that by sales-y they are usually not wanting to impress the sales patter tone onto the audience. It also means they don’t want an announcer style voice. Now we have long been used to offering an authentic voice and the melodies and volumes that go along with that.
However the trend seems to be a call for a voice that is quite flat, with little or no colour and rather “meh”. It also calls for a slight vocal fry to add to the laid back nature of this voice. I am unsure as to where it first started to trend but I am finding more and more clients asking for this laid back approach to voicing. Voiceover follows the trends and I am inferring that this is what clients feel that their target audiences (usually the young that have access to disposable income) are speaking and so identify with. i.e. the millennials – the terms refers to people born between 1981 – 1996.
A great voice actor is one that can appreciate a change in trend and voice what the client is after. Changing the intention is certainly a challenge and I have found it hard work. Why is this? After decades of studying and working, voicing with a bright pleasant and welcoming intention it becomes somehow ingrained and the norm. Now all this has to be unlearnt and the performance must reflect what is happening in the real world. The trend is to be up, but pensive and then well if you want style to it and so I am sure we will find this approach in many audio productions and voiceover recordings as we head towards 2020 and beyond.
I love this question. Lots of people ask me this question and I ask them “What do you mean?” Other than answering a question with a question (which amuses me), I do so to ensure I have got the right end of the stick. In the majority of cases what the question setter is actually asking is what more skills or techniques should they learn, develop, try their hand at. And as a rather chatty voice actor (well you know that already about me) I usually launch into a long and varied often tangential discussion about how as an actor it is your life, duty and responsibility to in fact do everything. However this is hardly what the person expects to hear but rather I have realised that I can simply break this right down to the nuts and bolts of what turns a voice into a VOICE. I stand by the whole “everything” concept though but perhaps it is too vague so a longer answer follows. Keep up!
The simpler answer is that an actor is a watcher and a channeller. This is one of my favourite games to play. I watch people and I always have done. I love watching how they dress, walk and talk and then playing a mini mastermind challenge with myself about who they are. What do they like to watch? Do they drink tea or coffee? Black/white/lemon/sugar or a smoothie in the morning? Do they have a pet? Are they a dog/cat/nothing person? Where do they buy their groceries from? And from those simple questions I enjoy delving into harder questions such as do they enjoy their job? If they could be anything what would that be? How has their heart been broken? What has been their greatest joy? I imagine how their voice would sound like from all of my deductions. Call me Shirley Holmes as it really is observation at the highest order. Then I file this person away into my mental character palace (I have palaces in various locations much like the filing system in Jurassic Park only mentally and with much fluffier dinosaurs). There they sit, awaiting their turn like much loved and cared for old toys. They come out as and when I decide and then I channel. I put them on as you would a coat and I become them right down to the way they breathe, blink and bark (metaphorically obviously). They they come alive and take flight, lifting the copy off the sheet or screen when they/me speak and talk for them, with them. The guiding question for this is how - how would this character read this and for whom?
Another simplest answer is to experience life. “Do what makes you happy” is a great phrase for this. I feel that to deliver the best lines that are authentic to the role and character and the content experiencing many things will develop you as a person. What do you enjoy most? Apart from working on audio projects and speaking on panels as well as voicing, I love dance, music, photography, art, food, travel and pets. Sound a tad like a dating profile list but in essence this is more a life profile list. I adore all forms of dance and have tried my hand at many of them. I get to them watch and explore other characters in areas I would never have considered. I love slinking off to a museum or two such as the Tate Modern and losing myself in colour and finding myself in different worlds. Taking such flights of fancy enable me to reach new places that always help my roles when I record in the booth. Food is such a gift as well and having lived in several countries I always wonder how food can be such a cultural thing and can be such a character influencer. I ask all of these questions as I wonder around this world simply to become better, to learn and grow and be. Being a voice is a wonderful thing and whether its a character in an audio drama or video game or talking to patients for medical videos, each and every experience enriches my performance. What does a voiceover artist become? They become everything!
A lot of voiceover success is about the audition. This means recording samples or demos for clients. As clients can make a selection from a demo being pitch perfect is important here. For any actor or voice talent the audition and commitment and professionalism towards it is just as important if not more than the actual job.
This has been revealed to me more so this past December on two separate occasions. In December 2018 I was chatting with a producer friend and they sent me an audition as a voice had dropped out from the production. As soon as I got the script I read it all the way through, I couldn’t put it down. The story and narrative had gripped me and I saw in my head how the characters had come to life. I loved the character I was asked to play. However it was totally against my acting type. I love a challenge but voicing a character that was very much the opposite of my voice was a stretch. However, within 24 hours I had sent my audition back. I had even ad-libbed a bit and adding some extra shade and light to the character. I told the producer it was against my type but I loved the character but knew that it was their choice. They loved it. So far so good.
They promised to let me know a week later. The week went by and then they sent me an email. They couldn’t let me know because mine was the only audition that they received. To say I was shocked was an understatement. Many of my voice talent colleagues ask about jobs and auditions and how to get them etc. However despite passing on a few auditions the result seems to be the same. Hardly anyone submits the auditions. You can’t be part of the game if you don't even step up to play.
So while my slightly confused producer could give me the role, the fun part of the game is that everyone takes part, an open goal is interesting but hardly a challenge. And also do you not want to take part in this after all those conversations and networking? It seems that no, not everyone does. Voice work takes hard work and yes talent is needed but also professionalism and wanting to do the job. If you don't even submit the audition then you can’t even be considered for a juicy acting role.
Another story I heard was that a voice was asked to submit an audition to a long form narration. They submitted poor audio quality and asked to submit again. This time another audio issue came to light. The producers were confused as they wanted to work with this voice and had heard their work so were eager to start a project with them. But the audio was unusable so sadly that voice wasn’t taken on. Lesson here is to really pay attention. Please take time to listen to your audio, play it back and see if that works and follows the audio guidelines for each client.
In fact, the whole point is to acknowledge and accept that the audition is the job and the job is the sparkly cherry on an amazing cake that is you!
After so many years working in the creative fields there are a few things that always jump out to me, marking out a good voiceover to a great voiceover. Having created copy, voiced a fair few audio projects, directed voices with context and recorded them and engineered their sessions I have seen first hand what makes a great voice talent. With almost two decades of experience, I've heard a thing or two. And all it takes is one word.
In fact, this simple word, elevates something ok to something sublime. There are many skills to develop as a voiceover. Acting, accounting, marketing are among a looooong list. These and many more will help you develop as a talent, develop you as a person and help with you being you. After all that is what a client wants, you, your voice, your take, your version.
But there is something else that takes you from ok to great. What is it? What exactly is that magical word? Intention.
I record many voices and the ones that really and truly stand out to me are those that understand intention and carry through with authenticity. They are channeling the intention of the words, their meaning, the brand/product or service. But what does that actually mean? It means to take a step back, really read the words and understand the subtleties at play behind them. No copy is ever written just to pad space, especially if it is for advertising. Even three simple words will have been thought about and as if captured from the air and pinned to paper, they will have been chosen on purpose. Many words and combinations of them may have been grasped, proposed and mulled over but despite this, the words on the page in front of you are the winning words.
And as that is the case, what do you do about that? You read and become cognisant about what they mean. Then make clear your intention for those words. Make that intention clear and authentic. Are the words relaxed for a relaxed read? Then the intent you have is to be relaxed. Are the words witty or playful or wry? Then the intention will reflect that. Of course there are times when you can Volte face and do the opposite but that in itself is an intention. Figure out what the intention is or ask if you have people present and commit to that intention.
By committing to that intention, you also commit to an authenticity. Being truthful to the words and giving them the power of authenticity means that the audience hears that. The power it creates for the brand or product you are voicing then takes the ordinary to the extra-ordinary. To become a voice is easy, to excel requires effort, passion and intention. Time to talk with intention.
A great voice over has the power to completely transform a video or audio book. Thanks to their speaking skills and acting talents, voiceovers are able to conjure moods, evoke sadness or happy memories, bring characters to life and capture the audience in an almost spellbinding way.
There are no limits for voiceovers with unique gifts, and with so many types of VO work to choose from in this industry you won’t fail to find a genre you don’t enjoy. So do you have voice over talent that’s worth celebrating? Keep reading to see if you have what it takes.
Here I’ve put together a list of qualities every great voice over artist should have to succeed in the industry.
A good narrator or storyteller must be able to capture the audience. To do this, you have to enjoy speaking confidently and letting your creative side run wild. It will be obvious to the audience if the narrator is not enjoying themselves because what they are listening to will come across a little lifeless.
Great voice overs can hold the audience under a spell, taking them on an emotional journey through the highs and lows of the tale. This is where the VO’s creative side comes out too. You should be able to capture the essence of every character by adding your own inflections to the way that they speak. If you are unable to imagine what a character may sound like, then you will struggle to bring that character to life.
2. Good articulation
There is a fine art to articulating a script perfectly. If a VO under-articulates their words they can sound tired and the performance may appear quite dull. On the other hand, over-articulation of words can sound unnatural, over-rehearsed and generally not believable.
Good narration calls for finding a balance between the two and adapting the style to suit the script. After all, a character in an audiobook may not require the same articulation as the voice over for an instructional corporate video.
Much like an actor who rehearses their lines for a play, a professional VO will spend time reading and re-reading their script to ensure they understand what is required of them and what sounds best to fit the story.
3. Intuitive pacing
A good voice actor knows how to pace the dialogue to suit the script. For example, they may use subtle pauses for added realism, or they may speed up the dialogue for intense action scenes.
In an audio book little pauses and breaths can add a human touch to the character, or perhaps extra intensity to a descriptive scene. Alternatively, in a corporate video for instance, the steady speed and slight pauses give the listener time to take in what they have just heard.
A natural pacing ability can help the VOA immerse their audience in the story while making the characters sound more realistic. A VO that has this talent will know the best times to use these pauses and will know not to over do it. The listener should never be aware of these subtle stops because it should sound natural and be in keeping with the pace.
4. Knowing the best time to use an accent
Firstly, it’s not necessary for VO’s to have 20 different accents in their repertoire, but it can help if you can deliver 2-3 different believable accents when required. But again, this isn’t essential because everyone has an accent of his or her own.
Good voice actors know when a character or voice over role is suited to them and have the ability to take their accent out of the narration and deliver a more neutral diction when required.
Some voice over work, such as audio book and film narration, can take several days to complete. One of the pressures voice actors have to work with is fatigue or waning concentration, and how this can take its toll on the actor’s voice.
Being able to provide consistent voice over throughout an entire book or film is a much-admired quality of a VOA. Try listening to a recording of yourself reading a book out loud from cover to cover to see if you have the stamina to produce a consistent performance.
Do you have what it takes?
If you have the above qualities and enjoy bringing characters to life through speech, or you particularly enjoy acting and reading aloud, then voice-over work may be for you.
As I mentioned earlier, there are many different styles of voice acting and productions to get into. If you are interested in creating voice over work, but don’t know which area is right for you, then here are a few ways to try and find your own sound.
1. Practice—Read out loud and then read out loud some more. You can never practice too much. Find your favourite books and perform them as if you were producing an audio book. If there are characters, think about their identity and how they might sound. Have a go at creating accents for them and what the pace of their dialogue might be.
2. Listen—If you’re interested in this industry then you may already be aware of the amount of voice-over work we here on a daily basis. If not, pay close attention to adverts and online videos and listen to the voice over to get a better idea of how they sound. Listen to the pacing, the articulation and subtle nuances. Click for some of my examples
3. Record—If you are keen to get into the industry, it may be worth investing in some quality recording equipment. These days, quality recording equipment is readily available at affordable prices. Start with the basic equipment and practice recording various productions, whether its explainer videos or audio books, then play them back to see how you sound.
There are many elements that go into creating outstanding video content: captivating visuals, compelling characters, creative scripts and a strong sense of place, to name just a few. But one essential component that is often overlooked is the narration.
A voiceover has the power to drastically change and improve any visual content, be that films, commercials, video games or audio books. We as humans have long been enticed by oral storytelling, and not just because its easier to listen, but because the voice brings so much more to the story. Here’s how voice narration has the ability to enhance your video content.
Giving your video credibility
In today’s tech-savvy society we are constantly listening to voice overs, whether that’s on the radio, in films, advertisements, televised sports, or documentary films. As the audience, we have developed a sense of trust when we here narration, and we’ve even come to anticipate it when we’re watching visual content.
The voice we hear not only creates trust, but it also has the ability to encourage action from the audience. Think about televised charity appeals for instance. The striking visuals captivate our attention, but it is the voice over, often a famous actor, who humanises what we are witnessing and encourages us to take action. The same can be said for insurance sales campaigns or marketing ads. It is the human voice that sets the message and compels us to sign up or buy a product.
Clear, concise and to the point
Sometimes it can be hard to convey entire details of the subject matter just through the visuals—if filmmakers tried, the video would be too long. But by utilising a voice over, a long message can be portrayed using only a few key visuals. A narrative voice fills conceptual gaps and allows you to explain details that may be harder to express visually. And when you get the voice over to match the concept perfectly, it can even reinforce an idea you’ve illustrated and give it more power.
Improving your brand through a voice
A recognisable voice has the power to catch the audience’s attention. The tone of voice, its cadences, and that precise timing all lend to give your video a personality. Whether you’re trying to give your brand an upbeat, familiar and friendly element, or a professional and reliable quality, the right voiceover can also make your audience feel spoken to and represented.
Expanding your audience
Professional voiceovers can help to localise your content to fit in with your marketing strategies. Whether you use videos for entertaining your audiences or for marketing campaigns, it is a good idea to pass the language barrier and reach larger audiences. This may also apply for audiobooks and podcasts.
But localising content means going beyond a simple translation of the script. It must be adapted to keep the correct meaning but so that it also recognises cultural norms.
The right voiceover who has the correct tone and accent has the ability to conquer audiences. Plus a professional will not only record the content themselves but more often that not they will be able to take care of the editing and translation too. This is where it pays to use professional voice-overs.
Do’s and Don’ts when hiring a professional voice over
DON’T forget to listen to voice reels
An experienced VO should be able to send you example reels. It can be good to see if their previous work matches with your target demographic- that way you know you’re on the right lines and the voice could work well with your brand.
DON’T disregard the female voice
It is often said that a female voice can target a wider audience. A study in the Journal of Advertising looking at the effects of male and female voices in ads, found that although the voice over gender didn’t matter for male-oriented or neutral products, the gender did matter for female oriented products. That means, that a female voice can be effective for male-associated products, but a male voice is rarely suitable for those targeting a female audience.
DO think about longevity
When you’re making your selection think about choosing a voice over who can represent your brand in the long run. Chopping and changing the voice over for each new video makes your brand incoherent, so perhaps choose a VO talent that is versatile to suit your future projects.
Do test with your target audience
Once you have made a pre-selection and have the demo reels, it can be a good idea to see how the voice resonates with your audience. If your target market is females aged 25-50 then a voice that fits this description is likely to have the most credibility.
Did you know there are over 400 million native Spanish speakers, making it only second to Mandarin in terms of the most spoken languages in the world. English soon follows with roughly 360 million native speakers. So with such a large audience, it’s no wonder there are many advantages of marketing your global business campaigns in Spanish.
Here’s why your business could benefit from a multilingual marketing strategy and how an experienced Spanish voice over can help.
Exactly what is the Spanish language?
The Spanish language that is globally recognised today is derived from a dialect of spoken Latin that evolved in the north-central part of the Iberian Peninsula in the 5th century. After the decline of the Roman Empire, Castilian Spanish originated as a continuation of spoken Latin in a number of areas of northern and central Spain. Eventually, the Castilian continuation Latin (from Spain’s Castile region) mixed with the Arabic dialect formed what became the standardized Spanish language.
In the 16th century, the language expanded south to the Mediterranean sea and, through Spanish colonisation, it was brought to the Americas. Today, Spanish is the official language of 20 countries, and is one of the official languages of the United Nations.
How does it affect UK businesses operating globally?
When not including English-speaking countries, Spanish comes in as the UK’s 5th top export market. In a study conducted by the British council, the importance of languages based on a number of factors, including number of speakers, number of internet users, British exports to those regions and GDP of the countries that speak them, were ranked to determine the languages to prioritise in marketing campaigns. The Spanish language came out on top with a score of 76, followed by Arabic and French with scores of 54 and 47 respectively.
Why global businesses could benefit from advertising in multiple languages
1. Offering online content in your audience’s chosen language will yield far greater business results.
Search engines such as Google make sure their search interface is available in a multitude of languages because they have a global range of users. Knowing the importance of language when it comes to search relevance means that these companies have given their users the option of restricting search results to content that is presented in their own language.
In other terms, if you are not creating content in languages that your audience may be searching in, then you will not be included in the search results. This goes for video productions also.
By incorporating other languages into your marketing strategies, you’ll be included in the global interconnected web of social conversations already going on in those international markets, which is undoubtedly beneficial for social media campaigns.
2. Customers respond more favourably to content in their chosen language
It has been widely researched that multilingual internet users, when given the choice of languages, would always choose the website in their own language.
In a global survey of over 2,000 consumers, it was found that 72% spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language, and 56% would openly pay more if the company they are purchasing from have provided information in their own language.
After all, the late Nelson Mandela once summed it up perfectly by saying “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
3. Reduce the risk of your message being misunderstood
An international marketing strategy that is presented in English may confuse, or worse mislead, an audience whose native tongue is not English.
Spanish and English languages share a lot of words with Latin roots, which can make it relatively easy for non-Spanish speaking people to take a guess at the translation of a number of Spanish sentences. But sometimes similar sounding words in each language can often mean something completely different, often known as “false friends”. For instance, the English word ‘embarrass’ sounds a lot like the Spanish word for ‘pregnant’—‘embarazada”.
The art of translation
What these three points show is that international businesses can greatly benefit from advertising in the native languages of their audience, rather than a one-fits-all English campaign. But to get this right, it should go far beyond a simple translation of general market English ads.
Translation involves far more than exchanging words from one language to another. Translation is a complex skill, so no computer tech can compensate for cultural nuance. This is where an experienced Spanish voice over can enhance your marketing and help you create compelling, Spanish-language original campaigns.
Spanish Voice Over
As a bilingual voice over artist, I can speak fluently in both English and Spanish. As a native Latin American Spanish speaker [https://www.lorrainevoiceart.com/spanish-voiceovers.html] I am capable of projecting authenticity into any script (gracias to my Chilean Latina heritage). I can ensure grammar and syntax is translated seamlessly, so you can be assured your script is culturally relevant.
I am lucky enough to have worked abroad, which has allowed me to fulfil my travelling dreams and live in such magical places as Barcelona, Paris and London. Now based in the UK, I am available to be the voice behind your business projects, making your product, brand or service come to life.
What does the perfect voice mean to your business? Having spent over 15 years working in the creative industry I have a good ear for matching a voice to a brand. I am a British female voice over artist with much experience in bringing stories to life through an entire range of productions including corporate videos, video games, commercials & audio dramas.
Only a professional voice over can deliver a script that encapsulates the audience, provides clarity without dryness and conveys emotion without the melodrama. But with so many wonderful and characterful VOs out there, how do you find your perfect voice over, no matter the project? Here are a few of my top tips to follow when you need to find that perfect voice over.
Think about accent and dialect
Would the Churchill insurance TV ad work to the same effect if the iconic bulldog mascot didn’t have that beautiful British accent? Probably not. It works because it’s in keeping with the brand, it fits the character and it is a voice that is familiar and relatable.
When you first start looking for a voice over, think about what accent might appeal most to your audience. Despite a few exceptions, typically the best accent to choose is the one your audience can relate to. However, if your company is international but has a strong link to its origin, say an Australian beer or perhaps an Italian pasta sauce company, then it would be wise to match the voice to the brand.
It may be the case that regional dialects come in to play too. For more on British accents, take a look at my recent post ‘Why is the British accent so adored?’
Striking an emotional chord
Whether you’re creating an advertisement, an instructional video, or an audio drama, your voice over must hit the right emotional note with your target audience. These emotional ties help to instil a positive impression and create a sense of trust. For example, if you are creating a training video for medical equipment or software then you’ll want to project an image of confidence, efficiency and compassion. It is the voice actor’s performance that brings authenticity to your brand.
Appealing to the right demographic
Try to keep your chosen voice in line with the target demographic. Consider whether male or female voice over would be most appropriate. For example, if your target market is females aged 25-50 then a voice that fits this description is likely to have the most credibility.
Ensure consistency and professionalism
Looking back to the Churchill ad, if you were to hear the voice over for the Churchill bulldog (“ohh yes”), you would instantly picture the character, and thus the brand. It is this consistent performance that makes it recognisable and instantly improves our perception of the product/service. All businesses strive to create this kind of brand recognition, so think about choosing a voice over who can represent your brand in the long run and provide that consistency.
Look for high quality demos
Finally, once you’ve understood what your brand’s perfect voice should sound like, you can then search for the voice over actor. All professional VOAs will have high quality demos that show off the whole range of their vocal talent. Listen to the demos carefully; imagine how it would fit to your brand. Narrow down your search and then get in touch with a handful of artists for more details. The right talent will begin to work with you by understanding exactly what it is you require from them. After all, a great VOA will strive to understand the needs of every project before delivering the script.
When it comes to voice acting, females haven't always dominated the conversation. But now diversity and equal representation of women in voice acting is rapidly improving, and now more than ever before more TV shows, audio books, video games and Hollywood movies now have a female voice over in a leading role.
Even Disney has added another diverse face to its collection of animated princesses. Elena of Avalor is Disney’s first Latina princess living in an enchanted fairy tale kingdom inspired by Latin cultures and folklore. A Spanish voice-over cast and a diverse production crew have brought this representation of Latin and Hispanic traditions to life in what is a predominantly American franchise.
So how do British leading ladies fair when it comes to Hollywood movies, particularly animated ones? Here is a brief look at some of Britain’s most loved female actors performing unfamiliar voice overs in global blockbusters.
Helena Bonham Carter
Versatile actor Helena Bonham Carter is well known for her film roles in the Harry Potter series, The King’s Speech and Alice in Wonderland, but very few are aware of her voice over work. A one woman acting machine, Helena B-C’s animation voice work includes Emily in Time Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005), Lady Campanula Tottington in Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit (2005) and Mother Squirrel in The Gruffalo (2009).
You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking Mel Gibson’s role of Rocky the Rooster would be the leading role in Chicken Run (2000), but it’s actually Julia Sawalha who voices the feisty, determined protagonist, Ginger. Using the right mix of charm, toughness and despair, Julia Sawalha knocks it out the park in this voice over role, bringing character to the world’s most-loved animated chicken.
In an interview Dame Helen Mirren once said that she considers herself “hopeless” at voiceovers. But with a whole host of voice performances on her resume, including portraying Deep Thought in Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Nyra in Legends of the Guardians (2010) and Dean Hardscrabble in Monsters University (2013), I for one think she is far from it. I can’t wait to see what voice over work comes her way next.
Seven-time Oscar nominee Dame Judi Dench is perhaps best internationally known for her role as M in the James Bond franchise, but among her film acting and theatre performances, Dame Judi has also voiced a number of animated characters including Miss Lilly in Angelina Ballerina (2002) and Mrs Calloway in Walt Disney’s Home on the Range (2004).
As one of Britain’s most acclaimed actors, the wonderful Emma Thompson has many iconic disguises under her belt. From playing leading roles in all-time classic films, to starring in audio books and period dramas, Emma Thompson has done it all. But some of her best work comes in the form of animation voice-overs, including Captain Amelia in Treasure Planet (2002), Queen Elinor in Brave (2012) and the lovely Mrs Potts in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast (2017).
This year’s E3 2018 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), which gave great insight into what we can expect from upcoming video game instalments. But what caught my eye in particular, as it did with many others, is the proliferation of women in these video games.
Now I know female characters have always been present, but E3 showcased a handful of games which are due to feature multiple leading ladies, many of which as the main protagonist—and rightly so! Having just come back from Develop in Brighton from a great day at the Audio Stream it got me thinking about audio in this medium. So I thought I’d take a look at the change in video game leads and see how women are increasingly coming to the forefront in this ever-expanding industry.
Women in video game history
It is fair to say that female characters have been an influential part of the gaming sphere almost since gaming began. In 1987 Nintendo released Metroid with female character Samus Aran and of course Princess Peach was one of four playable characters in Super Mario Bros. 2.
But there is a certain stigma in the gaming world in which women are typically cast as victims, often having their male counterpart rescue them in some way or other. Think princess Peach as the damsel in distress awaiting rescue from Mario time and time again. And if they’re not the victim, then it’s likely they’re a rather sexualised heroine, much like Lara Croft.
The good news is, when you think about the iconic characters of gaming, Lara Croft is definitely in the top tier. But unfortunately, that’s it. Only one iconic female character in the last 20 years!
But, it’s now apparent that the tides are turning. The most-anticipated games of this year announced at E3 suggest that many previously male-dominated game series are making way for ones that feature female protagonists. We all know that women play video games, so it’s only right that they star in them too.
The voices behind the characters
The current shift towards equal gender representation in video games has enabled female video game artists to showcase their talents. Last year Cissy Jones made waves in the industry having scooped the BAFTA Games award for Best Performer. Cissy has a whole range of video game credits under her belt having starred as Joyce Price in Life Is Strange, as well as voicing the lead in Firewatch, and other multiple characters in Walking Dead: Season 1 and Season 2.
2013’s The Last Of Us, focused on playable character Joel who attempted to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, with teenager Ellie (voiced by immensely talented Ashley Johnson) in tow. But now in The Last of Us: Part 2, Ellie is a young woman and is the main playable character.
Similarly, in stealth game Dishonored 2, Emily Kaldwin (voiced by Erica Luttrell) stars alongside her bodyguard Corvo Attano as a main character as she tries to keep her throne after the assassination of her mother.
Additionally, the makers of The Lost Legacy, which is the sequel to the popular Unchartered series, not only side-lined male protagonist Nathan Drake but also chose to include two women as the lead roles. The determined duo of Chloe (Claudia Black) and Nadine (Laura Bailey) not only had a significant prominence in the game, but combined with Drake’s absence, it marks an important step in the right direction for both female video game artists and women everywhere.