One of my (many) will-likely-never-come-true dreams is to do voice acting. It’s something that comes with being a kid— and now an adult with a very active inner kid— who’s hooked on cartoons. When I realized cartoon characters weren’t just actors rendered from paper and ink (thanks for perpetuating that idea, Who Framed Roger Rabbit), I was in utter awe of the people who literally breathed life into characters with nothing but their voices. It’s a trade built solely on line delivery, sans non-verbal cues and markers. Plus, most of the time, the actor is talking into a microphone with no one but the engineers and director(s) around: they’re not even saying the line to another actor or character!
And it was perfect for my seemingly self-opposing nature: I hate being stared at, but I have no qualms about performing a speech or set of lines. In fact, I love performing… So long as the audience isn’t gawping at me the entire time. Then, everything is peachy.
Doing pen-and-paper RPGs was my first taste of “voice acting,” where a lot of the action was either talked out or exhibited through what we said in dialogue. We didn’t even have visual aids, just our voices. I loved reading plays in English class where I could just sit there and play around with my voice as Mercutio or Puck. When I first started playing video games, I used to repeat lines that I found particularly funny or, in my amateur brain, thought I could say better. Used to annoy the heck out of my brother. What? Hey, I have ears. I may not be a professional but I know when something sounds off or downright wrong.
For example: My guild and I make fun of poor Lord Afrasastrasz, Commander of Wyrmrest Temple Defenses, every single time we step into Dragon Soul. Why? It started out with noticing his “To the temple!” line was a little lackluster, to put it mildly. One person pointed out that he sounded apathetic. We settled on the idea that he just sounds completely unenthusiastic and, dare I say, bland. Boring. Devoid of life. Empty.
You could argue that a flat voice is a trademark of the no-nonsense commander (yeah, I’m looking at you Mark Meers), or that he’s tired and weary from Deathwing’s siege of Wyrmrest Temple. My guildmates and I aren’t convinced, however. We’ve even practiced our own versions of how we’d say, “We must press on! To the temple!!” over Vent.
That’s when I realized I’ve had the tools to do “voice acting,” of a sort, this entire time! My character is an animated avatar with little to no voice or personality of her own. It’s up to me to grant her life beyond the programmed combat and idle animations! Using my voice to add another layer to the RPG experience shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, right?
I used to be incredibly shy about using voice chat and Vent. It was more of an inhibition due to my lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. But it became necessary for me to speak later on when my husband entrusted me to look out for things during raid thanks to my vantage point of being ranged DPS; I could see everything going on in the fight with my rotation and staying out of fire as my only distractions, while he had a boss’ crotch in his face the whole time. Childhood memories of pretending to be an operative out of a Tom Clancy novel came back to me. Playing games like Starcraft II and Mass Effect bolstered my confidence as a competent “commander.”
In fact, it’s thanks to games like Knights of the Old Republic, Starcraft II, and Mass Effect, which all had a greater level of voice acting within the context of the game, that I learned how to pitch my voice for effectiveness: commanding without sounding bossy, calm yet urgent enough to get the point across. My hunter was all about staying cool under fire, an integral part of getting her team through danger even if she’s not the leader. Her role as a marksman and sniper makes her shy away from the limelight. Center stage was reserved for the tanks and healers, the plate-armored juggernauts and flashy magic wielders. Abilities like deterrence, feign death, and misdirect all reinforce this idea. She sees everything, yet is never seen. That’s just the way I like it.
Tirion Fordring once said, “Each of us has a role to play.” I still had a part to play beyond firing arrows into a giant dragon or demon. My voice— the voice of my character— has to reflect all of that. I still remember the first time my husband called on me to help explain a boss encounter in Karazhan back in Burning Crusade; I think it was Netherspite. My explanation started out in raid chat with a convoluted block of text, which didn’t work. Then I switched to voice chat, and I tried my best to sound like some super-confident femme fatale conducting a mission briefing, taking solace in the fact that I knew what I was talking about. Not sure if I pulled it off, but it worked.
I’m lucky enough to have a team that either 1) doesn’t mind my talking; or 2) actually appreciates the cues I give. I love warning my task force about Twilight Sappers during the Gunship/Warmaster Blackhorn encounter with, “Sapper inbound! On the left!” When I had nothing else to do except stand there and go through my rotation, I helped the melee by calling out the next shard during Baleroc (and they actually told me I was, indeed, helpful!). And, in turn, I love hearing our team banter. Just last week, we bantered back and forth when something went horribly awry during the trash gauntlet before Hagara and our off-tank spontaneously died. Between the paladin bubbling out of sheer terror for his virtual life, the DK switching to blood presence for emergency tanking, and my disengage/distracting shot/deterrence kiting, no one else died. Someone’s always ready with a compliment or good-natured jest when something incredibly awesome— or incredibly fail, like me disengaging down a ramp to my death— happens.
Another thing that’s helped me become more confident in my voice is being a parent. Anyone can readThe Cat in the Hat; not everyone can bring the story to life by using different voices, however. Experts talk about how reading out loud helps kids develop an ear for conversational cadence, letting them figure out speech and social behaviors. But, I thought to myself, if she hears everything in my normal voice, how will my daughter realize there’s often more than one voice in action in a conversation? So, I developed a voice for the narrator, the Cat in the Hat, the Fish, Mother, and Things 1 & 2. My husband thought I was nuts at the beginning. Seeing our daughter react to the different parts of the story, however, cued by the different voices we used, the effects were undeniable.
She actually gets mad at us if we forget to do a certain voice. There’s a downside to everything, I suppose!
Just this past Saturday, I got into a lengthy discussion with a cross-realm friend during our old school raid. He’s interested in doing voice acting and, of course, that got my brain thinking… My longtime friend is into animation and cartooning; I’m still trying to write creatively. Add this dude into the mix with all of us interested in voice acting, too, and we may have the beginnings of something awesome. But I’m getting ahead of myself (as usual). We need an idea first before dreaming of animated/voice acting glory. It’s always nice to dream, however.
In the meantime, it’s a busy Tuesday. There’s voting to be done, work to accomplish, bosses to raid, and, of course, the launch of Mass Effect 3. If I end up doing nothing but gushing and squee’ing about the game next week, well, I apologize beforehand. At least, I’m assured that it was $60 well spent if that’s my reaction to it! And because it’s going to be so busy— game launch aside— I’ve set this post to auto-publish… So, sorry if I don’t get back to your comments and tweets for a good 24 hours!
Thanks for reading and tune in again next week!