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How To Choose Artists For Video Game Voice Acting: The Complete Guide

May 06, 2024
video game voice acting

We are living in a golden age of video game production, and one of its defining features is ‌voice acting. From Grim Fandango to The Last Of Us Part II, phenomenal voice acting plays a central role in the success of creating immersive worlds for players to enjoy. Want all the need-to-know steps for finding the right voice actors for your next video game? We’ve got you covered. 


Man at desk with microphone and computer with audio recording equipment


Video Game Voice Acting 101

Making Make-Believe

First thing’s first: video game acting is all about immersion. Gamers around the world spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours playing their favorite games, and they love them even more when the performances behind their beloved characters are striking and believable. 

Making the game world feel real elevates the game’s excellent storytelling, letting players lose themselves completely in the game world and form meaningful connections with the game’s characters. This helps them feel invested in the protagonists’ journey that they’ve spent good money to join and makes the video game stand out from the rest. And that, my friend, is a recipe for a memorable gaming experience.

Knowing what your video game’s overall goals are, it’s time to consider the nuances of choosing voice talent. There are a handful of important considerations to bear in mind. 

Unknowns Vs. A-Listers

Not every video game can afford industry veterans like Troy Baker and Jennifer Hale, but that doesn’t mean your voice-overs should suffer. Follow these three cardinal rules to make sure you hire the best voice actors your budget can afford: 

  1. Read their bio 
  2. Listen to their demo reel.
  3. Audition

These steps are crucial to give you an idea of the voice actor’s style, range, and abilities, so you must not neglect them. Reading bios and listening to demo reels is the best way to quickly identify potential actors with the background, experience, and skills you’re looking for. This will give you a good idea of whether the actor you’re considering for a complex role has the necessary acting skills to build a character with multiple layers. 

You might indeed hear a demo reel and think to yourself, “This actor is perfect!” Still, auditions can mean the difference between an actor who sounds convincing on tape but doesn’t live up to expectations, and an actor who “gets” your character and can quickly deliver the product you’re looking for. 

Start with the script

A script is the foundation of any project and will provide the basis for specifying the voice types –– it gives you information about the characters and their personalities, which will help determine the type of voice that will best suit each character. When these specifications are laid out, you’re better equipped to find a voice actor who fits the bill.

Summarize your characters, their personalities, and their function within the story. This will both help you determine what type of actors you need to fill each role and be useful information for the voice actors you audition and hire.

Create “audition sides.” Sides are excerpts of the script taken from one or more scenes that can be sent to actors to perform in an audition. When preparing sides, be sure to choose portions of scenes that give each voice actor the opportunity to tell a story through their interpretation of the excerpted dialogue.

Along with the sides, consider how much direction you wish to include. Direction can be as simple as information about where the scene lies in the role’s character arc, or more detailed information such as emotions, pacing, and tone, to help guide the voice actor’s performance. 


Rick Moody once said, “Genre is a bookstore problem, not a literature problem.” Well, no offense, but Rick Moody didn’t make video games. 

What genre does your video game fall into? And how does that determine the best fit? This will play a role in determining the appropriate voice type. For example, a voice with a deep and commanding tone may be more suitable for a dramatic game, while a voice with a lighter and more playful tone may be better suited for a comedic adventure game. 

Is it a farcical comedy with narration? If so, a comedic foil (“straight man”) might be the perfect fit to play against the absurdity of the plot. For neo-noir, and the parody of it, a different approach will be necessary.

Voice Type and Gender

Gender is another element to consider when searching for the right voice. Male speakers or characters will typically have deeper voices, while female speakers or characters will typically have higher-pitched voices. And while there are contexts for every scenario, it’s generally wise to have men voice men, women voice women, and so on.

Character Age 

The age of the speaker or character will also be a factor in identifying the right voice type. Younger characters or speakers may have a more high-pitched and youthful voice, while older characters may have a more mature and deeper voice. You’ll want to find a voice actor in the correct range. Men have a very difficult time bending their voices to sound like young boys, so it’s often best to have women voice children.



Accent and Language Skills

Accents can be memorable for all the right reasons… or the wrong ones. Since the ethnicity, nationality, or regional identity of a character adds color and nuance to a vocal performance, it’s important to take care in choosing actors who have a solid grasp of the desired accent. Sometimes, you may even want an actor who speaks another language, such as Spanish, Russian, or Somali. 

It’s important to remember that not all voice actors are proficient in multiple languages or dialects. If the project requires a specific accent or language, you should look for actors who can deliver that.

When it comes to accents, remember the cardinal rule: listen to every actor’s demo reel! If you’re looking for a French accent, listen to the demo to make sure it sounds like what you hear in your head when you imagine a French accent. 

Regarding secondary language skills, it doesn’t hurt to ask a native speaker to verify that they really do speak the language.

While we encourage you to audition all voice talent, we especially urge you to always audition actors with accented roles to make sure they are capable of hitting the right tone for your character.

Casting Actors for Multiple Roles

When using the same voice actor for more than one character (and this happens often), it’s generally wise to make sure those two characters don’t interact. Doing so can ruin the suspense of reality for gamers if they hear the same voice speaking to itself.

It’s also wise to avoid casting one actor in more than one lead role. You might be able to get away with having a voice actor alter their voice for multiple secondary roles, where each one has very few lines, but it’s unlikely to succeed for large roles. 

Hitting the Mark

Speaking of setting the right tone, voice actors benefit from detailed background information. This holds true for video games, so be sure to provide voice talent with a basic rundown of the character along with visual aids. 

Character Description

For any type of voice-over, particularly for mediums such as video games, it’s important for actors to have a mental image of who or what they’re portraying. This means providing more than just “sides” (excerpts of the script with the characters' scenes and lines). Detailed descriptions of characters, in addition to any available concept art, go a long way toward providing actors with the necessary context to craft the right vocal tone to suit the character. 

  • Nationality/accent
  • Type of character (e.g. protagonist, comic relief, “straight man/woman” aka comedic foil)
  • Concept art of character and environments
  • Animated scene, when possible

Provide Feedback 

Knowing how to work with a voice actor is just as important as knowing how to choose one. Be sure to provide guidance and feedback to the artist so that they can adjust their performance to fulfill your vision.

Be Open To Feedback

It’s equally important to know how to receive feedback as it is to provide it. Skilled voice actors bring with them a treasure trove of experience and are attuned to the abilities of their individual voices, and that can add distinctive moments to scenes that make your final product stand out. So if a voice actor suggests trying something different or not explicitly mentioned in the script, you should consider it. Being open to feedback can provide extraordinary results. 


Should I or should I not use a professional recording studio? 

Generally speaking, if you have the budget to work in a physical studio, that is your prerogative (everybody loves working with super sexy equipment that costs a fortune and sounds great); however, remote virtual audio collaboration services provide software that acts as a virtual recording studio so that you can work with a cast of talented voice talent from anywhere in the world—all you need is a stable internet connection for their audio to transmit directly to your computer. 

Top voice-over artists tend to already have very good equipment of their own, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Just make sure to verify if your talent’s equipment meets your production standards.

Thanks to modern technology and services such as Sessionwire, Audiomovers, and Source Elements, you can receive high-quality audio directly to your computer in real-time. 

How do I verify a voice actor’s reputation?

Voice actors often provide client testimonials describing their satisfaction with the actor’s previous work.

Do video game actors have a union? 

Yes, SAG-AFTRA has a tiered-budget agreement that provides video game developers with access to union talent for games with three budget tiers: 

  • $250,000 to $1 million
  • $1 million to $5 million
  • $5 million to $15 million
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