Quest for Vocal Glory
How Kickstarter helped me become a professional video game voice-over actor.
But in 2011, Alexander got a lucky break: A kidney became available for transplant. With his “extra life,” he also got the opportunity to make his dream come true. He started planning for the commercial production and release of Quest for Infamy, prepared a demo, and launched his project on Kickstarter, where it earned 253 percent of its $25,000 goal. It’s a good story—the return from the jaws of death to glory. Not so different from my cold, really.
Still from Quest of Infamy, copyright 2013 by Infamous Quests
After all this, I submitted a demo and was cast as Jerrod, an overly enthusiastic apothecary in Quest for Infamy. I wanted to make sure I gave the Infamous Quests team something special, so in addition to recording several “straight” interpretations of the character, I did a joke take as an excitable German—just for funsies. I was pretty surprised when my joke character ended up as the voice for Jerrod, but this is how character acting can be: Sometimes, the character has to create itself.
As little as 20 years ago, the only indicator of a video game character was the digital image and some text. Technology limited how convincing characters could look, and text, well—let’s just say that game studios did not often employ professional writers. I won’t cite specific examples, as I will no doubt deliver countless terrible lines myself one day, but “Oh, great hero, who hath saved the realm and to whom we owe all: Wilt thou go gather me some carrots/guitars/chicken nuggets?” is still a common video game trope. But we also have characters who look real enough to fool the casual observer, accomplished writers who bring them to life, and voices to make them engaging and relatable and relay emotions in a cinematic way.
Since then, I have continued to work the independent games circuit. I’ve played a Scottish freedom fighter, a bank robber, several wizards and princes, a ’roid-raging football player, a singing support technician, ghosts, goblins, and others—including some projects that haven’t yet been announced and are still in active development.
Thanks to services like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Steam Greenlight, we’re in the midst of an indie video game renaissance. Crowdfunding has allowed for innovations that would be impossible otherwise: Gamasutra notes that even major studios such as Uber Entertainment and Double Fine’s game ideas “would have trouble appealing to a major publisher due to their target demographic.” Big studios using crowdfunding, however, will often rely on nostalgia or proven past works—it is most often with independent developers that true innovation happens.
And where would I be without access to these independent developers? The voice-over industry is notoriously competitive, with a few actors such as Nolan North, Jennifer Hale, or Yuri Lowenthal taking most of the available roles (jerks). With independent studios, only what you bring to the table matters. Connections, agencies, budgets—the things that make approaching a larger studio so difficult—don’t matter so much. They’re just a bunch of people who want to make something, with the Internet acting as the only mediator. And now I have a role to play here, too.
A new demo for Quest for Infamy is available now. This article arises from Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, visit the Future Tense blog and the Future Tense home page. You can also follow us on Twitter.