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Voice Casting for Video Games - Part 1: Follow The Brief.
by Mark Estdale on 07/23/13 11:20:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Voice Casting for Video Games - Part 1: Follow The Brief.

Casting characters for video games brings to light many wrong assumptions about work in the medium from both the agents and the hopeful 'talent.' This post is from a casting and director's perspective and looks at the process of short-listing, prior to calling in 'talent' for an audition.

The biggest assumption is that video games are 'games' and consequently don't need true acting talent. The reality is that video games are the most complex, subtle and toughest of all media for acting. In casting we are looking for supreme acting talent.

Surprisingly it seems that the second biggest assumption is that the brief can be ignored. When we set up open auditions, depressingly over 50% ignore the elements of the brief.  It does not matter who the 'talent' is, if the brief isn't followed, the actor is excluded.

For example, if we request an actor from Gateshead between the ages of 25 and 45, guess what we want? We want an actor from Gateshead between ages of 25-40.

Doing a Gateshead accent is ignoring the brief. Also we do know that the age of an actor's voice frequently varies greatly from the actor's real age BUT if we are specific about the actor's age there is very good reason which may not be apparent in the brief, so filter yourself out if you don't fit the brief.  Making assumptions gets you kicked off at stage 1 and gets you an automatic 'E' score which stands for: 'Executable' 'Excommunicate' 'Exclude forever' - you get the drift.

The selection process is a hunt for the perfect cast. It is costly and time consuming. Not following the brief is taking the mickey.

Classic not following the brief errors - (I'm sure you can guess the errors)

  • No headshots.
  • Put full name, telephone number and email, as text, in the body of the email.
  • Do not telephone.
  • Email applications only.
  • No external links to CV or show-reels.
  • Must be native (accent).
  • Must be available on these dates, at this time...
  • Must be able to record in (location).
  • Only attach narrative or character reads as mp3.
  • Do not send advertising voice samples.
  • Attach CV
  • Please include CV in body of email

Not following any of these = E.   Attention to detail is something we prize.

We use a shorthand casting score sheet that goes from A to E which is applied to all applications and applied to actors and agents alike. It is usually applied during the audition and is as follows:

  • A = on the nail. (awesome)
  • B = almost on the nail but would do the job well with input (bloody good)
  • C = not quite there but we understand why they are there. (ok but has promise)
  • D = no good at all - big flaw somewhere (inc bad day syndrome) saved from being an E (dreadful)
  • E = completely off - how the hell did they slip through the net? – What the hell! etc etc

More to come in Part 2: Truth and Behaviour.

For more information on omuk, visit or follow us @omuk_London.
Follow Mark Estdale @3571 

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Ryan Czech
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While an interesting insight to your process for voice actor selection, as an indie developer a lot of this doesn't make sense to me. Why is there such an importance (to the point of automatic disqualification) on such things as age or 'native' accents? If a 60 year old can perfectly nail a 40 year old native-sounding accent then isn't that a credit to their voice acting ability, suggesting a much broader possible range and ability to ad-lib or otherwise improve on the dialogue or delivery as written?

I guess I would have to see the sausage being made to understand why the process is used, but regardless it seems counter-intuitive and confusingly exclusionary to my indie sensibilities - but hey it seems to be working for you pretty well so it must be useful.

Mark Estdale
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The point is about the specifics of the brief. It's a guide to actors to actually read and follow what's there. We put out very specific briefs and it is just plain dumb to try and guess what we mean.... the meaning's in the words. Simple. If the brief is specific follow it. Don't assume anything.

Just like a job spec. someone may be able to lie through to an interview but more often than not they'll unravel and will look a disrespectful fool if the interviewer probes.

This is not counter intuitive. We want talent to be the attentive kind. If they can't follow a brief then it is likely they wont follow direction in the studio. Statistics, experience and inflated costs of hiring the inattentive is proof enough.

This leads into the pro vs amateur debate. A professional, for argument's sake, may cost four times as much to hire but the results and ancillary costs usually make them the most cost effective choice. Wrapping a production with 3 takes beats making do with a mediocre take 45. Sometimes a gamble may pay off but it is the exception and not the rule.

So put stuff in the brief that is clear and pertinent to what you want the more precise you can be the more precise the response should be. An effective brief can be very simple, You don't need complex back story for casting.

Gruff tenor, weary 45 year old chain smoking ex marine from the Bronx . Add an in-game head shot and you have a tight enough focus to pull in people with voices in the right zone. If you're vague or fishing as you're not quite sure what you want you'll get an equivalent mess.