Daily Reaction: Will Hollywood Actors Dominate the Games Industry?

March 1, 2013Written by Dan Oravasaari

As the ability for gaming to produce more and more lifelike characters increases, the need for talented actors to portray them has been getting attention from Hollywood. With the recent announcement of another famous actor joining the cast of Beyond: Two Souls, the Daily Reaction crew of Seb and Dan discuss the ramifications of bringing on the world’s biggest movie industry into the gaming space.

Dan: Given the speed in which the games market has been growing, I think it would have been impossible for the movie industry to not take interest in the expanding interest of the medium. As numerous actors have already taken on voice work to cast themselves in game adaptations of movie titles, Hollywood has always had a presence in the games industry, but it has always felt at arm’s reach. Gaming has been treated much in the same way that the toy industry has, as actors are usually willing to put in a bit of work to help push out licensed products by using their likeness, image, or in some cases voice. This disconnect has really placed gaming as a tool to help expand brands of movie IPs and completely ignored the potential of using interactive media as a means to actually develop new products.

While there have been many voice-only cameos by famous actors, we are now seeing actors fully investing time for mocapping and live scenes to work on new products being solely developed for gaming consoles, which is a big step for the games industry on a number of levels. The biggest factor that has always held back the ability for known actors to really put themselves in the roles of any digital character has always been the ability for technology to actually do the performance justice. As voice work and facial movements for a character is a huge portion of the role a character takes on, the ability to put emotion and believability through animation has always been a hurdle in both movies and games.

The movie industry has been pushing the ability for digital characters to be believable for some time, as can be seen by the character of Gollum in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, something that still required the awesome Andy Serkis to drive the role. Now, as the games industry has advanced their hardware to a point where digital characters are more believable than ever, there is again a need to find a human to bring life to the role. Characters like Nathan Drake (Uncharted), which was voiced by Nolan North, and King Bohan (Heavenly Sword), who was also voiced by Andy Serkis, are some of the more defining roles in gaming history. Sadly, other modern titles have tried to overcome the hurdle of making a character feel real, but had failed due to poor voice work from the actor trying to push the character. The most notable example being Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, which has been repeatedly mocked for bad accents, and poor script choices. This only seems to highlight the need for seasoned actors, and writers who understand how to convey emotion, and luckily as the movie industry starts to see the potential behind our growing medium we will be seeing a greater influx of those coming – let’s just hope that it doesn’t bring many of the problems they have with it.

Seb: Exactly, the ‘Hollywoodization’ of the AAA games industry will have its benefits and its drawbacks. While Heavy Rain suffered from poor acting, Beyond will bring the talent of very experienced actors/actresses like the gorgeous and sexy Willem Dafoe and the creepy-faced Ellen Page. Hopefully that will improve the game, making emotions easier to detect and making the script more impactful.

Of course, all this needs to be done with caution, as we don’t want the problems that Hollywood suffers. Big actors can be too powerful, often letting their egos dominate a movie: what they want to happen, happens, often leading to terrible decisions in production. Or they’ll try to inject too much of their personality into the product, which is great if you want to go watch a Tom Cruise movie, but in games could end up restricting the creativity of the developer.

Then there’s game budgets, which are rising as it is – do we really want abnormal amounts spent on the actors? While Page and Dafoe are both well known, they’re not absolutely huge, and are trying out something new and unique. But as the whole thing gets more mainstream, bigger actors will want a part, and, as it’ll be the norm, not something new, they’ll want to be paid. I don’t want huge amounts of the budget being spent on actors, rather than development, just like how actors demand ludicrously disproportionate percentages of CGI-filled movie budgets where the computer guys are the real stars.

Advancements in graphics and mocapping techniques are massively improving story-driven games that aim to be photorealistic (stylistic games like TWD are a different matter for a different DR). While games like Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire and Beyond are well ahead of the game (no pun intended), other studios and publishers are investing in increasingly impressive mocapping systems.

Pretty much all major games now use some form of mocapping, but full-facial capture is the future of big budget realistic titles. That means that games developers will obviously need the right faces to capture, ones that can act and that can properly portray emotions. But it’s important that the games industry only looks for talent, and not a name that they can splash on their box art.

Dan: I am happy to see is that Dafoe is going to be working on something for the games industry, the only thing is, I hope the guy working on his 3D model has some time on his hands.

Seb: Yeah, Dafoe is awesome, and I can’t wait to see him in the game. I just don’t understand why he was cast as someone who interacts with children, that’s just asking for them to have nightmares so fierce they’ll manifest themselves as supernatural beings.

What do you think of Hollywood actors playing complete roles in games? Will Hollywood be a step forward for the industry? Or a step backwards? Let us know in the comments, or play a starring role on our Twitter feed at Seb and Dan.