Gamers may not know the name Roger Craig Smith, but they certainly know his voice.
Think Ezio Auditore (Assassins Creed), Chris Redfield (Resident Evil) and Batman (Batman: Arkham Origins) and you'll immediately think of the distinctive voices those characters possessed. And it's all thanks to Smith, the man behind the voice.
Smith's most recent work can be heard in the zombie adventure game Dying Light (you can read our review here).
We spoke with Smith about his voice acting process and video games, in general.
Although Dying Light seems like just a standard zombie shooter, there are some emotional moments in the story. As Kyle Crane, how do you hit those notes so that they resonate with gamers?
My biggest job as a voice actor is to (hopefully) give a performance that brings you deeper into the immersive experience of a narrative-based game. So, quite simply, I just try to imagine myself in that scenario and perform as if it was happening. In short, we just "act" like we're going through it and try to do it as convincingly as possible. Not always the easiest of tasks, as so much can happen during and after the recording process that can drastically affect the performance you've given.
There's a massive collaborative effort to produce a game. I'm often flying blind, somewhat, as I might not have a fully rendered scene to see visually, or I might not have another actor's performance to act against. So, it can be a disjointed process at times. We simply do the best we can and hopefully it enhances the gameplay. Much is NOT in our hands as voice actors when it comes to the final execution of the project.
What is your process like for creating the characters you voice in video games? How does that work?
My process is really to understand that I'm a hired hand being asked to provide a character for people that have worked much harder and longer on this project than I. Therefore, I might have some ideas on what I'd like to give for the character performance, but truly it's not up to me. I listen to what the voice director and the creative folks from the developing studio are asking for and do my best to come as close as possible to their concept of what the character should sound like. I don't over-prepare, as I've come to find that can set me up not being able to adapt. It's not MY character. It's someone else's creative vision for which I have the task of trying to capture in a performance. Whether or not I'm capable is the challenge.
Do you have a favorite game that you've voiced so far? If so what is it?
The cheesy answer is "the next one." Honestly, though, I've been so lucky to voice so many characters of way different types, it's impossible to say I have a favorite. I'm just hoping to keep auditioning and hope I get another chance at it for future work.
When doing voices for games, how do you separate the characters so that each sounds different during gameplay?
Well, that's the tough part. So many characters are written in a somewhat similar style to one another that it's not always easy. And even though we can create different characters with different qualities, I'm a human being. The human voice is like an audible fingerprint that is truly unique to each person. Makes it almost impossible not to hear the actor's unique vocal characteristics in their performances. So, I try to do whatever I can to hold my posture differently in the session, change the shape of my lips when performing certain characters, adjust the pitch of the voice, the breathiness of the character, etc.
Even still, folks who know you, may always hear a little bit of "you" in the performance. So, you try to alter all sorts of things as best you can, without it doing a disservice to the character.
Do you ever play the games after you've worked on them? Do you play video games? If so, any favorites?
For sure! I always play the games I've voiced, as that's often the only time I get to see what became of my performance. It's a blast to tangibly experience the collective work of so many people and see what we've all pulled off. It's also when I usually cringe at hearing my work and wish I could go back and do things differently!
I've also been a gamer since about age 5. Started with Intellivision back in the '80s and been hooked ever since.
I'm a fan of all sorts of games, though I tend to avoid sports games, as I'm terrible at those games. One of my favorites has been Portal. That one combined all elements of what I consider to be a great gaming experience. There's a brilliant story that unfolds through perfectly executed dialogue, awesome FPS gameplay with a completely unique style...it's just about as good as it gets in gaming.
I also enjoy a good old platformer from time to time, as well.
And then there's the sheer joy of blowing stuff up in all sorts of games. I'm a fan of this industry and the escape it provides!
[Photo Credit: Richard Wright Photography]