(via the ever-giving Metafilter)

I love video games, and, as some of you may know, I’ve written dialogue for games too, as well as helping cast and direct voice actors. So, you know, I get a little piqued when game companies release titles with crappy dialogue. What’s the point of pouring all that time and energy into making a game fun and visually arresting, then doing a really shitty, scrappy job on the script?

Not all of these are examples of bad acting – some are abysmally scripted, and some are the result of poor directing. I think even Laurence Olivier would struggle to deliver ‘you, the master of unlocking’ convincingly. Also, video game actors tend to record all their dialogue separately, reading off big Excel spreadsheets with every instance of speech in a big list, without context. They need a director on hand to give them their feed lines and explain what’s going on in the game when they’re saying it, to take account of the multiple possible ways they might choose to inflect a line, and the different meanings each choice might convey. I’m not calling for weeks of pseudy, brow-scrunching dramaturgy or video game character method actors, just basic competence please.

I played Fable 2 last week, putting aside some insane choices with regard to game mechanics that make it considerably worse than the original (you can’t die, making every battle virtually without consequence, plus they’ve taken away the Will gauge from Fable, meaning it becomes just another form of projectile attack, and you just spaz on the cast button instead of using strategy) the voice acting is as crappy as ever. Well, that is to say, Zoe Wanamaker and Stephen Fry’s characters are actually done really well – but they’re noticably better than every other bit of speech in the game, which veers between hammy at best, and, at worst, completely incompetent. In the original, I was absolutely gobsmacked at how bad the voice acting was for Maze, the Guild wizard – totally flat, like a voiceover for an aeroplane safety video, or someone selling biscuits. Most of the rest of the incidental voice acting for villagers and guards was merely irritating and hammy. Grr. Why build a game around narrative and trying to engross people in a story, then do such a shitty job of writing and recording dialogue? YOU SILLY SAUSAGES!! I’ve pretty much lost faith in the Fable franchise now, which is a shame, because – despite its feeble length and duff script – I found lots to enjoy in the first one, including a really satisfying battle mechanic that made switching between long-range sniping, magical zapping and melee combat easy and fun, and plenty of choice in how to approach battles. The ‘Boast’ system was great too. Fable 2 somehow manages to take the increased capabilities of the Xbox 360 and the lessons of the original, and come up with something much worse. Boo.

Anyway, I’m ranting now. I’ll go and play Portal or something to calm myself down.