It wasn't until fairly recently that voice acting in video games was done by either no-name actors trying to pay the bills or B- and C-list actors who were, well, also trying to pay the bills. The Command and Conquer games began employing a mixed bag of actors in its 1999 iteration, Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun, when they managed to snag Luke Skywalker's big daddy James Earl Jones, but otherwise continued casting random character actors like Udo Kier and Barry Corbin in future games like Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2.
Grand Theft Auto III changed the game, literally, with its roster of recognizable names and voices like Joe Pantoliano, Michael Madsen, Michael Rapaport, Debi Mazar, and Kyle MacLachlan all playing parts in the free-for-all crime cape that make Rockstar Games just that. With GTA III's massive sales and buzz (particularly from angry parents), the scene was set for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which boasted an over-the-top cast particularly appealing to its target audience: Dennis Hopper, Danny Trejo, Gary Busey, Lee Majors, Debbie Harry, Ray Liotta, Tom Sizemore, and Jenna Jameson, just to name a few. However, in an interview with Game Informer magazine, Rockstar prez and co-founder Sam Houser later said, "We're not going to put a famous voice in just because it's a famous voice. We're going to get someone who sounds wicked for the character, and if they're not famous it doesn't bother us at all. Because I don't even think that is the talent."
Well, whether Houser likes it or not, video games are attracting major Hollywood stars; Fallout 3 boasts Liam Neeson, Malcolm McDowell, and Ron Perlman. When I asked Neeson about his part as the dad in Fallout 3 last year as part of his press tour for Taken, he said he chose to do the part because "I'd never really done that stuff before, and I sensed this was a good game and it had a really good kind of message thing to it. It said something about the planet, nuclear disarmament, and yet it's fun. It's a good kick-ass game. My kids love playing it."
The BBC talked to two big-name actors who are also getting pixilated for the small screen, and they had two different opinions on the matter.
In Rogue Warrior, people will get to play as Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko, who is voiced by Mickey Rourke. He told the Beeb, "I don't really think people yet are comparing the two, insofar as somebody's performance in a videogame as opposed to a feature film." Later he added, "The fact is when I go out and see another actor we're not going to talk about video games."
On the other hand, femme fatale Eliza Dushku will have all the nerd boys and grrls a-swoon with her role in Wet as Rubi Malone, a mercenary with a complicated job and a lot of firepower. (See the shot above for proof.)
"Videogames have almost become acceptable and cool for grown ups - not for people who are just in their teens... I know so many people - friends, actors, directors - who are older and used to maybe play in private, but who can now say it loud and proud."
(It's worth a mention that Bethesda Software is behind all three games I've mentioned, though I'm sure there are many more.)
Do you care if your games have famous actors in them? Are they slumming for a little extra dough on the side, or does it make your video game experience that much cooler?