Voice Acting in IF/VN

It feels like everything is getting voice acted. AAA games
have every possible line of dialogue voice by a well-known VA. Re-releases are
coming out boasting about how they are voice acted now. But is it right for
your game?

My personal preference is, no. I don’t really care for voice
acting. At least not for the whole game. In cut scenes, or in an integral part
of the story is okay. But even then… I tend to play my games with the JPN
voices. I watch my anime in Japanese, at least the first time around. Why? It’s
not because I have anything against American voice actors (heck, I’ve been
trying to use my connections to get Yuri Lowenthal’s autograph for years. I don’t
have it yet.) And it’s not because “the original is better.” I don’t speak Japanese;
how would I know that? It’s because hearing the dialogue takes something away
from me. It takes away how I get to perceive the information.

The line, “Hey, stop that” can mean a lot of different
things. Was it said halfheartedly? Hey… stop that… but I don’t really care what
you do. Was it said with full intent? Hey! Stop that right now! Or I’ll do
something! Was it said to mean the opposite? Hey, stop that. Wink. When you
hear these things in a language you understand, you can pick up on what the
person meant by their pacing and tone. This sounds like a good thing, right?
Writing it, I think it sounds like a good thing. But I find it’s different in
practice.

When I’m actually playing the game, it takes something away from
me. It hinders my ability to connect with the characters. I’ve never gotten
attached to a character in a movie or English-speaking show like something in a
language I can’t understand. It’s strange, but I’m going to try to explain it.
When I’m reading dialogue in a novel, manga, game, I am 100% in control of perceiving
everything that’s going on. I’m deciding the character’s tone. The small things
that the designer couldn’t completely control. I have more power to make the
story into what I want, and what resonates with me. If I relate with a
character, I think they said “Hey, stop that” halfheartedly because I would.
But it’s voice acted now. They say it clearly with full intent. I didn’t think
they would do that! That takes something away from me, the player, and my
ability to continue to relate to that character.

Now, I don’t think voice acting in games is necessarily bad.
I’m enjoying playing through 999 with the new voice release (check it out
here!
). Hearing almost every line of dialogue is giving me a new perspective on
things. There are things I completely skipped over in my non-voice acted
playthrough that stick out like a sore thumb now. I talked about it last week
in my breakdown
. This is cool, and I think it’s interesting that happened. But…
the game isn’t better than my first playthrough. Hearing the lines make the dialogue
flaws a lot more obvious. Things I skipped over, or tweaked slightly between
reading and comprehension are now in my face. That’s an important distinction.

How to you want your players to perceive your game? Is it
really important that the players see the character how you want to see them,
as opposed to what they connect with?

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