Star Power – The Rise of Famous People in Games

As many of you may have heard, the soon-to-be blockbuster MMO/FPS/RPG Destiny just finished up it’s open beta. This multi-week event allowed gamers from around the globe to try out many of the different parts of the full game, including epic story missions and fast-paced PvP. Many of my own friends took to social media to express their love (or hate?) for this new experience. There was one commonality between many of their posts, though – an appreciation and joy of hearing one of their favorite stars own voice in the game, as a major character. Yes, that’s right, Peter Dinklage, the actor behind the devilish Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s adaptation of the Game of Thrones series, is the voice of the player’s digital companion – the Ghost.

DInklage Ghost

Dinklage as Tyrion on the left, and the Ghost from Destiny in the middle.

And he’s not the only one – many well known actors and actresses are getting involved in games lately. Nathan Fillion, famously from cult classic TV show Firefly and more recently crime thriller Castle, also lends his chops to Destiny as the hunter Vanguard. Elijah Wood stars as one of the two protagonists in Double Fine’s point-and-click adventure Broken Age. Jack Black has leant his incredible voice to numerous titles, most famously the rock themed action game Brutal Legend. And my current celebrity favorite, the amazing Kevin Spacey, is starring in voice (and likeness!) in the next game in the Call of Duty series.

Digital Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

This is an extremely incomplete list – a longer (though older) list can be found here. Suffice to say, there has been a massive increase in the casting of famously film and television stars for digital roles in games.

And this is a very interesting trend. On a pragmatic level, many of these talented people have excellent voices, and are skilled in delivering lines, so they naturally make good voice actors in games too. Another boon has been actors exposure to audio recording practices within similar settings, such as for animated movies. However, there are a few other interesting points to reflect upon as well.

For one, the increase of talent from other sectors in games speaks to a growing connection between these increasingly similar industries. Though movies and television have been around far longer, games have become as big of a business in a much shorter time – this creates some tension between creators. However, at the end of the day, these are all creative mediums trying to engage with audiences, and it’s encouraging to see film stars beginning to see the same potential in games that they see in film.

This also points toward a desire for games to convey increasingly more powerful and immersive narratives. By using those who have been empowering powerful and deep characters in other settings to bring characters in games to life, games are striving to build experiences on a new level. As someone who believes in games as the next step in media evolution, I am excited to see so much new talent entering the realm of games.

Finally, there is a financial point to be made here. Famous actors do not come cheap. And games are already extremely expensive to build. So clearly, there has been a case made that paying for top talent in games is a positive and rewarding expense. It’s sometimes difficult to get game publishers to support paying additional funds for the more…polish effects in games, especially when there is less value in adding a star’s name to a game box than a movie poster. But it speaks volumes that budget is being allocated to this explosion of talent in games.

In the end, there’s a lot of good reasons why famous people are invading games – they’re talented, they make our characters better, and yes, they sometimes draw in additional players (KEVIN SPACEY – IF YOU READ THIS – HI!). It’s an extremely exciting time to be in games, and I’m sure there will only be more and more connections built between these growing creative industries.

And that’s awesome.

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